Virginia Teachers' Union Demands Online-Only Learning Through August 2021

Demand contradicts evidence that in-person instruction is low risk

A child attends school virtually / Getty Images
October 20, 2020

Virginia's Fairfax County teachers' union announced it wants to keep public schools virtual until August 2021.

The Fairfax Education Association has kickstarted a letter-writing campaign urging the county to continue online-only learning through the 2020-2021 school year. The union claims that teachers cannot return to in-person instruction until "there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment" for coronavirus, along with "medical-grade protection" for all staff, including the N95 masks currently being rationed to nurses and doctors.

On Oct. 14, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Scott Brabrand provided a tentative phase-in schedule for classroom learning. The district began offering in-person instruction to preschoolers with autism, students in "early childhood" classes, and students in specialized high school career preparatory programs on Monday. It has also undertaken a slew of mitigation strategies for reducing the spread of COVID, and plans to reopen some elementary schools on Oct. 26, with middle and high schools kept virtual until February.

The union's rejection of even these incremental plans came just one week after a Brown University study found that districts with strong teachers' unions are more likely to recommend district-wide shutdowns and online-only learning, despite mounting evidence that schools pose few transmission risks. Teachers' unions across the country have stonewalled similar reopenings, most notably in Illinois and California.

The Fairfax County Public Schools district told the Washington Free Beacon that it is prioritizing students and pushing for in-person learning. "We firmly believe that while virtual environments are necessary at the current time, students learn best in-person," a district spokeswoman said.