RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The President of the Virginia Education Association is calling for public school systems to shift to all-virtual instruction until staff members can be vaccinated.
In a brief statement released on Friday, President James J. Fedderman encouraged the shift in the learning format based on the number of COVID-19 cases surging across the Commonwealth.
“Governor Northam this week said that getting Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to end this pandemic, rebuild our economy, and move the Commonwealth forward,” Fedderman said. “We commend Governor Northam for that, and we call upon the Governor, school board, and school superintendents to keep all students and staff safe with virtual instruction until staff is vaccinated.”
The Virginia Education Association represents more than 40,000 teachers and school professionals across the state of Virginia.
While each school system has developed its own learning plan, Fedderman believes students should return to the classroom when teachers have the added protection of a vaccine.
“No one is demanding that they take it but to have that option available is a start to beginning the process of bringing our babies back into the building when it’s safe,” he said. “As our nation surges past 360,000 deaths from this pandemic. It is the safest and wisest course to take right now.”
On Jan. 8 Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health announced 11 counties in the Commonwealth were able to move into Phase 1b as of Jan. 11 which includes vaccinations for teachers.
Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announced Monday vaccination efforts could start as soon as next week.
A HCPS spokesman said the district is working with the Henrico County Health District to assess how many employees plan on getting the vaccine and how many still need information before making the decision on getting it.
On Tuesday, the school system provided new information regarding it’s expanded in-person learning timeline and the need for nursing staff to assist with Phase 1b vaccination efforts.
“We believe having our nurses participate in this helps the vaccination effort for thousands of people move along faster than it ordinarily would,” said HCPS spokesman Andy Jenks.
Richmond Public Schools also released information about a potential timeline for when its staff could be vaccinated.
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras said he is communicating with the Virginia Department of Health about a timeline for employees to receive that vaccination. More information is expected to be released soon.
However, even once teachers receive their shot, precautions need to be in place.
“The safety measures such as face coverings, hand washing, social distancing - all of those things will remain essential,” Fedderman said.
As of Tuesday, VDH reported nearly 408,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 4,500 new cases reported overnight.
“One of my sayings has been, ‘learning losses will be made up but the loss of life cannot be’,” Fedderman said.
To see Fedderman’s video message, click here.
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