A group of parents is collecting signatures to recall three members of the Fairfax County Public School Board (FCPS). FCPS has announced plans to have five-days-a-week, in-person school in the upcoming school year. But the Open FCPS Coalition is still seeking to recall Springfield District Member Laura Jane Cohen, Dranesville District Member Elaine Tholen, and At-Large Member Abrar Omeish.
“The reason they are still up for recall is because what they did this last year is unforgivable. Closing schools in March of 2020 until the end of the school year was understandable. But continuing this charade all the way until March of 2021 cause long lasting damage,” Open FCPS Coalition spokesperson Vanessa Hill told The Virginia Star.
Open FCPS Coalition PAC is largely funded by $55,000 from Republican advocacy organization N2 America Inc, and $15,000 from Pete Snyder, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
To recall the members, signatures are required from voters in the member’s district. The recall petition for each member must have an amount of signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the votes cast to elect that member. So far, the coalition has two-thirds of the required 4,000 signatures to recall Cohen, one-third of the 27,000 required to recall Omeish, and about 86 percent of the 3,600 required to recall Tholen. According to the coalition’s website, the petitions request a judge to review the record of the members to determine if they were negligent or incompetent.
“If a judge accepts our grounds for recall, it goes to court and if we miraculously win, we will put up a regular person who isn’t driven by politics to run against one of their politically motivated candidates,” Hill said.
The coalition website says that Omeish, Tholen, and Cohen were selected based on a lack of advocacy and action about reopening the school. “Out of the 12 [School Board] members, only one member did these things in a strong and consistent manner: [Braddock District Member] Megan McLaughlin,” the website states.
Of the remaining 11, Tholen and Cohen were elected by the fewest votes, making it easier to get enough petitions. Including the board’s only at-large member, Omeish, allows any Fairfax voter to sign at least one of the petitions, the coalition’s site states.
In November 2020, the district paused phasing in students to partially in-person hybrid learning, according to Tysons Reporter. The district postponed plans to restart phasing the students in several times as COVID-19 case metrics exceeded thresholds. Some special-needs students who had in-person learning also had to return to fully-virtual instruction in December.
“The metrics for Group 3 have now exceeded the 7 day threshold of greater than 10% positivity & greater than 200 cases/100,000. As a result, this group will roll to all virtual instruction this Monday,” Cohen explained on Twitter on December 12.
The district returned its students to classrooms from February 16 through March 16, according to an update.
Hill listed harms caused by virtual learning including kids stuck in abusive homes, special needs kids out of classrooms, lost learning, lost social activities, and missed milestones and activities.
“And unfortunately many kids went to psychiatric wards as a result of this isolation. It all could have been avoided,” she said.
“We can never let this happen again,” Hill said. “No matter what happens we must let them know this is not acceptable.”
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