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Teachers union calls on districts to enhance safety amid COVID surge

Education Association COVID safety.jpg
Posted at 12:15 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 12:43:52-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Education Associations of Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico banded together Monday morning to call on their districts to keep mask-wearing mandatory, and to create clear guidelines for staffing levels needed to safely learn in schools.

This comes as all three districts have stated they will continue to enforce a mandatory mask policy for now, even as Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order allowing parent choice for mask-wearing takes effect.

During Monday morning's news conference, Richmond Education Association President Katina Harris called on school leaders to take many steps to improve working and learning conditions, including increasing virtual learning to meet demand, improving staff working relations and improving contact tracing and notification of COVID exposures.

Chesterfield Education Association President Christine Melendez asked the district to order more K95 and KN95 masks, and to make more take-home COVID-`19 tests available to staff and students.

Henrico Education Association President Patrick Miller wanted to ensure teachers are given the choice of whether or not they must teach during their planning periods, instead of being forced to do so because of staffing levels.

The top priority for all three districts is ensuring school leaders create a clear plan that shows the minimum percentage of staff needed in a building to maintain a safe, equitable learning environment.

"Our working conditions are our students learning conditions," explained Miller. "So, we call upon our districts to put the health, safety and education of their students above the political whims of the executive."

Miller went on to note that 79% of members of the Virginia Parent Teacher Association have come out saying they want masking to continue in schools.

In an email sent to Chesterfield County parents Sunday, the district noted Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty — along with other superintendents throughout the state — are expected to meet with the new superintendent of public education Monday to discuss new COVID-19 guidance to school divisions.

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