VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A Virginia Beach school board member is pushing for a return to face-to-face learning. Victoria Manning said students should be back in the classroom.
“I feel very strongly that we need to make sure that the remedies that we are taking for this virus aren’t worse than the virus itself,” she said.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, she plans on making a motion proposing those who opted for in-person instruction to go back to face-to-face learning as soon as possible. She also wants to change the metrics by which leaders keep the schools open.
Manning explained, “The superintendent also had notified us that there has not been one case confirmed of COVID transmission within our schools, so that is what I think we should be using as a measure of whether or not our kids are going to remain in school.”
But Virginia Beach Education Association President, Kelly Walker, is pushing back. She is holding an emergency meeting Monday night because she is concerned, especially seeing the increase in COVID cases in the community.
Walker said, “Our stance has been and always will be the safety of students and staff and if the health department and other medical professionals feel as though it’s not safe to be in a face-to-face situation, then we shouldn’t be there.”
Walker said if schools reopen, it could put students and staff at risk. She believes coronavirus cases need to go way down before students go back to face to face learning.
“It’s frustrating, it’s scary. Many of the staff members are extremely anxious and afraid,” Walker said.
Manning said if older employees or those who are immunocompromised worry about coming back to work, she wants to provide alternatives, like allowing them to continue teaching virtually.
Both Walker and Manning say several parents are signing up to speak about sending students back to face-to-face learning.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools are welcoming back special education about 1,200 students for face-to-face instruction on December 1. Students in this group receive support with no more than 10 students and at least two staff members in a classroom, which assists in following the appropriate health mitigation strategies.
Appropriate PPE will be provided for teachers and staff, and all cleaning and other hygiene measures will be followed.
The division’s fall plan prioritizes this group for in-person learning. However, some teachers like Jan Taylor don’t feel safe going back.
“I don’t think it was clear to the SPED teacher that there was a, ‘but, not you,’” Taylor said.
COVID-19 cases in the eastern region are too high for all students and teachers to return.
Walker said an unnamed board member will make a dueling motion to Manning’s, asking to pause it all.
“To not return special education students until after the holidays, so we can look at the numbers,” Walker said.
Walker recognized not all teachers want to wait but asked anyone that does to speak up at the meeting.
“There are no teachers waiting in the wings to come and take your place,” Walker said. “They should be bending over backwards and doing cartwheels and flips to try and keep you.”
A group of parents said they will rally outside of the school board ahead of their 6 o’clock meeting on Tuesday. They plan to gather at 4:30 p.m. They’re also urging parents to sign up and speak to advocate for in-person classes.