DeLand, FL - The Volusia County Schools District Bargaining Team and Volusia United Educators have been working to come up with a plan to safely reopen schools on August 31. VUE President Elizabeth Albert says she feels the School District is sending mixed messages at the bargaining table and in an email that was sent by the district to VCS employees.
The email, according to Albert, is contradictory to policy 503 set by the Board, which states that when social distancing is not possible or available, all students must wear masks. "This email would infer that if students have received a plexiglass divider that they could take those masks off when social distancing isn't occurring. And we're very concerned about this, about the inconsistent messaging and the constant changing plan."
Albert says a bright spot in the negotiations is that members are very engaged in the process. They're watching, listening, and sending us (VUE) solutions and suggestions on how to make things work. That leads to another issue, according to Albert. "What's happened is that the suggestions and solutions that have been given to the district are not always received and they're not being implemented. So, although our folks are very engaged, it seems that at some point, their voice has been silenced."
There's also a problem with an app that allows teachers and staff to send a real-time live message directly to the cleaning company as well as district staff if they have a concern about cleanliness. Albert said in one instance, the teacher was approached by school staff and chastised that they should have reported directly instead of using the app. In another instance, the reporting teacher was approached in what Albert says was an intimidating manner, by an employee of ABM Industries, the custodial company hired to keep the schools clean and sanitized.
Albert says she wants parents to know that the plan voted on and approved by the School Board on July 15, when there was a lot of engagement and a lot of people were listening, is changing. She said the changes are almost daily. She urges parents to stay connected and to make phone calls and find out how things are being modified and how the bar has been moved. She wants them to understand where we are as a school district and that they understand the expectations and the conditions of the environment in which they are sending their children back in learning.
Albert reiterates that we must have, before anything else, a safe and appropriate environment for teaching and learning. That's the highest consideration, the utmost important thing that we can do right now is to provide that safe teaching and learning environment.
Another bargaining session is scheduled for this Friday and there could be more next week, if necessary. Visit vcsedu.org for updated information from Volusia County Schools.