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PWEA Asks Prince William Schools to Open 100% Virtually in Fall

| July 13, 2020 | 0 Comments | Education

The Prince William Education Association [PWEA] sent a letter to the Prince William School Division and the Prince William County School Board, Friday, requesting the year open with a 100% virtual option to protect students and educators.

“The PWEA calls that once we have prepared our students and workforce for effective and equitable virtual learning at the start of the year, we should proceed to a 100% virtual platform to protect students, educators and families from the incredibly serious risks of COVID-19,” said the letter signed PWEA Board of Directors 

The Prince William School Board will vote on its opening plans at its July 15 virtual meeting. The school board took a nonbonding vote, July 8, to open schools with a two day model for most students. 

According to the two day model, school spaces will open at 50% capacity, allowing for social distancing of approximately three feet between students. Teachers would provide work for students to complete at home on days they were not in school, and teachers would work hold virtual office hours on Mondays. Parents could also choose an at-home virtual learning option for their children.

Teachers with medical conditions. placing them at high risk for COVID-19 complications, those 65 and older, or those with high-risk family members at home, would also receive accommodation, such as teaching virtually. Others educators may be able to work from home, but only if needed. 

The PWEA fielded concerns from other educators who were categorized as healthy but nonetheless felt uncomfortable returning to work.

The PWEA has not advocated for a specific opening plan until this point, but more teachers spoke out this week, upon hearing proposed plans.

“Our members do not feel safe returning to work. We feel that there are too many unknowns and too many questions that need to be answered,” O’Casey said in a statement to local media. 

In the letter, the PWEA also requests to speak directly with Superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts, individual school board members, human resources and risk management. 

“It is our hope that through these conversations we will be able to address the concerns of our members and the Division at large before the School Board votes on our back-to-school plan is voted upon,” the letter said. 

PWEA members rallied for more input on the school division’s plan, July 3, in an event attended by many of its  members. PWEA President-Elect Maggie Hansford explained that PWEA members had grave concerns, but members PWCS only invited members to provide input at the end of the process. 

To help create the plan, PWCS formed a 90-person task force, which included principals, assistant principals, directors, supervisors, teachers representing different subjects and grade levels, technology staff, HR staff and health staff. PWEA felt the process did not accurately represent school employees as principals chose the teachers who would participate and members of the task-force were not released to the public.

“We have reached out to the leadership of the PWEA (president and president-elect) to inform them of where we are so far, and hear their feedback. In addition, PWEA completed a survey and has given us those results to help inform development of the return to new learning plan,” said PWCS Director of Communications, Diana Gulotta. “We also completed a school-based employee survey, and a parent survey is closing today. An additional employee survey is planned.”

At the July 8 meeting, Dr. Walts explained the governor dictated many decisions regarding school openings in the fall semester. Gov. Ralph Northam informed superintendents they could open at 50% capacity, at a July 6 teleconference.  The school division also decided to coordinate with neighboring school districts to make it easier on their educators who are also parents living outside the county. 

Northam announced Friday that if cases increase in Virginia, the state could move back from Phase III to Phase II restrictions, and schools may not open under that scenario. 

To prepare for virtual and partial-virtual learning, educators have been training on the Canvas online learning platform. School will start for student on Sept. 9 allow more time for teacher training. 

Dr. Jennifer Cassata, Director of the Office of Accountability said parent surveys showed polarization with nearly half of parents saying they were “very concerned” and the very comfortable regarding the reopening of schools. 

The PWEA July 10 Letter to the School Division.

Thank you and your staff’s efforts as we all enter the beginning of the school year. The PWEA Board of Directors acknowledges the critical environment that exists and the efforts of the PWCS leadership to address the situation at-hand.

The PWEA calls that once we have prepared our students and workforce for effective and equitable virtual learning at the start of the year, we should proceed to a 100% virtual platform to protect students, educators and families from the incredibly serious risks of COVID-19. 

In order to implement this, we call for immediate dialogues with our Board of Directors and 

  • Dr. Walts

  • PWCS School Board members individually

  • PWCS Human Resources

  • PWCS Risk Management It is our hope that through these conversations we will be able to address the concerns of our members and the Division at large before the School Board votes on our back-to-school plan is voted upon. We are all working on an abbreviated timeline – we look forward to hearing and meeting with you and your staff to keep the dialogue open. Respectfully, PWEA Board of Directors

 

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