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State senators push to reopen schools, tie vote to funding

Posted at 3:14 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 15:14:30-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of state senators said they would vote against a state budget unless Virginia opened schools to students for in-person learning.

Senators Siobhan Dunnavant (R- Henrico), Joe Morrissey (D - Petersburg), and Chap Peterson (D - Fairfax) said school districts should give families the option to continue virtual learning if they chose.

However, they worried thousands of students were falling behind academically, socially, and emotionally without in-person education — especially those from families without means.

The senators pointed to research that showed sending children into classrooms, with proper COVID mitigation in place, was safe.

“Vertical transmission from the kids to the teachers is almost non-existent," Sen. Dunnavant said. "We have data. We can show them how open schools now are performing without the teachers catching COVID in school.”

“The desks are separated, the kids wear masks, they go get their education, and that’s it," Sen. Morrissey added. "It’s less fun, but it’s absolutely necessary.”

The Virginia Education Association has urged school districts to remain virtual until all teachers are vaccinated — and some educators have even quit their job out of safety concerns.

Peterson said he planned to introduce a budget amendment that would tie state funding for school districts — only if they have an in-person learning option.