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Hampton Roads teachers voice concerns about returning to classrooms in fall

Some teachers have said they have several concerns about returning to their classrooms in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

VIRGINIA, USA — It’s a question lingering on a lot of people’s minds: what will school look like in the fall?

Some teachers have said they have several concerns about returning to their classrooms. Heather Marconi, an art teacher with Newport News Public Schools, is one of them.

“Everybody wants to return to normal and get back to the classroom, but nobody wants to put their lives and family's lives at risk for teaching,” said Marconi.

Another teacher with NNPS, Mary Vause, said she’s also worried about teaching in her classroom this fall. Vause is an English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher.

“It puts teachers, staff students in a difficult position because it’s hard for kids to keep their masks on all day and follow social distancing, especially for young kids,” said Vause. “I’m worried about teachers and staff who are elderly, immunocompromised. I’m worried about students taking the virus home to their grandparents. I just feel like we’re gonna go back and then they’re gonna close schools again.”

So far, NNPS hasn’t released an official plan for the upcoming school year, but Vause and Marconi have a lot of unanswered questions about what the “new normal” in a classroom will look like.

“It’s gonna be really, really complicated,” said Marconi. “Teachers are retiring, so we’re gonna have a huge teacher shortage.”

She’s also concerned about students attending school with COVID-19. Her other concerns include sick leave for teachers, social distancing in the classroom, and sharing school supplies.

These are issues school leaders across the country are trying to figure out before the start of the new school year.

Kelly Walker, the President of the Virginia Beach Education Association, said there’s a lot to consider before students, teachers, and staff return to the classroom. Walker said VBEA plans to release recommendations for Virginia Beach City Public Schools next week.

“The bottom line is, and the public has to know: that unless they’re willing to pay to protect the employees and the students, it’s going to be very difficult to go back safely,” said Walker. “We need those budget cuts reversed, we need the funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), we need the funding for solid leave policies that protect employees… and right now, we don’t have that.”

It’s a challenging reality less than two months away from the start of a new school year.

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