FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — As teachers prepare to head back to the classroom after a holiday break filled with a spike in COVID cases, Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams said teachers are feeling concerned.
“I think we’re back around an 8 or 9, people just feeling concerned that their health is at risk," the educator said of Monday's return to in-person learning.
"I mean we’re going to try to open up just a little less than 200 school sites here in Fairfax County Public Schools on Monday, with all the staff who we saw in those lines feeling like they might be sick and having to call out of work," Adams said of the hours' long wait for a COVID test at FCPS headquarters Thursday. "It’s going to be a significant burden on the system to staff all those classrooms and positions. We know FCPS is working hard to ensure in-person instruction opens on Monday."
On Thursday Northern Virginia Health Directors sent a letter to regional superintendents sharing in their commitment to maintaining in-person learning and highlighting ways to reduce transmission risk inside schools.
Those mitigation measures include vaccination, distancing, testing, quarantining, and masking.
Adams said she's currently concerned about what's happening outside the classroom after families have traveled nationally and internationally at a time when COVID cases continue to climb, affecting all facets of county resources.
"For people who work in schools, there’s no one to back us up typically," Adams said. "Substitutes have been so thin this year, the system’s going to have to work double-time to try to fill those positions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday for folks who are covid positive or who are awaiting test results."
A spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said they are requesting volunteers to step in from Central Office to help fill any gaps they may have in terms of substitute teacher vacancies.
The spokesperson also said they are confident they can provide a safe in-person learning environment as recommended by local health authorities.
FCPS will also offer diagnostic testing again on Friday, December 31.
The testing is available to symptomatic students and staff who want to check their status before returning to school. Scheduled appointments will not be available; however, you must register for an account in advance to be eligible for testing, FCPS said in the letter. Students may access the Gatehouse Administration Center drive-through clinic from noon - 4 p.m. on Friday, December 31.
Fairfax County Public Schools has also been accepted for a Test to Stay pilot program run by the Virginia Department of Health.
The Test to Stay program, in which more details are set to come out in January, would allow students who were in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case to "test out" of quarantine.
Under the pilot program, rather than immediately removing close contacts from the classroom, the student would take a COVID-19 test. If the test came back negative, the student would continue coming to class.