Fayette County Education Association issues Statement on School Re-Entry

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The Fayette County Education Association (FCEA) is committed to keeping our students safe and educated through the duration of this pandemic, and we wish to continue providing as many school related services as possible without jeopardizing the safety and well-being of our county’s personnel, families, and students. However, we have many concerns about the safe physical reopening plans for our schools during this unprecedented pandemic.

Our top priority, along with safety, is to educate our students. We feel that the best use of our time and resources as educators, along with the county school board, is to continue remote learning that can transition into in-person instruction as it becomes safer to do so. Every educator yearns to teach their students in person, and to reach that goal we must have the rate of transmission and new cases of COVID-19 much lower than they currently are. Specifically we believe that we should not have in-person instruction until we are YELLOW, and at that time only blended learning. When we are deemed GREEN by the WV DHHR map, we believe it will be safe to return to a regular schedule with safety precautions remaining in place.

We realize that schools function as much more than just institutions of education. Our schools provide nutrition, clothing, supplies, mental and physical healthcare assistance. Our faculty and staff serve as first responders, and mandated reporters to children in need. Our schools provide a safe environment for children while their caregivers are working. Our schools provide equal learning opportunities with transportation, technology, individualized instruction, arts, and athletics.

However, the sum of these services provided in an in-person setting do not outweigh the risks associated with returning to physical instruction under current community spread of COVID-19, which will almost certainly lead to deaths and debilitating illnesses among students, school personnel, and families in the community. These concerns are especially pressing considering the high ratio of our students living with elderly caregivers as a result of the drug crisis in our county, especially in light of the disproportionately higher mortality rates for older victims of COVID-19.

After speaking with many members, and having a large number of members call WVEA and their staff, the overwhelming response was that educators are concerned with effectiveness and achievability of a safe learning environment with current re-entry plans based upon Governor Justice’s county color whims and sub-par WVDE re-entry guidelines. FCEA members have shared many concerns regarding physical re-entry. The list below represents a summary of some of these concerns:

1). We are extremely concerned that our Fayette County Health Department was not consulted before a physical return to school was announced via the news and Facebook y Fayette County superintendent, Gary Hough. It is important to note that the current COVID-19 infection rate is at an all-time high and yet we are physically in the schools, which will most assuredly increase the likelihood of outbreaks and greater community spread.

2). We are aware of a 90 day cleaning spray that will be used in our classrooms that is not EPA approved to kill COVID-19. According to the Safety Data Sheet, this product (Pro-Techs) is classified as a pesticide and has only been proven effective against mold, mildew, algae, and bacteria, not COVID-19.

3). Many school employees, specifically special education teachers, are working far beyond their contracted hours and are not being compensated for their time. This needs to be addressed immediately by Fayette County Schools.

Fayette County Education Association believes every child has the right to a robust and safe public education. We believe every employee deserves safety and respect. We believe every West Virginian deserves to thrive and not just survive. We are committed to working with our board of education, parents, students, community members, and fellow educators to provide the safe learning environment our students and educators deserve, even if that environment does not bring us together within the physical confines of a building on a traditional schedule. We look forward to working with central office personnel to facilitate technology integration, innovative options for the delivery of instruction, and the promotion of measures that ensure all students have access to the internet and internet-capable devices for education purposes.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com