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Parents protest online classes by refusing to give aid forms

A small group of parents in Virginia are protesting against virtual classes in a way that jeopardizes the money the schools will receive in the next academic year.
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Stressed young woman grab head while sitting with son schoolboy at table with textbooks and notebook and studying difficult online homework

YORKTOWN, Va. — A small group of parents are saying they won't return federal aid forms to school districts in Virginia, jeopardizing the funds the schools will receive next school year as a protest against virtual classes.

It's not clear why the families think refusing to return the federal impact aid forms will change the school's decision to have online classes, which are a result of rising coronavirus cases. But Joanna Moran, a former Virginia Beach School Board candidate, called on families last month to not return the cards until schools resume in-person learning.

"I'm not going to go overboard, but if they ask for my help in any way shape or form after they refused to help me, they're not going to get it," Robert Novak told The Virginian Pilot. He says he is the father of a high school student at York County School Division. Eric Edwards, another parent who has two children in the division, said not returning the forms is his only "recourse besides staging some protest."

The school division has heard the complaints from parents, but Division spokesperson Katherine Goff said not returning the forms would only hurt students, staff and the families themselves. One form for a student could give as much as $3,000 for the school district, she said, and losing that money could bring budget cuts.

RELATED: York County public schools shift to remote learning

The division had anticipated receiving more than $8 million for the next school year from the aid program, which distributes funds from the U.S. Department of Education to localities that have federal property.

Lands that are owned by the federal government are exempt from local property taxes, which affects the budgets of school districts. The federal aid makes up for lost revenue. Virginia Beach and York County school districts are the biggest receipts of the funds in the state, according to the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools is accepting the cards until Monday. York County's school division hopes to collect them by winter break.

"The division is working as efficiently as we can, as safely as we can, to return students to an in-person learning environment," Goff said. "The impact aid is a completely separate entity. If this became a widespread movement, it would affect all localities around us."