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October 9, 2020 · OPINION

Too many unknowns about return to classrooms

Stock Photo
By Crystal Moyer

I am a lifelong Fauquier County resident, a county homeowner, a mom of four kids in county schools and a county high school math teacher. The hybrid learning model currently proposed to begin Nov. 9 is unacceptable, inequitable and harmful for all of our students, teachers, staff and community members.

We MUST return to our original plan to aim for students’ reentry into the buildings on Jan. 5 so that we can properly plan to serve ALL of our students.

The virtual town hall promising answers to “all of our remaining questions” was last night. But instead of answers and plans, we got hopes and empty promises.

Some of our students do need in-person attention, and there are ways to make this happen for them. Our county demonstrated last night that the path we’re on right now for Nov. 9 is not it.

As it sits, the Nov. 9 hybrid plan will remove attention and instructional time, even from students who choose face-to-face. Teachers will have to maintain social distance, won’t be able to group students for teaching best practices to encourage engagement and learning, won’t be able to even circle the room, since they will be stuck in front of their immovable cameras and keyboards installed at the front. In addition, their attention will be divided between face-to-face and virtual students, their time stretched thin as they plan for four separate student groups where they used to plan for just one.

Where is the benefit for our in-person students here?

None of this was answered last night. When “answering” why the sudden change, Superintendent David Jeck simply said he was providing a plan requested by the school board. Is that really it then? We’re all in an upheaval because of the will of the five people?

Also, among the insufficiently or completely unanswered questions at the webinar just over 24 hours before binding survey decisions are due:

• How will IEP accommodations be provided? Private breakout rooms are easily managed in our current virtual model. I have spent countless hours one-on-one helping students struggling with Algebra 1 this year. But what happens when students are asynchronous three days in a row under the new plan? It was suggested that “there’s nothing saying teachers can’t reach out virtually on asynchronous days.” With all due respect – WHEN? We have no dedicated virtual teachers now. Our teachers will be busy teaching other live classes. Or are we insinuating teachers simply double their hours now to provide accommodations? Am I to give up my time at home with my own children to provide IEP accommodations and support my students’ learning now, and on a daily basis?

• Similarly, we were promised our students would have access to teachers for office hours on asynchronous days. Again – WHEN? A-day students’ live days are followed by a Wednesday when teachers may have office hours. What similar opportunity exists for B-day students (read: all four of my own children) in this current hybrid model?

• If A-Day students miss a class, they can attend the B-day classes virtually. Aside from overloading teachers and further taking attention away from the B-day students, what similar opportunity exists for B-day students should they have to miss class? The answer given during the meeting was that B-day students could “contact the school and teachers for missed assignments.” How is this equitable?

• How are we not losing instruction time if we are repeating lessons on AA and BB days? This allows for two days of instruction, whereas we had been able to progress in learning all week long on the current model. No matter how you look at this, instructional time is cut in half at all levels.

• How long will virtual students actually be live-streaming on their live days? The only answer provided to this so far was “we do not anticipate students live streaming all day, we are mindful of the amount of screen time in our current model and in the model coming on Nov. 9” (SIC). This isn’t an answer at all. I need to know – how many hours do you expect my kindergartener and second-grader to sit in front of a computer screen watching their classmates attend lessons if I choose virtual for them? Can they do this or not?

• What will virtual learning actually look like? Videos are promised eventually showing what this “may” look like. But surveys with our decisions are due at midnight Friday, Oct. 9, regardless.

• Face shields are shown in study after study to be ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 when worn alone, yet it is STILL approved as a face covering option in Fauquier County Public Schools. How can parents send their children to school knowing we are not enforcing CDC or VDH guidelines to keep us all safe?

• How are middle and high school teachers going to sanitize rooms between classes and simultaneously monitor hallways for proper social distancing? Further, what does “repeated” offense with regards to students not wearing masks mean in practice? How many students daily are going to be allowed to push the issue of wearing their masks properly - exposing their peers and teachers - before actual consequences are enforced?

• How will my kindergartener’s teacher effectively manage safety protocol in her classroom, teach her in-person students (without the ability to sing now since they’re in person), and teach and respond to and hold the attention of her virtual students all day? How does my kindergartener ask her teacher questions if she is virtual? How and when does she interact with her teacher on her three asynchronous days of the week? Are kindergarteners in day care expected to navigate their online classroom and complete asynchronous assignments on their own for three days in a row? Do we really think this is fostering learning?

• How can parents feel our children are safe when we are only promised to be notified of the first COVID case in each school? How can we believe that we will actually be notified of this at all after the lack of transparency surrounding COVID cases in our school system already this year?

These are only some of MANY unanswered questions. And yet, we must submit our survey responses by tonight at midnight – all choices being final and binding until Jan. 5. I have zero faith that our family can be kept safe if our children return face-to-face.

This leaves my family with another choice to make. Will I need to take a temporary leave from teaching in order to support my own children’s learning while this ridiculous model removes their teachers’ ability to properly support them? I love teaching, and the idea breaks my heart in two…but I must put my children first. If the county won’t help them, I will have to find a way to fill in the gaps.

Tonight’s webinar was supposed to reassure me, but instead it was a huge disappointment. Judging by the massive numbers in FCPS1 Equity’s petition, it is clear that I am not alone in feeling this way. And so, I can’t help but wonder – how many other teachers will find they will have to step away from teaching because of this unsustainable, inequitable model for one reason or another?

And after so many decisions showing so little regard for our teachers and still no raises in our district, which was already so far behind our region’s pay scale, how many teachers will remain in Fauquier County to teach our children next year and beyond?
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SergioGee363 · November 29, 2020 at 6:18 am
The world situation do not change for long time.Meanwhile, due to remote education lots of students face difficulties with writing homework tasks, that is why they are forced to contact for additional help. Such company helpful both to students and educators, because of wide variety of services. It is the best choice both for parents and children
MirandaD · October 23, 2020 at 12:19 am
A very difficult year 2020 brought us many challenges. The second wave of the pandemic could be even stronger than the first, so I support the decision to close schools. It is better to wait out the critical period of the epidemic in the home environment. I do not like distance learning, but this is a necessary measure. It remains to hope for help in training for the service I hope these specialists will help me prepare a personal statement for admission to the university.
Sammy · October 12, 2020 at 12:51 pm
hearty thank you to Duke Bland and David Jeck for on-going service to this community .. much appreciated

boo birds like nonewtaxes are clueless, fortunately webb +3 right now

the times they are a changin
nonewtaxes · October 11, 2020 at 11:53 pm
County loses Fed money fro closed schools

county loses money for loss wages as parents stay home with kids

next years tax hike is going to be HUGE!
nonewtaxes · October 11, 2020 at 11:51 pm
we should never ever have in person school again - ever

your kid is more likely to get hurt commuting to school than by covid

if schools are safe why do they need an SRO

if schools are safe why do they have fire alarms

the only safe place is in the basement

get your kids in the basement now and they'll never leave. Reference last generation of snow flakes.

Duk is full of it. I hear him with my own two ears say that he represents the people of the county. Yet I understand it that 2x the people of the county voted (polled) for in class school. He didnt make that happen.

If leftist intendent cant get it done get a different intendent.

We are 1 step away from 1619
ConcernedMom · October 11, 2020 at 8:54 am
Seems more about politics than the safety and well being of staff and students.
Which this county is well known for.
If they can come up with that much more money for the substitutes then why not give the actual staff that is showing up a pay increase?
Savefauquiercounty2019 · October 11, 2020 at 6:20 am
Mr. Bland is inflammatory with the parents in this community. His behaviors should never be supported or defended. It is abusive. The power went to his head. He is an insult to this county. Teachers are extremely stressed with their overloaded circuits from the increased demands/changes and inflamed parents created by this school board and administrators who lack experience won't protect you from these inflamed parents. It is obvious why the county struggles to retain teachers. You are never going to be protected. The county will never afford the resources needed to sanitize. Why participate in this calamity of errors. It started long before COVID. They never practiced safe measures to control the spread of any pathogens. There are private schools. This is why there has been a push for vouchers. Support the schools that respect and care for their teachers and don't inflame their parents.
brandonj · October 10, 2020 at 3:20 pm
If the online virtual platforms are full why doesn't the state keep some instead of sending it to the counties so they can fully fund free self-proctored education. They are more than likely on AWS or some other cloud platform.

If that's not an option, there are paid homeschooling curricula.
Blackfaceralph · October 9, 2020 at 4:48 pm

Open the schools now. Study after study shows that schools don’t spread the rona virus.
EducatedCitizen · October 9, 2020 at 4:09 pm
Having spoken to many other parents in similar situations - we feel we are between a rock and a hardplace. If we choose to stay virtual, we risk our children falling behind due to the changes in the teaching model and teachers focusing on the students in class (not their fault, just the way it is). If we choose in-class, we risk their health and them bringing home covid to fragile family members. We also, clearly from this letter, risk teachers leaving the system forever in favor of their own health and safety. Who can blame them?

Sadly, K12 is no longer an option as they are at capacity, so that avenue is closed as well.
Why the School Board feels the need to rush back into in-person with this half-baked plan is beyond me, but what I do know from paying attention is that places that try to re-open too soon suffer more covid cases and dire economic consequences from further shut-downs. I hope Fauquier doesn't go that way. :(
PabloCruz · October 9, 2020 at 3:20 pm
You should consider leaving for a district to the east. Like any school district there are always struggles and problems, that’s just education, but the pay is much higher to the east In fact the pay gap is so high that Fauquier will never achieve pay parity because the BOS have admitted that pay parity is not even achievable or a goal. They would rather subsidize tax breaks for wealthy landowners than pay teachers fairly. It’s just a fact of life unfortunately.
RGLJA · October 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm
I agree 100% with brandonj on this. If the school board can't control this administration, and the parents continue to be ignored, we must have school vouchers so we can find another way to actually get the education that we are paying for.
RGLJA · October 9, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Thank you, Thank you, for some common sense concerning the actual education of our children. I suppose it helps to have children of your own, so you understand how these ridiculous plans are affecting our children. Schools must reopen. If Walmart and Safeway and other retail businesses can find a way to operate safely, why can't the schools? A clerk in any retail store has far more risk from unknown people coming and going all day, than a teacher has in a controlled classroom environment. And that retail clerk doesn't have the force of government and a powerful teachers union to dictate what "safety" means. Yet they manage, and they seem to be doing just fine.
brandonj · October 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm
Here's my concept of what's going on here and nationally in lockdown jurisdictions.

parents: "we demand in person education!"

school board: "super, it's time to break out the plan you've been working on for 6 months"

super: "will do" <scrawls on back of napkin, presents plan doomed to fail>

concerned citizen: "this plan makes no sense!"

super: see? it just isn't possible!

Of course, the reality is that private schools are open in the region and are being creative and sensitive to the needs of teachers and students.

How's this for a back of the napkin plan?

* Return kids to school FULL TIME by grade/bracket each week (phased so lessons can be learned and applied downstream)
* Provide free PPE to teachers (mask + glasses)
* Surfaces aren't the private vector of COVID transmission, but spraying down desks between classroom changes is trivial
* Inform families unwilling to attend in person to enroll in the state online learning platform.
* Continue to provide hotspot and/or community centers where parents can bring their child if WIFI is not available.
* Throw away all of streaming classroom video non-sense, which brings with it a boat load of financial and technical requirements this county cannot support

It's time to start thinking rationally, or we're going to have a community full of kids possibly a year behind in education, not to mention the economic impact to families having to adapt.
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