#childsafety | Teachers, parents weigh in as Charlottesville City Schools plan for fall

School Board member Jennifer McKeever said that many parents who say their kids need to be back in school are listing two main reasons: child care and quality of education.

“I do not see the role of the schools as a child care provider. I see the role of the schools as a place to learn and provide academic instruction,” she said.

McKeever said she sees the division focusing its energy on figuring out how in-person learning can be done safely and how remote instruction can be better-quality than it was in the spring.

 “In my opinion, our school division is working really hard on ensuring a better model for the delivery of instruction remotely, given that everything is up in the air and no matter the plans that we make, everything can go awry,” she said.

Additionally, McKeever said the School Board shared one of the concerns voiced by staff in the open letter.

“Before we make a decision, I know that many of us on the board want to have a metric with which we can determine whether it’s safe or not to go back to school in-person,” she said. 

McKeever said they would have a lot of questions for the medical community, the health department, and pediatricians to make sense of the contradictions between the health guidance school systems have received and guidance issued to other sectors.

“There’s a lot of information out there, and a lot of it is conflicting,” she said.

For some parents, the risk of the virus outweighs the challenges of online-only learning, but concerns about how their children will succeed with online learning remain unanswered.

Khalesha Powell, a mother of six CHS students, plans to choose the online-only learning option for her children this fall. She discussed the increased risk of COVID-19 for her 6-month old and her 7-year-old with asthma, as well as her doubts about how safety measures like mask-wearing will work in practice.

She specifically noted that one of her second-graders who has difficulty sitting still and probably wouldn’t wear a mask. She anticipates this might be the case for many other students as well. 

“What happens when a kid won’t wear a mask? Would they call the parents each time to come pick up their kid?” she asked.

“Online only is safer,” she concluded.

However, Powell worries that online learning won’t give her children the same quality of education. She said that her other second-grader and her ninth grader need to be in front of the teacher to learn effectively, and she worries that they will have a difficult time staying focused remotely.

When asked how her children could be best supported in online learning, she said that the schools should redirect funding to local community centers in lower-income areas, like the South First Street Community Center, where children in her neighborhood can access tutoring and a learning space with faster internet than many have in their homes.

Powell also said that teachers should monitor their students’ progress and regularly communicate with parents. She emphasized that the responsibility to reach out and check in about issues like whether a student is completing their work each day should not fall on parents.

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