An anticipated organized ‘sick-out’ by Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers did not develop Monday, as the last cohort of students returned to in-person classes. This week, grades 6-12 are entering a hybrid in-person program where students are in-person two days a week, according to documentation from the school board. Younger students have already returned. Parents were given the choice to opt-in to the hybrid program.
CCPS posted pictures on Facebook of faculty greeting returning students and of socially distanced classrooms. Many parents commented thanking the district.
“Thank you CCPS for giving our children a CHOICE. Some kids are having a really hard time mentally and socially being isolated for so long,” parent Julie Watson wrote. “Kudos to you for opening your doors and allowing some form of face to face interaction. I didn’t expect it to be even close to normal but this is better than sitting in a room alone for hours stating at a screen where most kids choose to not be seen.”
Other commenters noted the lack of choice given to teachers. On Friday, Chesterfield Educators United spokesperson and middle school teacher Emma Clark published a press release expressing concern over the plan and shared results of unaffiliated Chesterfield Education Association’s survey of teachers. Clark wrote, “The vast majority of the nearly 900 responses indicate feeling unsafe and/or unprepared.”
In a statement responding to the Chesterfield Educators United release and press conference, CCPS said, according to NBC12, “The school division has received some inquiries about secondary employees who are stating that they do not plan to report to work on Monday. We are working directly with the employee(s) to reiterate our commitment to a safe working and learning environment as well as all the precautions that are in place (e.g. mask-wearing, availability of face shields, other PPE if applicable, changes in cleaning procedures, social distancing, etc.)”
On Monday evening, Clark told The Virginia Star that a formal sick-out never really developed, but that she had heard of a few teachers who stayed home. Clark herself did not report to her classes in person, and instead logged in online. She said that she had warned the district that she would not report in person, and the administration replied that could lead to termination.
“I was teaching virtually when they disabled my account midway through my lesson,” Clark said. Clark said she was reprimanded by the principal.
“What I do feel bad about are the teachers, and some of the teachers don’t have a choice. It’s either go to work or lose your job,” said parent Karen Henderson.
Henderson told The Virginia Star that she’s been involved with CCPS issues for years. Her daughter is a high school senior this year. “I’m glad that [we] have the choice if we wanted to keep our kids home, if we wanted to send them back.”
Henderson said she’s opted to keep her daughter home, but that the school board’s decision to make a return optional was important. “The fact that Chesterfield gave us the option, that made me happy because I said, ‘Hey, I can make this choice for my child.'”
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