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Hanover teachers rally for virtual start to school year

Posted at 2:03 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 14:45:43-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Parents, teachers, and students gathered for a car rally Wednesday to speak out against the Hanover County School District’s ‘Return to Learn’ plan for reopening schools in September.

More than 55 cars lined Henry Clay Elementary school by around 9:30 a.m., many had signs with messages taped to the windows. The rally then made its way to the Hanover County School Board Offices, where they honked horns and waved signs.

The group was in support of a ‘safe return to learn,’ which they said meant a majority virtual return to school in the fall.

One week prior, the Hanover County School Board voted to give families the option for fully in-person or fully virtual learning.

“This is not what we should be doing,” Rory Tufaro, Librarian at Cold Harbor Elementary School, said. “I mean no other county around us is doing this.”

Tufaro said the board's decision to allow students to opt for in-person learning has put her in a tough position as a teacher — and a mother.

“My daughter has lupus. She’s 16. So I can’t be around 565 students that are at my school. I can’t take that risk because then I wouldn’t be able to go home to her,” said Tufaro.

Tufaro said she applied to teach virtually, but now she’s concerned she may lose her position.

“They’ll put us wherever they have an opening. They’ll guarantee us a position next year. But not necessarily the position we had or the school we were at,” Tufaro said. “I love my job. And I love being a librarian and seeing my students. And I want to go back to work, but I can’t not see my daughter.”

Rally organizers said the group as a whole was pushing for the district to take teachers' concerns into consideration, and enroll the majority of students in online learning — at least for the first quarter.

They said the most at-risk students should receive in-school services — but they argue this should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Chris Whitley, Spokesperson for Hanover County Public Schools, said the district had been deliberate in involving teachers and staff in the development of their plan to reopen schools.

In fact, he said the district’s Return to Learn Task Force was comprised of approximately 100 stakeholders, including teachers, support staff, principals, parents, students, and others. He said their voices would continue to be heard, including in a Townhall Meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

In a questionnaire previously sent to families, 76% opted for in-person versus virtual learning, according to Whitley.

The deadline to opt-in for online learning for the fall was set for July 31.

Whitley said the deadline to opt-in for public transportation for in-person learners was also set for July 31.

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