Arlington County parents push for in-person learning with rally in park

Teachers are going back to school so why can’t our kids?

That was the question many parents in Arlington County continued to ask Saturday morning as they pushed for getting their kids back into the classroom again.

Dozens of them with signs in hand showed up to Quincy Park, holding a rally to voice their support for reopening, especially for those students and their families who choose a hybrid model. 

"There’s a lot of data that’s showing that kids are not showing up with virtual attendance," said Miranda Turner, who has a child in kindergarten and another one in the third grade within Arlington Public Schools.

Parents said they want schools to open now, which is something that was visible in bold letters on the signs they brought to Saturday’s rally.

"Opening schools ‘now’ really means opening with a lot of built-in plans for precautions like masking and spacing," Turner continued to say.

"It’s going to be half capacity for kids and so with all of those things together, we think it cuts the risk to the point where it does make sense to go back now."

Earlier this week during a board meeting , APS Superintendent, Dr. Francisco Durán made it clear that he won’t announce any dates until he is confident it’s safe for everyone including larger groups of staff and students to come back at the same time.

Arlington County reported 52 new COVID-19 cases and one new coronavirus death on Thursday, the last day data is available. The county has reported 11,006 coronavirus cases and 196 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

So far, a limited number of APS students have already returned to in-person learning, including kids with special needs. In addition, staff members will come back to the classroom beginning Jan. 25.

"My kids have really suffered in this process," said Reade Bush who has two children with special needs.

"I had to withdraw my daughter from school, she has a significant disability and she cannot learn virtually. My son who is autistic had a complete decomposition and had to be at the hospital for four days."

Parents who were in attendance at Saturday’s park rally said that the event wasn’t just for show.

"We’re hoping that we send a message that there are a lot of parents who still want their kids to return in person," Turner said.

"We are not trying to take away the virtual option for anyone, there’s always going to be that option and that’s great, but our choice is the one that hasn’t panned out so far."

Parents aren’t the only ones advocating for in-person reopening as some state lawmakers including senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax, are pushing for legislation that would require schools to open by fall or potentially risk losing state funding.

The senator has also said, the proposal will still allow families to choose distance-learning learning if there is a medical concern and a specific need to keep some children away from class.