Today the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) held a press conference to release the results of three member surveys that were conducted about the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) return to school plan, workload and planning time. The data demonstrates that FCPS staff members are overworked, under immense pressure and are overwhelmingly uncomfortable with returning for in-person instruction given the incomplete information about implementation that FCPS has shared to date. Due to the current circumstances, FCFT is calling on FCPS to delay reopening until there is a clear plan in place to keep everyone safe, adopt FCFT’s 11 Pillars of a Safe Reopening and address the lack of planning time and provide more time during the workday for staff to complete the duties of their jobs.
“Our position has always been and continues to be, that we want kids back in school as quickly as possible, but that means we must do it as safely as possible,” said Tina Williams, president, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “Unfortunately, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how FCPS will keep students and staff safe. As a result, we are urging FCPS to delay reopening until there is a clear plan in place to keep everyone safe.”
“My class has been highly engaged and we have been learning together, singing, dancing, and having fun. I believe the learning experience that I can offer to my class is better through distance learning than it would be through two days of socially-distanced in-person learning,” said Emily VanDerhoff, vice-president, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “I feel confident that given the circumstances, distance learning is the best option for my class and I hope that we can continue learning together in this way until conditions improve and FCPS can develop a plan that we can all feel confident will keep us safe.”
“Our members are concerned with the lack of transparency from FCPS about COVID-19 cases that have already occurred in our school buildings,” said David Walrod, vice-president, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “The current reopening plan is setting school-based staff up for failure because many of the details of the plan have not been decided and communicated to staff, and feedback from classroom staff is not included. The details are the difference between a safe and unsafe school environment.”
“Parents are concerned about the disruption of their children’s education due to teachers’ attention being split between remote and in-person learning simultaneously,” said Eduardo Conde, FCPS Parent and PAGES member.
“My options are to resign, retire, take an unpaid leave of absence, or consent to enter a building that, in my opinion, isn’t fully in compliance with the promise of adequate ventilation,” said Audrey O’Hara, ESOL teacher and member of FCFT. “All I ask of the county is to allow me to keep teaching remotely so my family and I are protected and safe. I can collectively say that we all want what’s best for the students. Of course we do. I ask that the county also take into consideration what is best for me and my family.”
“I come from a family of diabetics and asthmatic people and I have had 6 cousins and 4 uncles pass away from COVID. I live with my grandmother, who is older and I have diabetes and asthma and my asthma is very severe,” said Tia Williams, instructional assistant and member of FCFT. “FCPS denied by ADA application to work remotely. I do not feel like I have a choice. It is either my health or my job.”
85.7% of respondents are not confident in the current reopening plan; only 9.7% feel safe returning.
52.9% of respondents are considering whether to take a leave of absence or resign if asked to return to work in person.
Respondents cited unsafe workplaces, incomplete information, poor communication and lack of transparency as reasons.
Almost every single teacher in the county is working beyond their contract hours to finish their required work. 98.7% of teachers and 65.5% of support staff worked beyond contract hours the second week of school.
22.7% of teachers and 9% of support staff reported working more than 20 hours per week outside of contract hours.
Almost half of teachers have less than the minimum planning time required by the county.
The majority of staff report that workload is impacting their sleep and eating. It is taking a toll on their physical and mental health.