As Fairfax Co. schools gear up for fall, many teachers aren’t so ready

As Virginia’s largest public school system plans to reopen buildings this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, associations representing educators across Fairfax County said teachers fear for their lives.

The three groups that represent Fairfax County Public Schools employees said the school system’s reopening plan announced on Tuesday, June 23, lacks “consistency and transparency.”

The Association of Fairfax Professional Educators, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association said they are encouraging their members to “clearly state their preference” for continued virtual learning until “adequate information is made available for employees and families to make informed decisions about returning to face-to-face instruction.”

“Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools,” said Tina Williams, president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, in a statement. “They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families.”

She added, “We call on FCPS to put workers and students first by listening to the employees on the frontlines of this crisis.”

But the school system said the associations were part of a task force that offered options reviewed by the county’s school board on Tuesday.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand, in a letter to parents, said parents would receive an enrollment letter asking them to respond and state their preference for the 2020-2021 school year.

Teachers will be asked their preference as well.

“It’s critical for us to know your choice by July 10 so we can begin planning virtual and in-person class schedules,” said Brabrand. “Additional details about the plan will be shared with the community in the weeks ahead as they are developed.”

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But Becca Ferrick, president of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators, said that’s “unacceptable.”

“FCPS has established an arbitrary deadline for employees and students to make decisions about the next school year without adequate data or specific information regarding their options,” said Ferrick.

“Asking our employees to make such an uninformed decision is akin to asking them to sign a blank check. We will not do that.”

Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association, went further, stating all staff should be allowed to continue virtual instruction as long as “there is community spread of the virus.

“We believe our community as a whole should not return to in-person learning until a vaccine or treatment is widely available for COVID-19,” said Adams. “We will continue to make every possible effort to assist FCPS in developing a plan that keeps health and safety first.”

“Flexibility and patience will be required by all of us,” Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for Fairfax County Public Schools, told WTOP.

She said scheduling in a normal year is a complex task and “our staff is used to it.”

“This will be even more complex,” said Caldwell.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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