VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There’s still a lot of debate about what school should look like — and where — come the fall.

We’re hearing from some teachers’ unions, which have strong opinions about moving forward with classes.

In Virginia Beach, the teachers in the area’s largest school system say they are refusing to go back to school in the fall.

“We are not going to go back to school face-to-face until it’s safe. Only when it’s safe can we allow our students and our teachers the opportunity to teach in a face-to-face environment,” said Kelly Walker, who represents 1400 teachers in Virginia Beach. 

Meanwhile, for the leader of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, he wants to know the Norfolk School Board’s plan. Thomas Calhoun met with us at his home after he had a conference call  on the back to school subject with Congressman Bobby Scott, (D-3rd District).

“What is the plan? When someone turns out to be positive, and we find out like we did last week the response to the issue was not too hot,”  he said.

Calhoun wants details.

“If you don’t have a plan, what are you going to do?  Are you going to close down the classroom, and send all the children home? Are you going to shut down the school? What’s going to happen?”

Those are details to be worked out, and the Norfolk School Board will meet next Wednesday to further discuss exactly what will happen

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of rapidly rising COVID-19 positive tests, making Hampton Roads the hot spot for COVID-19 in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health reported today: 

New positive COVID-19 cases, seven-day moving average:  

  • Virginia: 7.6%  
  • Norfolk: 15.7%  
  • Virginia Beach: 11.6% 

Walker responds to the numbers.

“If the numbers get better? We don’t know what that means. What does that mean? … How do we determine if the numbers get better?…we closed down the school system last March and the numbers were way better than the numbers today.” 

Walker believes the die is cast, the recent spike is disheartening, and one-third of her teachers are concerned about their health.

If the schools are open, Calhoun acknowledged teachers who are not allowed to go on strike will have a tough decision.

“If schools open, and the teachers don’t want to go back, then I would assume they will probably lose their job — OK,” he said.  

Last Thursday, we asked Gov. Ralph Northam about spiking numbers and how that impacts re-opening schools.

“If our numbers don’t stay where they are, we can’t remain in phase 3, then we are not going to be able to move forward with that (opening schools),” he said. 

If you want to bring down the positive COVID-19 numbers, the governor says we need to comply with health guidelines.

“We need to keep our distance, to wear a face mask for protection, wash your hands, and stay out of large gatherings.  If we do that then we can continue to keep the curve flat,” he said  

Norfolk teachers will appear before the school board next Wednesday, and Virginia Beach teachers will have a pep rally in the parking lot before the board’s July 28 public hearing. 

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