Henrico Parents Demand Kids Go Back to School

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After polling parents and holding a public forum, the Henrico County School Board voted 4-1 Thursday for an optional plan to allow in-person learning. The phased approach will allow Pre-K through 2nd grade students to return to school four days a week starting November 30. Grades 3-5 would return on December 7, and older students will return in February.

At the forum Tuesday, Hungary Creek Middle School student Liam Sheldon said, “In every year up to 8th grade, which is this year for me, my final grade on my report card was an ‘A’. My worst grade in any marking period was a ‘B’. I’m also in all advanced classes and am two levels above my grade level in math. Does anyone want to guess what my math grade is now? If you guessed, ‘A’ or ‘B’ you’re wrong. It’s an ‘F’.”

“It’s almost impossible to get good grades in virtual school, especially on quizzes or tests. I find virtual school very stressful and frustrating and too many hours in front of a screen,” Sheldon added.

In the survey, sent out between October 5-11, parents responded to three models: one would offer in-person education four days a week, leaving Wednesday for deep cleaning; the second would increase in-person learning to five days a week with shorter schedules, and the third would increase in-person learning to two days a week, with students being assigned either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.

Model three was the most popular, with 49.6 percent of parents saying they would send their kids to in-person classes under the model. Model one got 42.9 percent support from parents, and model two got 40.3 percent support from parents.

Teachers at the forum and in a separate survey expressed concerns about being forced to return to in-person classes.

School board member Kristi Kinsella was the only one to vote against the adoption of the expanded plan. Kinsella said that the end of November and beginning of December was too soon to put elementary students back in schools.

Before voting in favor of the plan, school board member Marcie Shea said that she felt some conflict between her own idea of the best decision and the input of parents from her district.

“I believe that what we are offering virtually is superior for most students to what we can offer in the building with the necessary health mitigation strategy. However, I know that this is not true of all students, and I know it doesn’t reflect the majority of my constituents,” she added.

Shea said that parents who opt to send their children to in-person classes bear responsibility for how their family behaves to mitigate risk of community spread of COVID-19.

“We know some of our students need to be in the building for instruction. But as I’ve heard in my district this week, even the ones that are clamoring for parent choice are also the ones clamoring for teachers choice. The only way that’s going to happen in a meaningful way is if parents consider for themselves, ‘Is returning to the building a want or a need for my child?'”

Shea concluded, “You have a choice to make as well.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]

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