Prince William Education Association Requests School Board Discuss Return to Building Plan Before New Year

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Image from the PWEA Facebook site.
The Prince William Education Association is requesting the Prince William County School Board discuss the new COVID-19 numbers in regards to the Return-to-Learning Building Plan before adjourning for the winter holiday. The association posted its request on its Facebook page, Tuesday. The school board will hold a special meeting on Dec. 17., but the focus is not on the Return-to-Building Plan, but rather the search for a new superintendent. The plan was discussed at length at the Dec. 2 meeting* and no changes were made at that time. PWEA, headed by President Maggie Hansford, believes numbers could increase due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and the school board should consider that new information. The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6. First and second grade students, who opted to return, will be returning to the building on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Email from PWEA as posted on its Facebook page: 
In honor of transparency, PWEA would like to ask the School Board and Division leadership when is the next meeting to discuss the return to building plan? Will safety not be discussed at the 12/17/2020 meeting? At the most recent meeting, held on 12/2/20, there was a presentation from Denise Huebner and the Covid19 Health Team. In the presentation a slide stated, a careful eye on school related data in the next 7-14 days will be important to monitor the impact of the recent holiday. This was in reference to the rise of Covid19 post Thanksgiving holiday. How are the community and staff provided assurances in safety regarding the rise of Covid19 after Thanksgiving, if the board's next meeting isn't until January? This would leave over 30 days of health data and metrics unaddressed and ignored by the board and division leadership during a world health pandemic. We ask the board to please reconsider and hold a meeting prior to break to address health metrics and mitigation strategies to keep our students and staff safe as we remain high moderate status in PWC. Tags: Babur Lateef (Chairman At-large), Loree Y. Williams (Vice Chair, Woodbridge), Justin David Wilk (Potomac), Lisa Zargarpur (Coles)  Adele Jackson (Brentsville), Jennifer T. Wall (Gainesville), Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Diane Raulston (Neabsco)
Underneath the PWEA message, Woodbridge School Board member, Loree Williams posted a comment in response. She said that while the Dec. 17 meeting is to discuss the superintendent search. Additionally, Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts has the authority to make necessary changes to the Return-to-Building Learning Plan. Recommended metrics to return to in-person learning: Prince William County Schools is adhering to the Virginia Department of Health guidelines at this time by only holding limited in-person instruction for only the youngest learners - preK, kindergarten and first grade-  and those high-risk academic students. Current Status For PWCS: Moderate-High Risk Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidance for schools in this category states: "In schools with moderate or higher risk of transmission, specific learners should be prioritized for limited in-person instruction, including willing students with disabilities, English learners, and prekindergarten through third-grade students. All other students should be served remotely. A fully remote option should be available to all."
Local & Virginia COVID-19 Metrics
The numbers of COVID-19 cases in Virginia surged on Nov. 26, and returned to that same approximate number of 7-Day Moving Average of 2,283 on Dec. 1. The surged was not an outlier as cases have been increasing steadily since mid-September. Thus far,PWCS has seen 79 positive COVID-19 cases in December within the school community. This includes cases for virtual-only students. The district saw 212 cases school-related cases in November. These are not considered outbreaks by the VDH. Find out more about where there have been active PWCS cases According to the Virginia Department of Health there have been 411 outbreaks in K-12 schools in the Commonwealth. No deaths have reportedly been linked to those outbreaks. Of children 1-9, there have been no COVID-19 deaths in Virginia. There has been one death of a person between the ages of 10 and 19. Teacher Concerns Teachers have grave concerns about returning to in-person working. Unlike parents, who have the option to choose virtual-only learning for their students, most teachers will have to return.  Tier 1 or 2 high-risk employees may receive accommodations**; however, it is not guaranteed that their accommodations will be remote teaching. While the school division assured citizens teachers are being provided with all the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed, some, who spoke during Citizen's Time, said otherwise. PWEA thanked Lillie Jessie for her comments on PPE during the Dec. 4 school board meeting. "Schools needing PPE, it is not an outlier." said Jessie. "We've gotten letters from teachers, so if mitigation is our key component in returning to buildings, we should have a PPE audit for everyone to acknowledge where they are. If mitigation is our core factor that makes us different in Prince William from other school districts, signing off on PPE would be a way to confirm that." *This date has been corrected.  ** We updated this to reflect that PWCS employees have commented that they have not received the accommodations they have requested or requested. 

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