coronavirus pandemic

Fairfax County Teachers Given 48 Hours to Decide if They Will Return to Classrooms

Teachers say they were given almost no notice to decide on whether to risk their health, or lose their jobs

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Fairfax County Public School teachers say they've been given 48 hours to choose whether they will return to the classrooms for in-person instruction when small groups of students begin returning to class in a matter of weeks. That means about 650 teachers and staff have until 4:30 p.m. Friday to decide.

One FCPS instructional support staffer spoke with News4 anonymously.

"I don't want to be on a ventilator; that's really the brunt of it," she said.

She said she's high-risk for COVID-19 and FCPS is asking her to return in-person this month. She also criticized schools for leaving teachers 48 hours to make a decision.

"It's a lack of respect to wait till the last minute and then put such a tight deadline on us to make a choice that's basically putting our lives at risk or not having employment," she said.

Fairfax Schools is bringing some students back this month and needs 653 teachers and staff to support them. Those employees have four choices: they can return in person; submit an American with Disabilities Act request, if they are high-risk; request an unpaid leave of absence; or resign or retire.

But there are parents who want their kids back in school and think FCPS is caving to teachers‘ requests.

"The employer has certain responsibilities for you which you need to fulfill, and it's at the employer's discretion, not the employee's discretion," said Hemang Nagar. He and his wife have a 9-year-old daughter in special education.

"She was so depressed," said Chetna Nagar, "and she was crying the whole time, and as a parent it really tears us completely."

These parents say the struggles of distance learning outweigh the risks of COVID-19. But many employees, like the instructional support staffer News4 spoke to, feel otherwise.

"I don't think it's safe to go back in the building," she said, "and if it's not safe for everyone to go back, it's not safe for anyone to go back."

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