Newport News educators rally, ask for their input to be included in district’s reopening plan

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Teachers and their supporters rallied outside the Newport News Public Schools administration building Wednesday afternoon, demanding a safe return to the classroom. 

On Tuesday night, NNPS board members decided to delay the timeline of bringing students back to campus.

Newport News Educators United hosted the rally. Members tell 10 On Your Side they appreciate the decision to delay, but they also said they’ve been left out of the conversation and they want that change. 

Educators said the district’s Return to Learn plan is missing something — their input.

“We would just like to have us sitting at the table while the plan is being made so we can say ‘Hey that doesn’t sound like it’s gonna work in a classroom’ — and I would know because I’m in a classroom every day,” said Chris True, a NNPS history teacher.

The group said there are still many unanswered questions about what reopening schools during a pandemic will look like.

“I know they collected data back in August, but a lot‘s changed since August so it would just be good to survey employees again,” said Mary Vause, a NNPS teacher and parent.

People 10 On Your Side talked to said the recent rise in cases is concerning, especially with the colder months ahead. 

“If the numbers go up, then they’re going to close the schools back down and then they’re back virtually and it’s a really big disruption in learning,” said Ali Hayes, grandparent of a NNPS student.

Many at the rally, especially those with immunocompromised family members, are worried about the risk.

“My mother-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” True said. “We provide some of her care. If she needs somebody, I need to be able to go down there to help her. And that’s not a unique case. There are plenty of other people.”

The group wants to make sure safety protocols and mitigation strategies are in place. They also want transparency in reporting the number of COVID-19 cases in schools and proper communication. 

“It’s important for him to be in the classroom but it’s also important for him to do it safely,” Hayes said, referring to her grandson. 

NNPS Superintendent Dr. George Parker III said the district will have planning complete sometime next month.

Stay with WAVY News for any updates. 

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