FCPS Must Delay Reopening and Keep Everyone Safe
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Tina Williams, President, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers
UPDATED - October 2nd, 2020:
A lot has happened in just the last 24 hours. Wednesday night, FCPS notified some staff (roughly 650) at 6:24pm that they were being asked to return to teach in person in October and asked staff to notify FCPS about their decision by Friday at 4:30pm. This means staff were given less than 48 hours to decide whether they’re returning to in-person instruction, taking leave, or resigning.
In response, FCFT members quickly mobilized and contacted School Board members, Dr. Brabrand and FCPS leadership to urge FCPS to delay reopening until there is a clear plan in place to keep everyone safe and give all FCPS staff an extension so they have adequate time to make this decision. You can read my email yesterday about the situation (see original statement below). In addition, several members shared their personal stories with local media outlets including WUSA9, NBC, ABC, Local DMV and FOX.
Tonight FCPS notified staff that they now have until October 6th at 4:30pm to respond and stated that responses are not binding. This extension demonstrates that FCFT member pressure is paying off! This is a small step in the right direction, but we need to keep the pressure up to make sure FCPS delays reopening until there is a clear plan in place to keep everyone safe. Click here to send a message here to the school board members, FCPS leadership and Dr. Brabrand.
The limited time FCPS is giving some staff members to make this life changing decision sets a concerning precedent for the notice and way that FCPS will request staff return for face-to-face instruction. It is important that FCPS is transparent with its safety mechanisms and plans so everyone can make an informed choice. All FCFT members must continue to stay united in fighting for a safe reopening for everyone.
Original Statement - October 1st, 2020:
Dear FCFT Members,
Yesterday I was shocked to find out the FCPS gave hundreds of staff less than 48 hours to make a decision about whether they would return to in person work or take a leave of absence or resign. This isn’t a decision that can be made lightly since the district has not been transparent in its safety mechanisms, and the plans they have shown fall short of what we need. Send a message here to the school board members, FCPS leadership and Dr. Brabrand urging them to work together to delay reopening until there is a clear plan in place to keep everyone safe and give all FCPS staff an extension so they have adequate time to make this decision.
In a survey that FCFT will publish next week of 1,335 FCFT members, 85.7% of you lack confidence in FCPS’s plan as written, with 69.5% specifically citing that you do not feel safe. And it’s easy to understand why: the current reopening plan is setting school-based staff members up for failure because many of the finer details of the plan have not been decided and communicated to staff. Schools are left to decide for themselves how to handle critical concerns such as addressing a student who refuses to follow safety guidelines or finding coverage for a classroom when there are no subs. Principals are also involved in the decision making process about whether to provide ADA accommodations for teleworking; this should be handled by HR to maintain consistency across FCPS. We also need ongoing training and information on how to manage day-to-day situations, as well as a clear understanding about how we will be informed if we have been exposed.
FCPS regularly touts that it is a “caring culture”, but this request demonstrates that FCPS does not value its employees. Click here to send a message here to the school board members, FCPS leadership and Dr. Brabrand.
The district is currently asking staff to make a decision between putting their faith in a plan that doesn’t prioritize the health of us and our families or giving up our healthcare, pay and livelihood. This is not a decision any of us should be forced into, and one we expect that will be replicated at some point for all staff. FCPS must delay the reopening until there is a clear plan to provide safe working and learning environments and should give us the time we need to make life changing decisions. Of the members we surveyed, 52.9% reported that they were undecided if they would take a leave of absence or resign, a decision that cannot be rushed.
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