Virginia Beach teachers, district leaders weigh in ahead of new school year

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Posted at 9:38 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 06:15:06-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Reopening schools has been a hot topic in Virginia and across the country.

“I'm incredibly nervous,” teacher Kaitlin Jensen said.

Jensen teaches technology at Cooke Elementary in Virginia Beach.

Tuesday, she told News 3 that right now, she doesn't feel comfortable returning to her classroom this fall.

“Just about every teacher I've talked to is scared,” she said.

“I think, understandably, our teachers are anxious,” Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said.

VBCPS is considering three scenarios as to how the upcoming year could look like.

Jensen believes, for now, for now, virtual learning is the way to go.

“This is just a disease that we just don't know enough about to risk exposing all of our students and all of our staff,” Jensen said.

Spence told News 3 the district has talked with teachers and is working closely with local health officials.

“We're not going to open school unless we have confidence we have mitigated the risks to the greatest degree possible,” Spence said.

Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said reopening schools needs to be done safely and responsibly.

“I want our children to be back in our schools,” Northam said. “It's not just about our children. It's not just about their families. It's also about our teachers. Our staff that works at these schools. Everybody has to feel safe.”

“We will not go back to school until the safety of our students and our employees are protected. Period,” Kelly Walker, President of the Virginia Beach Education Association (VBEA), said.

This week, VBEA will hold a virtual town hall for teachers to speak out as to how they're feeling.

“Hearing from those who are in the trenches, those that do the work, is important,” she said.

Walker said there are still many questions.

“PPE, who's going to pay for that? Who's going to monitor how that's accessed and who wears them in a classroom?” she said.

Spence encourages families and staff to complete a questionnaire sent out that can help the district with planning. The deadline to complete the questionnaire is Thursday, July 16.

“It will help us address questions like will teachers be able to teach remotely as we reopen the school year? And how many of our students and parents would opt into a virtual only program?

Jensen hopes to be back in the classroom when it's safe to do so. In the meantime, she said no matter how the school year may look, teachers will answer the call.

“We're going to do what needs to be done in order to keep our kids and our staff safe,” Jensen said.

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