CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Almost 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for Chesterfield County Public Schools to reconsider their decision to allow elementary schools to resume full-time in-person learning on Feb. 1. The petition, organized by parents, is a call to protect teachers. It also calls to maintain the current virtual learning schedule instead of extend daily hours later.
It gained traction quickly, with roughly 2,000 signatures within the first 24 hours. The petition acknowledges that in-person instruction would be the most effective route for students but says virtual learning should continue regardless due to the pandemic.
“[Teachers are] expected to put up with underfunded programs, to spend their own money on school supplies, to defend children during school shootings, and now they’re expected to be fed to the lions again,” said Chesterfield mom of three and peitition organizer Jenny Morand.
In the last week, guidance on returning to schools in-person has shifted. The Virginia Department of Education, Gov. Ralph Northam and the Chesterfield School Board are all in agreement that its time to start moving kids back into the classroom.
Morand says school staff and their family members, especially those who are high risk, are endangered by the decision to return to in-person learning.
“The main argument that people are making [is that] you have a choice whether you go back to school in person or virtually. But teachers do not get that choice,” she said.
Morand and the petition’s other authors want the school board to wait for just one more thing — the vaccination of teachers.
“I just want everyone to wait a few more weeks to make it safe for teachers,” Morand said.
The petition says teachers should not be forced back into classrooms until they’re fully vaccinated, with both doses.
School employees are some of the next people to be vaccinated in Virginia, with some localities already administering vaccines to members of Phase 1b and others scheduled to start soon. Chesterfield teachers and staff working with Cohort 1 students and elementary school students will receive their first round of the vaccine on Jan. 21 or 22.
The school district will be vaccinating staff members in shifts. Transportation staff will receive theirs Jan. 25. Middle school staff, high school staff and Central Office staff will receive theirs either Jan. 28 or 29.
Substitutes and temporary staff will receive theirs Feb. 4 or 5.
According to health officials, the vaccine will not be fully effective until after staff receive their second dosage which is administered weeks after the first.
This means that teachers will have received their first dosage before returning to schools on Feb. 1 but will not have received their second.
“There are things we can address later and there are things that can never be reversed like the death of one of his teachers,” Morand said.