Fairfax Co. teachers union requests virtual working option for all staff

Public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, will begin all classes virtually in September, but the county’s teachers union is trying to get the system to address issues for other support staffers like bus drivers, secretaries and custodians, who feel they’ve been left out of the discussions and undervalued.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers is recommending that those staffers should also have the option of working virtually, suggesting they could be used to assist class instruction, along with the social and emotional health of students.

“We urge FCPS to reconsider recent treatment of our support employees,” the union said in a written statement. “FCPS support staff are not a monolith: they represent a wide variety of skill sets, talents, experience, and ideas. They are unified, however, in feeling less valued and less respected than teachers and administrators.”

The union also mentioned the impact on instructional assistants, or IAs for short, who they believe need the proper access to computers and the internet to assist with student learning.

“While many instructional assistants were issued computers this spring, there are still many instructional assistants and other support staff who still have not yet received a laptop,” the union said in the statement. “Equipment is only the first step in preparing support staff to be an integral part of providing quality Distance Learning.”

A spokesperson for the school system responded to WTOP’s inquiry with a written statement.

“FCPS is deeply committed to incorporating all staff into programs and initiatives this Fall. More details will be shared as they become available,” the statement said.

The school system was initially planning to offer a hybrid model of in-person and virtual student learning, but it later backed off the plan and decided to go completely online come the start of school on Sept. 8 because of the pandemic.

“This was not an easy decision,” said schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand in a statement about the change. “But after reviewing the best available health data and continuing to gather input from teachers, staff, students, and families, we have determined that full-time online instruction is the only safe option at this time.”

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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