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Pittyslyvania County teachers plea for their safety at school board meeting

‘It’s toxic, it’s exhausting, it’s unacceptable’

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – After a spike in coronavirus cases reach new record highs, teachers in Pittsylvania County say their lives and those of their students are at risk if in-person learning continues.

Teacher after teacher approached the podium Tuesday night, calling their work environments abusive and dangerous.

“It’s toxic, it’s exhausting, it’s unacceptable,” Jennifer Watson, a teacher from Tunstall High School, said.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise and virtual learning is still not on the table for Pittsylvania County Schools.

“There is a lot of uneasiness everyone is experiencing right now,” Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Mark Jones said. “So I reassure them [teachers] by saying we are following our health plan.”

However, with record case numbers and a two-week positivity rate of about 21%, teachers said more needs to be done.

Tara Mills, an educator, said not everyone is following the rules of mask-wearing and sanitization, exposing her and others to harm.

“My life, my colleagues’ lives, our students’ lives or even your lives,” Mills said.

Watson said at times she is ready to walk away from her teaching career of more than 25 years, but she emphasized she stays because of the love she has for her students.

“I think about residing and telling the district they can find someone else to bully around,” she said.

Watson warned school board members that the teacher shortage could increase if this continues.

Ashley Stanley agrees as she said teachers feel their views are being disregarded.

“It is more hurtful to be ignored than to be rejected or abused. People remember how they were treated or worst ignored,” Stanley said.

While Jones said there is not much spread happening in schools, Mills said the school district is not being as transparent about it.

“Imagine my surprise that I was notified at the beginning of Christmas break, not by the school district, but by the family of a substitute teacher that I spent the morning with, develop covid,” Mills said.

Concerned about students’ quality of education, Jones continues to stay away from virtual learning.

Jones said if the health department deems their health plan as no longer adequate then he may take a look at the option of remote learning.


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