CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Teachers and parents in Chesterfield County came together Friday afternoon with concerns over sending students back in-person learning while COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Emma Clark spoke on the steps of the historic courthouse in Chesterfield County Friday. She teaches at Falling Creek Middle School and urged school leaders not to send students back to school.
“I’m so angry and I’m so worked up and I’ve built my courage to do this and risk my job, because I won’t accept this for my kids," Clark said. “We’re asking for the county to delay the return of cohort 4.”
Elementary students have already returned to in person learning. Last month, Chesterfield County school board members voted to send cohort four, which is a group of middle and high school students, back into the classroom on Nov. 9.
Clark said she doesn’t feel safe enough to teach in-person.
“Well, I personally won’t be going in -- and I’ve communicated that to my district," Clark said.
Taylor Reese, whose daughter is in high school, is worried she could catch the virus if she goes back into the classroom.
“If my daughter goes to school and is asymptomatic, and then we go spend thanksgiving at their house, what happens when my in-laws get sick," Reese said.
Right now, the Virginia Department of Health reports over 7,000 cases of COVID-19 in the county.
Friday the school district issued a statement stating officials would be working directly with employees who are uncomfortable reporting to work Monday.
"The school division has received some inquiries about secondary employees who are stating that they do not plan to report to work on Monday. We are working directly with the employee(s) to reiterate our commitment to a safe working and learning environment as well as all the precautions that are in place (e.g. mask wearing, availability of face shields, other PPE if applicable, changes in cleaning procedures, social distancing, etc.).
**ALSO, PLEASE NOTE—Any teacher who has completed their ADA paperwork and submitted supporting medical documentation has been contacted by a Benefits Administrator regarding their request.**
We are also sharing the following:
—If employees are experiencing anxiety about transitions in the learning model, the Employee Assistance Program is available 24/7. They can reach EAP at 1-855-721-5319.
—If an employee does not report on Monday and calls in sick unexpectedly, we are asking the employee to bring a doctor’s note when they report on Tuesday (per School Board Policy 5230 (G)).
—Employees who do not pass the self-assessment and have symptoms of illness should not attend and should follow the instructions to contact Employee Medical Center and, if they so choose, their own medical provider. Employees are to contact the Employee Medical Center if they are symptomatic."
Clark and other teachers said they can only hope district leaders are really listening.
“If CCPS doesn’t start to actually work with teachers, listen to our voices, collect information about whether or not we actually want to return, its only going to get worse," Austin Goode, a teacher, said.