More than 500 people have signed an online petition created last week asking for students of Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCCPS) to be allowed to return to classes on January 12.
“The devastating impact “virtual learning” has had on some students and parents alike can no longer be ignored and it is time for the WJCC School Board to address these concerns. Many schools in Virginia and around the Country have remained open while following CDC guidelines and it is time for WJCC schools to follow suit,” Joseph Nickerson said on the Moveon.org petition he created.
In November, WJCCPS began phasing students back into classrooms, with the goal of having grades K-11 in class on January 4, according to Wavy.com. However, on December 3, the Superintendent Olwen Herron sent out a letter saying that all students would be virtual again last Monday, December 7.
Herron cited rising COVID-19 case loads within the community as a whole as well as within the schools. He said, “For the safety of our staff and students, it forces us to pivot our instructional operations once again.”
Experts have warned that virtual learning carries its own risks. Studies show increases in child mental health-related emergency room visits during COVID-19. Other studies suggest that poor education due to virtual learning can have long-term life expectancy effects.
“We believe that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has extracted an enormous sacrifice from its youngest citizens to protect the health of its oldest,” said a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
A week ago, Senator Dr. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) warned that metrics looking at COVID-19 in the general population are misleading as guides for school policy, since schools tend to have lower transmission rates than the general population.
“The state is providing abysmal leadership on how schools can discern what is safe,” Dunnavant said. “They have metrics that they are following, but the metrics they are following do not comprehensively assess all of the variables that affect kids, like access to food, a safe place to learn, the screening capabilities of the trained staff in schools, having an education that they can use to succeed and participate in the American economy.”
Parents listed their reasons for signing Nickerson’s petition. “My kids (who are introverts) are begging to go back. This is killing kids both academically and socially. Both are failing when typically decent students (not straight A but definitely not straight F’s and ready to be a high school and middle school drop out,)” Karen S. commented.
Elizabeth L. said, “My daughter needs to be back in school learning face to face. It’s her right to have a successful education and right now, that’s not happening.”
“We strongly request the WJCC School Board provide the option of full-time in-person instruction for K-12 students starting January 11th while also allowing those who would like to continue virtual learning transfer to the WJCC Virtual Academy,” Nickerson wrote.
He concluded, “Closing schools should not be an option.”
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