Teachers frustrated as more Chesterfield County students return to classroom

Education

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — More Chesterfield County students are returning to the classroom for in-person learning, and several teachers say they are frustrated with the process.

At a school board meeting Tuesday night, a handful of teachers, like Todd Gasprello, voiced their concern over the school board’s decision to allow the last cohort of students back into the classroom this week.

Gasparello argued that the board went against its own health metrics and acted in “self-interest” instead of prioritizing the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff.

“In no rational world, do you have a split decision from a health committee, claim you prioritize health, and then chose the riskier option that goes against VDH’s guidance,” Gasparello said. “The hypocrisy is real and you all are okay with that.”

In October, the school board voted 3-2 to allow all 6th through 12th graders to return to school, despite a health committee’s report that cases were on the rise in the county. The majority of the committee said the rise in cases was “not sufficient” enough to pause cohort 4 students’ return.

“From your words and actions this past month, you sent a clear message to staff that you’re OK with them being exposed to COVID,” Gasparello said.

He was not alone in this argument.

Emma Clark, a teacher at Falling Creek Middle School, said she was losing faith in the school board after a survey of over 900 teachers was ignored by the board. According to Clark, the survey revealed that 74 percent of staff felt unsafe and unprepared to return to the classroom this week.

“If you care about the education of students and safety of students, then you don’t send them into buildings when 3/4 of your staff feel unsafe and unprepared,” she said. “I didn’t even get a response to that email. How do you do that if you say you care about education or health and safety?”

School officials have promised to monitor health data closely as students return to school. Since the start of school, more than 50 people within the school division have tested positive.

Visit the Chesterfield County Public Schools’ website to listen to the meeting. 

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