CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - The fourth and final cohort of Chesterfield students are expected to return to the classrooms on Monday, but many teachers like Emma Clark say they won’t be returning because they feel unsafe and unprepared.
“There are not many people who are willing to teach under the conditions we have created right now,” said Clarke. “What’s happening right now is that my government employer is mandating that I go against what my government expert tells me I need to do to stay safe and to keep others safe, or I lose my job."
Clark says that a survey of nearly 900 CCPS staff conducted by the Chesterfield Education Association shows the majority of staff surveyed feel unsafe to teach in-person despite the county’s decision to move ahead and introduce the final cohort.
When asked whether the county provided adequate time and support so that they felt prepared to implement my assigned instructional model effectively, data from the survey shows that 79.93% of staff responded false. 15.85% of staff answered true while 4.22% responded that the question doesn’t apply to their contracted assignment.
From the survey, 38.06% of students staff said that they would be returning to the building on Nov. 9, but only because they felt that they had no choice or did not feel that they were successfully prepared to implement the hybrid model.
Just 5.83% of those surveyed felt that the current conditions were safe and that CCPS prepared them successfully to implement the hybrid model.
Clark believes the decision to send cohort 4 back to the classroom goes against the VDH guidelines the school system promised to follow. She adds that the staff members have been pressured to perform under unsafe conditions out of fear of losing their jobs.
“I have been told in no uncertain terms in two meetings with H.R. that this is going to lead to the termination of my contract,” Clark said.
In a press conference Friday, Clark - among other teachers - called on CCPS to delay the return of cohort 4, adding the county has not specifically explained how it plans to contact trace, keep students socially distant when switching classes, as well as issues with PPE shortages.
“It’s very concerning to me that the district would move forward when they literally don’t know how many kids are coming in and literally don’t know how many staff they’re going to have,” said Clark.
Taylor Reese says he’s keeping his freshman out of his school because he doesn’t believe CCPS is prepared to keep them safe.
“If my daughter goes to school and is asymptomatic and then we go spend Thanksgiving at their house - what happens when my in-laws get sick,” said Reese.
“Please look into the research, please reconsider your trust in the process that CCPS has set up, and really think about this idea that pushing everybody back into school unprepared, giving teachers way more jobs than we can possibly do, providing this hybrid plan that nobody seems satisfied with,” said Clark. “Is that really going to be the quality education that you are looking for from your kid’s school?”
In response, Chesterfield Schools released the following statement.
“The school division has received some inquiries about secondary employees who are stating that they do not plan to report to work on Monday. We are working directly with the employee(s) to reiterate our commitment to a safe working and learning environment as well as all the precautions that are in place (e.g. mask-wearing, availability of face shields, other PPE if applicable, changes in cleaning procedures, social distancing, etc.).”
“Any teacher who has completed their ADA paperwork and submitted supporting medical documentation has been contacted by a Benefits Administrator regarding their request.”
We are also sharing the following:
“If employees are experiencing anxiety about transitions in the learning model, the Employee Assistance Program is available 24/7. They can reach EAP at 1-855-721-5319.”
CCPS says that if an employee does not report on Monday and calls in sick unexpectedly, we are asking the employee to bring a doctor’s note when they report on Tuesday per School Board Policy 5230 (G).
“Employees who do not pass self-assessment and have symptoms of illness should not attend and should follow the instructions to contact Employee Medical Center and, if they so choose, their own medical provider. Employees are to contact the Employee Medical Center if they are symptomatic."
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