Virginia Education Association (VEA) president James Fedderman wants public schools in the Commonwealth to go to fully virtual learning until teachers and school staff receive vaccinations to stop the spread of coronavirus in schools.
Fedderman asked the governor and school leaders around the state to facilitate the instructional switch in a video published to the VEA website on Friday.
“Our public schools must return to all-virtual instruction until all of our staff members have been vaccinated,” Fedderman said.
“Governor Northam this week said getting Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to end this pandemic, rebuild our economy, and move the Commonwealth forward,” Fedderman continued. “We commend Governor Northam for that, and we call upon the Governor, school board, and school superintendents to keep all students and staff safe with virtual instruction until staff are vaccinated.”
Fedderman also said in the video that he and his entire family got infected with COVID over the winter holiday, resulting in him getting little sleep for two weeks and losing 30 pounds. Furthermore, Fedderman said that the learning loses from all Virginia public school students learning virtually will be made up.
The VEA is a non-profit union that represents more than 40,000 teachers and school support professionals throughout the Commonwealth. Just last month Fedderman issued a similar request for statewide virtual instruction until Mid-January because of rising COVID numbers at the time.
In direct contrast to Fedderman’s wishes, a group of bipartisan lawmakers from the state Senate – Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City) and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) – recently authored an op-ed piece calling for schools to reopen.
As of December, only nine out of 132 school divisions are operating in-person, meaning all students attending school for four or more days, while 52 districts have gone fully remote. The majority of Virginia’s school divisions (71) have chosen for their students to learn through a hybrid instruction model, where certain students are in the classroom and others remain at home, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.
Some school divisions have used the pandemic as a way to accelerate plans for other ways to safely teach such as outdoor learning.
Fedderman’s most recent appeal came on the same day the Virginia Department of Health released the prioritization order for essential workers in Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes childcare, K-12 teachers and school staff. Certain health districts began vaccinating those in group 1b this week, but teachers are 3rd on the list for essential workers so it will take some time before they start to be vaccinated.
Currently, eight individual schools in Virginia, both public and private, are experiencing reported outbreaks of COVID-19 with the most cases occurring at Portsmouth Christian School, according to health department data.
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