Fairfax County hired 'classroom monitors' so teachers can continue to work from home

Last week we learned that teachers in Fairfax County were balking at a return to classrooms even though they had been put near the front of the line for vaccination. Rory Cooper, who wrote the piece I covered here, has an update today that is even harder to understand or explain.

Incredibly, this appears to be an accurate statement of what the district is doing. Fairfax County schools are now scheduled to reopen two days a week on March 16th for anyone who wants to return. Special education students will start a month earlier on Feb. 16 and kindergarten students will return Feb. 23.

While these return dates are not contingent on teachers receiving the vaccine, 90% of teachers have in fact requested the vaccine and 7,000 teachers have already had their first dose. Nearly all teachers should have had their second dose by the end of the month, meaning they will be fully vaccinated by March 16.

But more than 2,000 teachers have requested ADA accommodations to continue teaching from home. And more than 1,500 of those have been approved. That means a lot of teachers will not be in the classrooms. In order to manage those classrooms the district has also hired hundreds of “classroom monitors.”

As of Feb. 2, 1,656 Fairfax County Public Schools teachers had approved American with Disabilities Act accommodations; 644 other school staffers qualified for the accommodations too…

To help students in the classroom while their teachers are virtual, the school system said it plans to hire over 845 classroom monitors. As of earlier this week, 74% of the positions have been filled.

The article says that teachers can drop their ADA requests when they feel comfortable returning to the classroom. Those who will be staying home represent a significant chunk of the total workforce:

Out of Fairfax County Public Schools 15,000 teachers, 2,300 will continue to teach virtually after having their American Disabilities Act request approved – many due to concerns about COVID-19.

Here’s what I don’t understand about this plan. If most teachers will be fully vaccinated by the time most students return on March 16, why can’t they return to classrooms?

The other question is the one that really makes me scratch my head over this plan: Have the classroom monitors been vaccinated? My guess is the answer is no. Here’s the job description on the FCPS website. Basically they are looking for any high school grad who can work with technology. The pay is $15.42 an hour. There’s nothing about vaccination on the page.

So to sum this up, the district is hiring hundreds of low-wage, unvaccinated people to stand in for thousands of partially (and soon to be fully) vaccinated teachers who feel too vulnerable to return to school. They are literally hiring people with no protection and no experience to manage students and enforce CDC safety guidelines. It’s right there in the job description: “ensures all CDC/safety protocols and procedures…are implemented and followed.”

Those health precautions are good enough for the classroom monitors and the students apparently but not good enough for the teachers.