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Chesterfield teachers, parents urge School Board to reconsider return to in-person learning

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 18:08:25-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A handful of Chesterfield County educators, parents and community members gathered outside Woolridge Elementary School Friday morning. They were part of the group, Friends of Chesterfield Public Schools Coalition, who are calling for students not to return to in-person learning.

"If the students are returned back to school at this time with the numbers as high as they are, then its going to continue to increase the community spread of the infection," said parent Kate Flynn.

The group has received nearly 4,000 signatures on a petition, that calls on the School Board to reconsider their decision to send elementary students back to the classroom.

The petition was started after the School Board voted for grades pre-K through fifth grade to have the option to return to in person learning on February 1.

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"This confirms that parents and families of chesterfield county absolutely support the educators and support staff of chesterfield county public schools. Please put health over everything else," Sonia Smith, president of the Chesterfield Education Association.

The school board said that about 85% of teachers and staff said they would get the vaccine, but so far, the county has only received 750 doses for an employee size of around 7,500.

Meanwhile, the group argued the School Board should wait until everyone is vaccinated.

"To wait at least six to eight weeks until all the teachers can receive the dose of vaccinations and staff members too," Flynn said.

“Put health before anything. Because if they’re alive and well, they can do their job and they can learn," one retired teacher added.

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"If you really wanted to have an honest conversation before you make a decision, you meet with us prior to," a parent said. "A week before, two days before so that it gives the perception at least that you were going to listen to the community before you make a vote.”

Chesterfield sent a statement to CBS 6 in response to the petition, that reads:

"We understand and appreciate that the decision to return a student to in-person learning or remain in a virtual learning environment is a difficult and often personal choice for a family. We appreciate the continued input from the community on this topic, including the petition signed by approximately 4,000 families.

We continue to believe that our schools are safe; our local data from the fall bore out the medical research that has shown schools are not super spreaders. We will continue to focus on infection control and mitigation strategies, as we did successfully in the fall, when we welcome a majority of our elementary students (52 percent) who have elected to return to the in-person learning environment on Feb. 1."