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Teacher union calls for more COVID resources amid chaos over mask mandates

Teacher unions call for enforced mask wearing at schools
Teacher unions call for enforced mask wearing at schools(none)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 2:56 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield Education Associations met Monday morning, calling on district leaders to keep masks mandatory for all students and faculty while on school grounds.

In all of these cases, mask mandates are already enforced. However, due to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order, there is confusion as the order allows parents to decide whether their children had to wear face masks in schools.

All of the districts listed have decided to go against the governor’s orders, instead reinforcing their COVID-19 protocols by keeping masks mandatory. Despite this, Richmond Virginia Education Association leaders say there is still not enough to protect students and staff.

“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” said Patrick Miller, Henrico Education Association. “So, we call upon our districts to put the health, safety and education of their students above the political whims of the executive.”

Across the board, the unions are calling for more precise guidelines for when schools decide to go completely virtual versus staying in-person. Leaders emphasized they are not calling to go completely virtual again, but decisions must be made when a certain percentage of the staff is out sick.

“Teachers should not be forced to give up their planning time to cover for another’s class,” said Miller. “They should not fear discipline action for refusing, or be concerned about their own class because of the time they are now giving up.”

There were individual calls for more resources as well. Chesterfield Education Association President Christine Melendez asked the district for more K95 masks. Richmond Education Association President Katina Harris called for more contact tracing within the district.

In all cases, the unions agreed COVID protocols should not be lessened but heightened, especially with the surge of the Omicron variant throughout Virginia schools.

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