In-person four-day option for all students starts April 12

More money from state decreases local ask

By Ruthann Carr

With most teachers vaccinated, students can attend school in-person four days a week starting April 12.

Before a mostly “open the schools” crowd belittled them and teachers during public comment, the Fluvanna School Board voted 4-1 to approve the measure at Wednesday’s (March 10) meeting.

James Kelley (Palmyra) dissented and said more students in the schools means they’ll be closer than recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

“I won’t vote for anything that puts kids together closer than six feet. If you can get all the kids back five days at 6-feet, then I’m all for it,” Kelley said.

The vote also gave Superintendent Chuck Winkler and staff the autonomy to bring back students with exceptional needs five days a week.

In budget news, because of increased state funding, Winkler asked the Board to approve a revised budget.

The Board approved a new FY22 budget of $44,698,630.

Even though the budget increased, because of $1 million in additional state funding, the Board now only needs $343,556 from the county.

Last month they asked for $787,900.

“(This is the) best budget news I’ve ever had,” Winkler said.

The state mandated school districts give a five percent raise, said Brenda Gilliam, executive director for finance and instruction.

“That’s over the biennium,” Gilliam said. “We gave one percent last year, so we have to do four percent this year. We ran the numbers to make the raise a minimum of four percent instead of an average of four percent.”

The Board approved a resolution asking the governor to raise the 250 limit on outdoor sports spectators. As of the meeting, the executive order determined any nonparticipant in the event is a spectator and capped at 250.

Winkler said that means band members and cheerleaders are considered spectators.

Prior to the vote on school attendance and during public comments, Jennifer Scopelliti said her children have suffered greatly with virtual learning.

“I hear it all the time, “we have to wait until it’s safe.’ When is that?” she said. “If teachers don’t want to be in the classroom teaching, they should find different jobs. If you don’t want to do your jobs getting these children back to school, you should not be in these seats. Are you waiting for our kids to start committing suicide before you’ll do your jobs?”

Danny Reed said he spoke last November urging the board to “follow the data.”

“I’m urging you to do the same now… Teachers have had a chance to get the vaccination. Don’t let the teachers slow you up. I challenge you to open these doors…. Stop politicking. Stop pushing agendas. This is a Board of Education. Education comes first. You guys don’t have this guy’s (Winkler) back. Work with this man, please. Make his job easier.”

George Mears said he is a grandfather and his grandchildren come to his house two days a week to use his Internet.

“I have stage-four cancer. I had COVID in August. I still see my grandchildren.”

Mears said people aren’t letting the virus stop them from going to the store or get gas.

“Teachers have used this a way to get out of going back to school. I see people all the time at Lowe’s getting lumber to finish their decks at home.”

He told board members they shouldn’t leave their houses if they decide to not have the students go back to school.

A few teachers spoke, either in person or through a letter read by a board member.

High school teacher Jennifer Elliott said people should look at facts and not listen to rumors.

“I want to know who’s not doing their job? You guys are getting bad information. You don’t hear about the vast majority of us who our doing our job.”

Teacher Jessica Jackson said: “Most of us aren’t sitting home at the poolside. I’ve seen more cars in the parking lot at 5 p.m. then ever before.”

During the discussion of more in-person learning, Kelley agreed that fewer children get COVID-19, but “they are asymptomatic spreaders.”

Kelley pointed out that one child died last week.

According to the NBC12 website: “…a child in central Virginia died from coronavirus complications…it was the first death of a child with COVID-19 under the age of 10 in the state.”

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) responded to Kelley, who has a doctorate degree.

“I understand you are a doctor, but are you a medical doctor? To tell everyone who’s listening a child died is a scare tactic. That’s what the media wants you to believe. That child had long-term medical conditions,” Pullen said.

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