Chesterfield teachers seek virtual options for instructors as 4th Cohort returns

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 11:35 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Middle and high school students are back in the classroom, but at least three Chesterfield teachers say they are worried they could catch coronavirus with the return of Cohort 4 students.

Austin Good and James Freeman both teach English at Meadow Brook High School in Chesterfield, while Emma Clark teaches English at Falling Creek Middle School. All three teachers say they are being pressured to teach in the classroom despite the majority of the students they teach remaining virtual.

“I taught six different students today. Yesterday I taught just four students,” said Freeman.

“Essentially what we’re doing is teaching virtually in a classroom setting, which obviously increases the risk,” said Good.

Freman, Good, and Clark brought up these concerns during a socially distanced press conference Friday.

Despite being told by the administration to show up in person, Clark says she felt so strongly that she opted to teach virtually Monday. She says she’s now facing the consequences.

“The message was that I should cease virtual instruction immediately and they deactivated my account for CCPS while I was teaching my students,” said Clark.

While Clark says she’s not been let go, she’s willing to take the risk of not showing up in person, but other teachers who feel the same say they can’t afford to lose their jobs.

“I can’t really go without an income during a global pandemic,” said Freeman.

“I don’t want to see if I can find another job in the middle of a pandemic and hope someone hires me in a district that continues to remain virtual,” said Good.

At this time, CCPS has not responded to our request for comment, but Friday they release 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, they 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.”

Good and Freeman say they’ll continue teaching their students in person, but want CCPS to consider virtual options for teachers too.

“If you’re going to extend those same choices to the rest of the community, then they should also be extended to the staff within this building because that only seems fair,” said Good.

Clark says she wants CCPS to reiterate guidelines from the CDC which urge employers to offer options for staff, including telework options, to help limit exposure to COVID-19.

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