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Frustrated teachers, parents question the return to Chesterfield classrooms

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Posted at 2:21 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 14:21:18-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Frustrated teachers and parents spoke out at the Chesterfield County School Board meeting Tuesday night against the board's decision to reopen middle and high schools to in-person learning. The decision coincided with a nationwide increase in the number of reported COVID-19 cases. An upward trend also taking place in Virginia.

“It doesn’t seem like your decisions are being made based on concerns about our health of the health, consideration of the safety and wellbeing of students or your staff," middle school teacher Emma Clark told board members.

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“I felt used and abused," teacher Todd Gasparello said. "When it came time for the school board and Chesterfield County Public Schools to protect me, and follow the VDH guidance, they did not."

Gasparello said he was embarrassed to be an employee in the school system after a split vote last month where the county's health committee could not agree on whether students should be back in the classroom.

“In no rational world, do you have a split decision from a health committee, claim you prioritize health, and then choose the riskier option that goes against the VDH guidance," Gasparello said.

CBS 6 has heard from parents that a number of teachers have not reported to work this week. When asked to confirm the teacher sick-out, a Chesterfield County Schools spokesperson said they would look into the matter and respond with answers.

Gasparello said he has witnessed the shortage firsthand and felt its impact.

"I’m staying to fight because I am younger, and for now I am healthy, but I am tired because no building is fully staffed. I’m tired because there are no subs," Gasparello said.

Chesterfield Schools Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said they’re working with local health leaders to ensure the safety of all students. Administrators also have a plan in case a school experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.

“You have a choice to reverse your decision," parent Meg Clark told the board. "It was irresponsible, it indicates a lack of concern for teachers, staff, students, and ultimately your community. I hope you choose wisely."

Middle and high school students, known as cohort 4, returned to in-person learning at Chesterfield schools on November 9. Cohort three, which included mostly fourth and fifth-grade students, returned to in-person learning in Chesterfield on Monday, October 26.

Students in cohorts two, three, and four learn under a hybrid system of two in-person learning days and two days learning from home.

The hybrid model will stay in place through the rest of the first semester which ends the third week of January 2021.

Parents will still have the option of keeping their children home to learn in a virtual setting.

Henrico Schools announced middle and high school students could return to in-person learning as early as February 2021.

Richmond Schools plan to vote on its second-semester plan at a December school board meeting.