Loudoun Educators Campaign for Distance Learning Option

Facing a deadline to decide whether they will return to the classroom in September, Loudoun teachers are raising concerns about the long list of unknowns that remain in the school division’s back to school plan. Many simply don’t feel the plan is safe.

Teachers and parents must decide this week whether they will participate in part-time, in-person classes or sign up for 100 percent distance learning for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. 

In a series of virtual town hall meetings to over the past several days, administrators have worked to provide more details of the class structure and safety procedures that will be implemented when classes resume Sept. 8. 

For many teachers, those session have only shined light on new concerns—from classroom cleaning schedules to ensuring equitable sick leave policies. 

On Monday, the Loudoun Education Association, which represents more than 3,600 division employees, recommended its members stay out of the classroom at least until the start of the second semester in January. 

According to statement, “The Loudoun Education Association believes the best course of action is to start the school year with distance learning. This decision is based on LEA’s survey results, focus groups, and member discussions. This gives educators the opportunity to participate in professional development, collaborate to modify curriculum, and develop protocols which meet the needs of students and employees in an online environment.”

The LEA also is pressing for educators to have more involvement in the planning for COVID-era education.

“The current most critical need is to ensure educators, students, and our community are safe. As educators, we are charged with the academic growth, physical safety, and emotional well-being of our students,” according to the statement. “… LEA expects educators to be an integral part of the planning process. It is important to include our perspectives, as we are on the front lines working with students on a daily basis. LEA members demand that they be involved in the development of future LCPS plans.”

On Monday afternoon, LEA members planned to reinforce that position with a socially distanced car rally at the School Administration Building in Ashburn.

Teachers participated in a July 8 virtual town hall meeting with administrators. Among the new concerns that surfaced during that session was that the plans did not envision that classroom surfaces would be cleaned during the day, including between classes for middle and high school students or before and after lunch. Administrators said the policy stemmed from a worry that cleaning products teachers might use could react with the cleaners used by the janitorial staff to pose allergy concerns. 

“Would you eat in a restaurant that didn’t clean their tables in between customers? The answer, for most, would probably be no,” one teacher wrote after the session.

Administrators later adjusted the plan to allow teachers who become certified, through video training, to use the approved cleaning chemicals to conduct mid-day classroom cleaning.

Another teacher concern expressed during that session and during a Sunday afternoon virtual town hall conducted by Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) was what happens when teachers are forced—perhaps repeatedly—to quarantine themselves if they test positive for the virus or come into contact with an infected student, colleague or community member. There have been no announced plans to offer expanded sick leave or other income protections. While raises and step increases have been suspended because of the coronavirus’ impact on state and local budgets, some teachers have suggested hazard pay should be offered to staff members who head back into the schools. 

Teachers also want assurances they’ll have enough appropriate personal protective equipment—perhaps beyond the five masks administrators plan to supply each employee—and access to frequent—perhaps free—COVID-19 testing, along with a strong contact tracing system. 

For many educators, classroom safety to ensure the safety of the school community as well as their own families relies on a level of trust they haven’t yet reached.

“It scares the heck out of us because we love our kids,” LEA President David Palanzi said.

“We need to have trust in the community. We need to have trust in community leaders,” he said.

15 thoughts on “Loudoun Educators Campaign for Distance Learning Option

  • 2020-07-13 at 5:23 pm

    Democrats run the School Board, teachers association, and the school administration. The public school fiasco is 100% in the Democrat’s court now.

  • 2020-07-14 at 7:42 am

    “Insure being safe with schools closed” equals being laid off! Does the L.E.A. really believe taxpayers who have no children attending LCPS are going to pay $1.4 billion for a Harry Potter type magic trick instead of disciplined learning? Are parents of 80,000 plus children going to accept online courses while LCPS staff keep their income so everyone can watch TV and videos at home? Are the Academy of Science labs and the Monroe Tech labs unnecessary? Perhaps if the school board spent less time on partisan “playtime” issues and more serious time analyzing these obvious virus issues while schools were closed. this spring we would have more detailed and reasonable re-opening plans worthy of one of the best school systems in the USA. 🙂

    • 2020-07-14 at 10:46 am

      Bob – the teachers I know want to teach in person in the buildings. They do not want to get infected and they do not want to die. It sounds like you are OK with both happening.

      Distant learning has been around for over 20 years. Businesses and schools use this all over the world. It is not the best approach for students but it is not the worst.

      I just wish that the school board when you were on it did a better job of keeping LCPS up to date with technology and progress. As you left if, when Hatrick left, the school board found a rebound superintendent who promised to make up for all the lost time and opportunity you and the rest of the board inflected on the schools. That is how we ended up with Williams. –

  • 2020-07-14 at 9:17 am

    “It scares the heck out of us because we love our kids,” LEA President David Palanzi said.”

    Uh huh… Sure. Yep, Okay. Whatever. Anyone with even a passing interest on education knows that’s one of the oldest lies in the teacher union handbook. A great many parents are beginning to see the true face of the industrial education complex, and it’s not a good look.

    If teachers don’t want to work, that’s fine. I want some money back. If the county doesn’t provide the services and facilities they say they need a billion plus dollars for, then… that’s getting down to fraud.

    • 2020-07-14 at 3:45 pm

      Maybe talk with a teacher before you post your hate, Chris. I don’t know any teacher that does not want to teach in person. I also don’t know any teacher that does not want to stay healthy. So, this is not a matter of teachers but a matter of the dangers from the virus.

      how about you spend 8 hours in a small classroom with 20-30 kids who rarely wash hand, possible have testing positive, and do stupid thing like eat food off the floor.

  • 2020-07-14 at 3:04 pm

    I am teacher in LCPS but not a member of the LEA because I don’t believe they represent my views on many issues including this one. I immediately sent my notice to the county that I WILL teach in person. I even wish there was a 100% in person option for those that feel it is safe (or worth the risks).

    I would love to see the LEA data on the polling of their membership that influenced their decision to only support distance learning. Because the LEA only represents about 35% of all LCPS staff and I assume that not all LEA members want only DL learning.

    • 2020-07-14 at 3:49 pm

      I hope you stay safe and your family stays safe.

      Also, I have doubts that you are a teacher because you would know that LEA represents view points but like teachers, has no say into how schools operate. They have no collective bargaining power. The School Board and the school administration does whatever they like. What view do you have that they are no representing or what position are they promoting that you disagree with? Are you against all the safety measure other teachers are begging for?

      • 2020-07-14 at 11:28 pm

        I stated that I disagree with the LEA position on wanting LCPS to only operate in an online capacity. Because the public does not fully understand that the LEA does not represent ALL teacher/staff views, I made my original comment to make that point known.

        As for the lack of collective bargaining power, currently you are correct. However a new Virginia law will allow local governments to allow public sector collective bargaining starting in May 2021.

        Finally: No, I am not against safety measures for teachers and students.
        However, I have spoken to many colleagues and read the comments from other teachers that are demanding that they will refuse to go back to the building until the is a vaccine or there is 0% chance of infection and I find that position to be unacceptable.

    • 2020-07-14 at 4:15 pm

      You bring up a great point. People assume LEA is the voice of the teachers. It’s not. It is voice of the 35%. The majority of LCPS workers doesn’t care enough for them to join.

      • 2020-07-14 at 11:31 pm

        I care about my profession and my students. I was even a member of the organization for the first few years teaching. However, I did not see the benefits of what I was getting from my membership as outweighing the costs (approx $650 per year). I think there are lots of people in LCPS who cannot justify that sort of membership fee.

  • 2020-07-14 at 4:55 pm

    Educators are in the public service industry. Like many other professions, each teacher will have to determine if they want to return to the classroom or seek employment or possible profession elsewhere.

    Loudoun schools need to open with a 100% attendance option. Those that do not want to return, have a very viable option that we can all respect.

    Loudoun needs better leadership. Eric Williams is not a leader.

  • 2020-07-14 at 5:29 pm

    There is absolutely NO compelling medical reason to keep kids out of schools. The fears expressed by “no-nothings” have created a panic. Let the kids go back to school full time, and let them out to play. The current flu does NOT present any urgent medical risk to the kids.

    • 2020-07-14 at 6:31 pm

      AGREE 4Liberty!

      The annual flu kills kids 4X more than the current Chinese virus.

      It would help the discussion if we all dealt with statistics and facts.

    • 2020-07-16 at 9:33 am

      “There is absolutely NO compelling medical reason to keep kids out of schools.” What? What are you credentials to make this statement? Stupid posts like this is why we can’t have nice things.

  • 2020-07-17 at 4:30 pm

    Put a sock in it YN. Prove the writer wrong or perhaps we should consider what ‘credentials’ you have for basic reasoning and tolerance of others.

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