Superintendent bringing virtual option to Albemarle Co. School Board

Hundreds of teachers are signing an open letter to the schools' superintendent expressing their dismay about returning to the classroom.
Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 10:57 AM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -Hundreds of teachers with Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) are signing an open letter, expressing their concerns with returning to in-person instruction this fall. Now, Superintendent Matthew Haas is weighing in.

The letter addresses the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area, and states, “It is unequivocally unsafe for Albemarle County staff and families to begin the year with an in-person learning model.” Haas says teacher feedback like this is already changing his proposal to the school board.

“We’re planning on creating, or going back to, 100% virtual option for all of our students and staff to bring to our board on July 30th as another option that the board can look at,” Haas said.

“I think the letter does state that we would really want the board and Dr. Haas to consider pivoting to a virtual opening this year, for sure. And additionally, we wanted a platform where teachers could kind of put all of their questions in one spot,” Vicki Hobson, an Albemarle County teacher who co-authored the letter, said.

The list of questions is several pages long, and includes questions like: Why won’t masks be required within the classroom even with distancing practices in place? Teachers say heading back to the school will not set students up for success.

“Kids thrive on physical touch, on physical proximity, when they’re all together. Putting them in a situation where they’re not allowed to come within six feet of anybody else, where they’re all wearing masks and they can’t see facial expressions, that sort of thing, that is really emotionally hard for children,” teacher Michelle Drago said.

If the board votes to start the school year virtually, teachers will have to do something they’ve never done before: get to know their students without meeting them face to face. One teacher says she will utilize what she has done this year in summer school: “I had like a 30 minute Zoom with them, where we just talk about life and got to know each other,” Kate Gerry, a teacher who co-authored the letter said.

Haas recently spent time at Western Albemarle High School, which is also influencing his thought process.

“I walked away from that with doubts and not feeling 100% secure that we can do everything to keep people safe from the virus,” Haas said.

Haas also says the school district is looking into providing childcare for employees and parents as a key component for back to school success.

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