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Hanover teacher resigns after request to teach virtually denied

Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 19:09:16-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va, -- David Lee Chung spent his Monday cleaning out his classroom and packing his car with supplies accumulated at the formerly-named Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Hanover County.

Since 2016, Chung has worked to build their band program as director and assistant band director at the former-Lee Davis High School.

However, Chung submitted his resignation to the school system after his request to teach virtually this fall was denied.

“Monday of last week they called me and said that I was going to have to teach face to face. I’m just not comfortable with that,” he recalled. “Morally, I’d feel really responsible if one of my students gave it to their grandmother and their grandmother passed away. I’d feel fully responsible for that.”

As first reported by the Richmond Times Dispatch, Chung recognized that his resignation could mean the end of the band program at the middle school.

“Band directors feel invested in the programs they build,” he said. “All of that investment band directors have put in that school for 30 years could just be gone now. It might not ever be the same which is very disappointing.”

A HCPS spokesman confirmed Chung’s resignation, but wouldn’t elaborate citing personnel matters.

“With regard to our online school and for additional context, we are giving priority placement to those with a medical condition or those who live with someone with a medical condition that places them at a higher risk for COVID complications. To date, we have granted approval to all teachers who have provided the necessary medical documentation,” the spokesman wrote. “We assess all other requests to teach in the online school or in a face-to-face setting upon student enrollment and the academic needs of our students.”

Chung doesn’t have a health condition that would warrant a medical exception. He felt the school system hasn’t done enough to prepare for in-person instruction.

“All of those safety implementations just aren’t there and that’s what we are concerned about,” he stated. “I’m not doing this so I can stay healthy. I’m doing this because I think students should stay healthy and their families and the communities should stay healthy.”

Hanover School Board Chairman John F. Axselle III said they realize that no plan is perfect and they could adjust, if needed.

“However, we tried our best to develop a plan that addressed everyone's educational desires for their children. For some, this was face to face instruction and for others, it was virtual instruction. I think Dr. Gill and our staff did a great job of providing a plan that gives the parents the opportunity to do what they think is best for their children. Who better to make that choice than their parents?” Axselle said in a statement.

In July, teachers rallied outside of the Hanover County School Board requesting a virtual start to the year.

Parents also at the time expressed the desire for a choice.

“Everyone here is complexly for a parent’s right to choose what is best for their child and their situation. Some families do not have the same access to internet or same access to an adult supervising that child and their school work during the day,” one Hanover parent told CBS 6.

Since July, HCPS faculty members have posted dozens of anonymous posts on Instagram about frustrations and concerns about the start of in-person instruction.

One post read, “We need transparency. We need professionalism. We need kindness and respect.”

Another member wrote, “At several schools admin has set up classroom furniture and seating for teachers. Seating arrangements in many rooms are not in compliance with CDC guidance. Students are closer than 3 feet and are facing one another.”

A Hanover County school spokesman said they cannot verify the accuracy of claims made by anonymous individuals on social media.

Chung said that he hasn’t sent in a post to the account, but knows several teachers who have submitted concerns.

The owner of the account sent the following statement:

"The @hanovercpsteachers Instagram account is owned and curated by Hanover County Public Schools faculty members who, frustrated by HCPS' culture of silence and retaliatory action toward faculty and staff who speak out, decided to take matters into our own hands. Like so many in the community, we were inspired by student-led efforts such as @blackathanovercps, and our account username pays tribute to these brave young activists.

Since July 22, we have received several hundred anonymous submissions from faculty and staff members who are concerned about the safety, accessibility, and equity of instruction as planned for the 2020-2021 school year. Some of the comments we've received express concern about HCPS' inexplicable decision to create a separate virtual school, displacing about 330 teachers and over six thousand students from their school communities at a time when we need those connections the most. In doing so, HCPS has created innumerable problems that didn't have to happen: there are scheduling issues, equity concerns, and delays that have critically wounded teachers' ability to prepare for instruction. Make no mistake: the faculty of the Hanover Online School is not prepared to give students the warm welcome and high-quality instruction they need and deserve to have next week.

The bulk of the submissions we've received have been about mask-to-mask instruction, which resumes fully on Wednesday, September 9th for more than half the students in Hanover County. Faculty and staff have reported numerous failures to follow COVID-19 precautions in school buildings, lack of transparency about COVID-19 diagnoses in faculty, staff, and students, and across-the-board failures in communication from the School Board Office and building administration.

We are teachers, and we love school. We usually greet the first day of school with more joy and excitement than any of our students, but we don't know a single teacher who feels that way this year. We are, at best, already tired and very confused. Many of us feel lost, frightened, and heartbroken. Our anxiety has been exacerbated by an administration that has gaslighted and disrespected us at every turn, forced harmful and unnecessary changes upon us, and shown us just how disposable we are."