Parents petition school board to reopen classrooms in Washington County, Virginia

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA (WJHL)- Hundreds of parents in the Washington County school system have signed a petition calling for an emergency school board meeting. The online petition comes as parents say they’re struggling with virtual learning.

Virtual school has been in session for just eight days. But as of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 500 people had signed the petition, which calls virtual learning a ‘disaster.’

A petition started by Washington County Schools parents

Washington County Schools mother Traci Scarbrough commended the teachers working long hours to make remote learning possible. But under the school board’s decision to have students learn from home, she’s worried her high school son isn’t learning enough. Scarbrough also has to help her elementary school daughter in the evening once she gets home from her 8 to 5 job.

“It’s just overwhelming. I need to be there with them, I need to be there with her [learning], I even need to be there with him during some things. It’s just hard for working parents,” she said.

Working mom Christina Bott also signed the petition, saying virtual learning has put parents and teachers in a tough spot. She hopes students can return to classrooms soon, even if it’s on a hybrid schedule.

“I worry that so many kids are going to get behind. And they’re not going to be graded on their abilities, but rather their parent’s ability to make time to get the work in,” said Bott.

Parents commenting on the petition also cited concerns about students with disabilities struggling to learn virtually, as well as children’s mental health and the lack of social interaction.

Washington County Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ratliff sent News Channel 11 the following statement on Wednesday:

“We have received a petition that has been shared with our school board. At this juncture, the Washington County School Board is slated to meet on September 21 to review updated data and information as planned. At the last meeting and upon reviewing data and associated guidance from the Virginia Department of Health, the school board decided to re-evaluate after a four-week period and to consider other options based on information from health officials and others at the end of the predetermined six-week period of remote learning.”

School Board Vice-Chair Terry Fleenor says they understand parent concerns.

“We know it’s stressful for everybody,” Fleenor told News Channel 11. “We’ve only been in it one week. We did have some glitches, but things are improving, and we just hope they’ll bear with us.”

Fleenor said the school board’s decisions are based on data from state and local health departments, which show the possibility of moderate-to-high COVID-19 infection rates in the area.

“Therefore we just feel like in-person instruction at this time is not the best idea for for the health, not only of the children, but of the teachers, the parents,” Fleenor said.

School Board Chair Tom Musick said the plan is to still re-evaluate which learning model to use at the September 21st meeting, when updated health data is available.

“We’re trying to get some numbers from the Department of Health that will provide less risk to our students, staff, and families,” he said.

Musick said they’ll re-evaluate their plans four weeks into the six-week remote learning period. He said this is in order to give parents two weeks of notice to plan for the next phase of learning.

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