Schools open to input

By Ruthann Carr

Fluvanna parents and teachers are using social media to make their voices heard.

On July 21 Fluvanna Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Winkler announced a change to the hybrid section of the back-to-school plan.

Students in group A will attend school Monday and Tuesday; group B Thursday and Friday.

Winkler and his team made the change in response to a group of concerned parents.

“After receiving a great deal of feedback from the community (parents and staff), the FCPS Board, my staff, and I re-evaluated the Hybrid Model,” Winkler said in an email. “We decided to make the change to an AA|BB model to further assist with our health and mitigation efforts. Basically, this change would help mitigate any cross contamination of large group of students given the break in the days and any additional sanitization efforts.”

In the original plan, parents could choose all-virtual or the hybrid schedule – going to school two days per week.

At first the hybrid schedule had students in group A attending Monday and Thursday; group B attending Tuesday and Friday. Schools will be deep cleaned every Wednesday.

Winkler said in that scenario, students wouldn’t be off school for five days in a row which could be detrimental to learning.

Kristine Voogt was one of the concerned parents who thought group B students would have a greater chance of getting infected with Covid-19 because they would always follow the other students in classrooms that hadn’t been deep cleaned.

Even though Voogt’s son chose to do virtual learning, she knew a lot of parents who were concerned, so she emailed Winkler.

She wasn’t satisfied with his answer that her questions were addressed in the school’s FAQ page, and decided to use Facebook to contact other parents.

Voogt created a poll and posted it on two pages: Lake Monticello Residents and Lake Monticello and Central Virginia Neighbors.

The results were clear:

  • 112- group A attending Monday/Tuesday; group B Thursday/Friday
  • 69 – Not sending my child
  • 28 – If I had school-aged students I would not allow them inside a school building
  • 14 – original hybrid plan

Voogt emailed her findings – along with several questions parents had – to Winkler.

The superintendent emailed that she would find answers in the next school FAQ.

Within a few hours Winkler posted the revised schedule on the school Facebook page, Voogt said.

She was happy with the change but still somewhat frustrated.

“I still want answers to the questions,” Voogt said. “I realize his job is difficult, but we still deserve answers. What happens when a child or teacher contacts COVID-19? What if a child has a medical condition and can’t wear a mask? Will they have to disclose the condition? Will they be able to ride the bus? I’m glad they made the change, but I’m frustrated that we still don’t have answers to the rest of the questions – if he doesn’t know the answers, say so.”

Open letter

On July 22, an open letter was posted on Facebook in groups such as Forward Fluvanna. It clearly asked readers to sign the letter and share it.

The opening paragraph stated: “We the concerned staff and community of Fluvanna County Public Schools urge you to reconsider the decision to reopen on August 17th with in-person instruction and pivot instead to a full virtual start. As the faculty and staff have not been given an opportunity for meaningful input into the reopening plans, we are demanding that the voices of the frontline staff be heard.”

Initially, it was unclear who created the letter.

The letter stated teachers and staff concerns about going back into school buildings during the pandemic and was followed by 90 questions they wanted answers before school starts on Aug. 17. Teachers are scheduled to start Aug. 3.

When contacted July 24 about the Open Letter, Winkler said he had seen the letter on Facebook, but had not been formally presented with it.

The letter was widely shared throughout Facebook pages of Fluvanna residents and at last count, 519 people signed it, said teacher Craig Edgerton.

Edgerton is a member of the FEA and said many teachers in the organization drafted the letter.

“It was a group effort,” Edgerton said.

He said the FEA planned to present the letter to Winkler on Monday, July 27.

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