CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Ahead of a Charlottesville City School Board meeting, a letter was circulating on social media. More than 150 Charlottesville City teachers have signed that letter, which raised concerns about the return to school in the fall.
During the virtual meeting Monday night, those teachers made sure the board members heard their worries.
The recommended return to school policy is a hybrid option, which has students in the classroom some days and learning online other days.
“Sending them back to school is, in my opinion, a science experiment that can and will lead to trauma and loss,” said Tess Krovetz, a second-grade teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary School, who helped organize the letter.
“I miss my students more than anything, but I am also terrified of unknowingly harming one of them or my colleagues,” said Bonnie Yoder, a special education teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary School.
These teachers’ voices were amplified by the letter, which was written by Shannon Gillikin. Her requests include asking to scale back phases of reopening to prioritize safety and beginning school fully online.
“In addition to all these requests, we’ve generated a list of about 20 questions that staff members would like answered before we feel comfortable returning face-to-face,” Gillikin said as she read her letter to the board.
The board responded, acknowledging these worries.
“These are, again, dedicated teachers and these are teachers that want to show up,” said Dr. Lisa Larson-Torres, a school board member. “But they have very real concerns, and fears, and questions that we’ve heard.”
“The biggest hole in our current plan - the four days back - is the concerns and the voices of the teachers,” said board member Lashundra Bryson Morsberger.
No final decisions were made during Monday night’s meeting, as members like Board Vice-Chair Leah Puryear took the time to reflect on the difficulty of these decisions.
”I think what is making this extremely difficult for me is that I see this as a life or death situation,” Puryear said.
The recommended plan, and the other plans the board has reviewed, can be found here.
The board also discussed safety plans for a return to the classroom, which includes a requirement that students wear face coverings or masks. Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) says they are asking students and staff to provide their own face coverings or masks for “personal comfort, fiscal responsibility, and environmental reasons.” If a student or staff cannot wear a mask, CCS will provide a face shield.