Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Labor and Industry
Safety and Health Codes Board
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6/22/20  9:26 pm
Commenter: CH

Safety for all

I am writing to you as a concerned parent, teacher, and citizen about reopening school safely in the Fall.  I employ you to consider the health and safety of not only our students, but teachers, staff, and all families that would be impacted by schools opening in the Fall.


There have been many points about students not being impacted by COVID 19, however, the main point being missed by many is that students are asymptomatic and would appear otherwise healthy and bring it to schools potentially impacting many other students, teachers, and staff members.  While I understand parents will be asked to complete a health questionnaire about their child it is unrealistic to assume parents will fill the form out, or be truthful.  Parents want their kids in school, no matter what.  During a traditional school year, non-pandemic, students are knowingly sent to school sick, with fevers, or even the flu!  Parents have no regard for the health and safety of their child’s teacher or any staff members that child may come in contact with. 


Additionally, parents and staff want only the very best for their students including an education as well as appropriate social-emotional health and well-being.  If schools are allowed to reopen in the Fall, at either 25% or 50% capacity, I feel as though parents and School Board Members do not realize the negative impact that will have on students social-emotional health and well-being.  Traditionally, teachers greet their students upon entering the classroom and students enter and begin unpacking and mingling with classmates.  Students proceed to a Morning Meeting after attendance sitting in a circle right next to each other to greet, share, read a morning message, and play a bonding activity/game.  This will not happen in the Fall, students will be sent directly to their desk upon arrival with no interaction with peers and we would have a very short, informal Morning Meeting from our desks with 6 feet of social distancing in place.  This is not best practice, nor in the best interest of students. 


Unfortunately, our day in the classroom with 6 feet of social distancing in place, will be more of the same teacher directed instruction from the front of the classroom with students sitting at a desk facing forward with no up-close or personalized attention/help, no peer/buddy groups, collaboration, projects, games to reinforce learning objectives, activities, no small group instruction, and strict social distancing guidelines in place through out the day.  This is not best practices for students, instruction, or education!


Sadly, students will be stuck in their desks facing forward with strict social distancing guidelines enforced, which means no lunch in the cafeteria to talk/socialize with classmates; no recess to play, unwind, socialize, and burn some energy to regroup and refresh for learning; no specials as it has been stated limited adults in the classroom; and kids not being able to be kids as we know it.  I think this is being overlooked by both parents and School Board Members.


Additionally, for teachers this means strict monitoring, reminding, and reinforcing 6 feet social distancing guidelines in the classroom at all times, while trying to teach and wear a mask.  This will likely negatively impact behaviors in the classroom, all taking away from the teachers’ ability to teach students and students’ ability to learn.  Additionally, teachers have no opportunity to eat their lunch, which is supposed to be duty free nor an opportunity to use the restroom at all during the school day.  Teachers are not being given an opportunity to plan, prepare, and create lessons for students if we are in the classroom all day!  Friday afternoon is not nearly enough time to plan, create, and prepare lessons for an entire week in addition to in intervention group on Friday morning. 


There has been misleading information on the in school and at-home learning and who is responsible for creating lessons for both scenarios.  If I, the teacher, am creating lessons for in school learning, it is unthinkable that I am also responsible for creating engaging assignments/activities for students who are home.  Teachers cannot be expected to plan and create two lessons for each subject/topic (elementary school teachers teach all subjects) each day to satisfy students who are at school and students who are at home.  As an elementary school teacher, I have reading, writing, phonics, math, health (at times), and social studies or science each day.  I cannot double my work load for each subject for both at school and at home learning, it’s unthinkable.  Not to mention no time in which to do so.  I should not be expected to spend hours outside my contract day making lessons/activities because the school system has decided that teachers will do both to appease parent demands.  


It was also mentioned at a Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Brabrand that we would all need to help out with cleaning.  I am inferring from his statement, that teachers will be required to clean the classroom items, such as desks.  Disinfecting from day to day prior to the next group of students arriving.  As an educator, I did not go to school for a Master’s Degree to be told that I am responsible for cleaning a classroom during a pandemic!  I am thankful for our custodial staff and all the work they do; however, I do not have appropriate training, supplies, nor equipment to disinfect a classroom during a pandemic.


Where are all these supplies coming from, my classroom was wiped clean by our administration of any hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes I had collected over the years from parent contributions on our supply list.  I was told these supplies were given to the Fairfax Health Department.  I doubt parents are going to sending in any of those items to give to the class, we can barely get them for use at home.  Where are these supplies coming from?  In addition, to the added hand washing and soap/hand sanitizer needed for students each day for multiple uses throughout the day.


What happens when teachers get sick, need to care for a family member and I’m not even talking COVID 19 related?  Are there substitutes available?  On a good day, pre-pandemic, subs were hard to find or my favorite they cancel on you at the last minute.  Are teachers expected to have substitute plans made up for each day/week, in case we have to quarantine or become sick from COVID 19?  If you are trying to limit the adults with students, can you guarantee the substitute will stay the entire time I am out?  Or will it be a plethora of substitutes?  I won’t mention what happens to routines, expectations, and learning when there are several subs in a classroom instead of one of a short period of time.  Imagine the learning that won’t be happening when teachers are out sick and a different substitute comes in each day.  Finally, teachers should not be expected to take their own leave if they are forced to quarantine due to exposure in the school building, from a student, parent/family member, or staff member.  That question has been asked, but never answered!


Finally, school hours are of great concern not only for students but for families.  I am at a late start school, 9:20 a.m., with that start time students begin having a difficult time focusing on learning and attaining to classroom activities/lessons around 2:30 p.m.  Yet, it is proposed that students will begin their day at 10:10 a.m. and remain at school until 4:50 p.m. which is just the beginning of dismissal.  I predict with social distancing guidelines in place, dismissal will take a minimum of 30 minutes but most likely much longer than that with staggered dismissal and 6 feet social distancing guidelines in place.  Elementary school teachers are not allowed to leave their classrooms with students who have not yet been dismissed, anticipating teachers will be in the classroom for additional time outside of our contract hours!


Think of all the families this will be impacting with an even later start time.  With doors that open at 9:00 a.m. for a 9:20 a.m. start time, families begin sending their students to wait outside of school doors at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes earlier you find students playing unsupervised on school playground areas waiting for the doors to open at 9:00 a.m.  This is not in the best interest of any child!


Ultimately, teachers are being asked to prepare for a school year that will bring many unknown factors and expect us to be prepared for providing an education to students simultaneously in the classroom and to those at home.  We are being asked to risk our own safety and those of our families to satisfy parents who state students are not impacted by COVID 19, but we the teachers are!  Teachers are not front-line workers; we were not trained for that nor do we have PPE to keep us safe.  If we are told to return to school buildings, will PPE be provided?  Students should also be required to wear face masks to keep others safe, friends, classmates and teachers.


In conclusion, we are educators and want the best for students to encompass best practices providing growth not only with their education but social-emotion health and well-fair, so I implore you to begin the school year virtually for the health and safety of all, not just to satisfy parents need for day-care!  I realize any situation for next year is not ideal and not everyone will be happy, but the health and safety of all concerned should be the underling concern for school to begin virtually.

CommentID: 83581