Civil War within the Northam Administration on School Reopening Guidelines?

by James Sherlock

Steve Haner wrote a very important essay today about the new workplace guidelines about to be published by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry(DOLI).

In a similar vein, the progressive warriors in the lower levels of the Northam administration are trying to offer stricter school reopening guidelines than the Governor. States this Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) document:

Public school divisions and private schools that submit their plans to the Virginia Department of Education to move to Phase II and Phase III that are aligned with CDC guidance (6 feet social distancing) for reopening of schools that provide equivalent or greater levels of employee protection than a provision of this standard and who operate in compliance with the public school division’s or private school’s submitted plans shall be considered in compliance with this standard.

An institution’s actual compliance with recommendations contained in CDC guidelines or the Virginia Department of Education guidance (now includes 3 ft. option), whether mandatory or non-mandatory, to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 related hazards or job tasks addressed by this standard shall be considered evidence of good faith in any enforcement proceeding related to this standard.

They directly contradict school reopening guidelines updated July 1 by the Department of Education and published by the Governor on July 6.

DOLI stresses that only plans compliant with the CDC guidelines or greater levels of employee protection than a provision of this standard “shall be considered in compliance with this standard”.

The “evidence of good faith” paragraph comes into play in an enforcement proceeding.

So, what is the Diocese of Richmond or another private or public school system supposed to make of this?

This only emphasizes what Steve Haner wrote:

The third thing every employer in Virginia needs to understand about the standard is that complying with federal standards or specific industry standards may not protect you from state complaints or fines. Efforts to create a regulatory “safe harbor” for those who met similar federal standards were initially accepted, but in the end watered down under vast union pressure.

I expect the Governor’s Chief of Staff, who I expect had to get the VDOE to accept the WHO and AAP guidelines in their Jul 1 revision, is tired of being challenged on school reopening guidelines within his own administration, but I will ask him to wade in one more time.

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29 responses to “Civil War within the Northam Administration on School Reopening Guidelines?”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    How do they directly contradict the DOE guidelines?

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      They’re not as weak.

    2. sherlockj Avatar

      A school can be fined by the DOLI while in compliance with the VDOE guidelines.

      Compliance with VDOE guidelines can mitigate the fine, but compliance with CDC guidelines (6 ft. social distancing) or guidelines “that provide equivalent or greater levels of employee protection than a provision of this (CDC) standard” are the standard against which compliance with DOLI standards will be assessed.

      The teachers union lobbyists worked their magic on the DOLI “emergency” process while the Governor apparently wasn’t watching.

  2. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    The Ed. guidelines say you’re acting in good faith for enforcement if you follow CDC guidelines for employees. But the DOLI guidelines state CDC guidelines are not enough for compliance.
    So for private schools they have conflicting guidelines that are acceptable for teachers.
    That’s what I get….

  3. sherlockj Avatar

    As a practical matter, schools will only be able to provide remote instruction to comply with the DOLI guidelines.

    In the definitions section, teachers are in a medium risk job.

    “Medium” exposure risk hazards or job tasks are those not otherwise classified as “very high” or “high” exposure risk in places of employment that require more than minimal occupational contact inside six feet with other employees, other persons, or the general public who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but who are not known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “Medium” exposure risk hazards or job tasks may include, but are not limited to, operations and services in:
    1. Poultry, meat, and seafood processing; agricultural and hand labor; commercial transportation of passengers by air, land, and water; on campus educational settings in schools, colleges, and universities; daycare and after school settings; restaurants and bars; …

    §16VAC25-220-60. Requirements for hazards or job tasks classified at “medium” exposure risk.

    The following requirements for employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “medium” exposure risk apply in addition to requirements contained in §§16VAC25-220-40, -70, and -80.
    A. Engineering Controls.
    1. Ensure that air-handling systems where installed are appropriate to address the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease related hazards and job tasks that occur at the workplace:
    a. Are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and
    b. Comply with minimum American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards 62.1 and 62.2 (ASHRAE 2019a, 2019b), which include requirements for outdoor air ventilation in most residential and nonresidential spaces, and ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Standard 170 (ASHRAE 2017a) covers both outdoor and total air ventilation in healthcare facilities. Based on risk assessments or owner project requirements, designers of new and existing facilities can go beyond the minimum requirements of these standards.

    B. Administrative and Work Practice Controls.
    1. To the extent feasible, employers shall implement the following administrative and work practice controls:
    a. Prior to the commencement of each work shift, prescreening or surveying shall be required to verify each covered employee does not have signs or symptoms of COVID-19;
    b. Provide face coverings to suspected to be infected with SARS-C0V-2 non- employees to contain respiratory secretions until they are able to leave the site (i.e., for medical evaluation/care or to return home);
    c. Implement flexible worksites (e.g., telework);
    d. Implement flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts);
    e. Increase physical distancing between employees at the worksite to six feet;
    f. Increase physical distancing between employees and other persons, including customers to six feet (e.g., drive-through physical barriers) where such barriers will aid in mitigating the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission, etc.;
    g. To the extent feasible, employers shall install physical barriers (e.g., such as clear plastic sneeze guards, etc.), where such barriers will aid in mitigating the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission.
    h. Implement flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., using telephone or video conferencing instead of in person meetings; postponing non-essential travel or events; etc.);
    i. Deliver services remotely (e.g. phone, video, internet, etc.);
    j. Deliver products through curbside pick-up or delivery;
    k. Require employers to provide and employees to wear face coverings who, because of job tasks cannot feasibly practice physical distancing from another employee or other person, if the hazard assessment has determined that personal protective equipment, such as respirators or surgical/medical procedure masks, was not required for the job task.
    l. Require employers to provide and employees in customer facing jobs to wear face coverings.

    C. Personal Protective Equipment.
    1. Employers covered by this section and not otherwise covered by the VOSH Standards for General Industry (Part 1910), shall comply with the following requirements for a SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease related hazard assessment, and personal protective equipment selection:
    a. The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if SARS-CoV-2 or COVID- 19 hazards or job tasks are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). The employer shall provide for employee and employee representative involvement in the assessment process. If such hazards or job tasks are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall:
    i. Except as otherwise required in the standard, select, and have each affected employee use, the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease hazards identified in the hazard assessment;
    ii. Communicate selection decisions to each affected employee; and
    iii. Select PPE that properly fits each affected employee.
    2. The employer shall verify that the required SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated; the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed; the date(s) of the hazard assessment; and the document as a certification of hazard assessment.
    3. Unless specifically addressed by an industry specific standard applicable to the employer and providing for PPE protections to employees from the SARS-COV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease (e.g., Parts 1926, 1928, 1915, 1917, or 1918), the requirements of §§1910.132 (General requirements) and 1910.134 (Respiratory protection) shall apply to all employers for that purpose.
    4. PPE ensembles for employees in the “medium” exposure risk category will vary by work task, the results of the employer’s hazard assessment, and the types of exposures employees have on the job.

    So the only way schools can avoid violating the DOLI guidelines is by remote learning.

  4. What a nightmare scenario for kids whose reading skills are already below grade levels. If they can’t read the material, how much can they learn online?

  5. The betting here is that the school board will mandate 100% online school option only very soon.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Take it to the bank. Going to happen.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    I know this sounds crazy – but kids CAN learn to read by themselves with appropriate software (does not have to be online).

    The proper software can emulate the teacher and perform essentially as a tutor.

    Some Autistic kids actually learn better and faster with software.

    This is just company that sells that software:

    Right now, we need to prioritize our resources to deliver to the kids most in need what they absolutely cannot get any other way.

    That’s a smaller task that demanding a 100% solution and portraying it as a 100% failure if you cannot get it.

    Some things we might have to let slide in order to prioritize reading and writing and math; it’s anything but a 100% loss except to those who want to see it that way.

    It’s almost as if we want to fail to prove we were right about failing to start with.

  7. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    Thanks Larry! Your Google search solved some serious special education issues. I should have just loaded my daughter’s tablet with “Reading Buddy’ software and since she’s Autistic she wouldn’t have needed that special education! Dang who would have known we wasted all those years toiling away with specialists and teachers…. we parents of special ed kids should have just checked the app store.
    Maybe we can put Reading Buddy on TV and all equity issues are over!
    They learn better with software because they struggle with personal interactions…. hard to teach autistic kids those skills even if you spend years with them one on one. Some schools will be facing lawsuits because those kids have IEPs with those types of special education supports necessary to provide FAPE.
    But I’m sure there is Autism Buddy or FAPE Buddy softwate out there too.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    I was not equating Reading Buddy to autistic kids. I’m sure there is more specialized software for them and Reading Buddy is for kids that are not autistic but the point remains – that kids CAN learn from software – as well as “in-person” – something the “open up now” folks dismiss.

    My point is that kids CAN and DO learn from software including early grade reading. It’s not an impossible thing at all. And the software is getting better and better – and yes to the point where some of it is good enough, perhaps superior to in-person for autistic kids.

    I don’t know about the lawsuits but they happen anyhow all the time for autistic kids and other kids with handicaps – and the irony here is that this is government-provided public education that is providing the education, not the “market”. Before that – these kids were essentially not considered the responsibility of public schools.

    And right now – as far as I can tell – no one is saving that private schools and vouchers would better suit them either…

    Too many of us are anti-govt and ant-public education until it benefits us personally – when it benefits others – we oppose it.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Larry. I quote you: “too many of us are anti-government or anti-education”. Those are terms you throw around.

      Who of “us” on this blog has been anti-government? Libertarians who want limited government? Is that the same as anti-government? Quote the post.

      Who on here has been anti-public education? Be specific and quote the anti-public education essay or comment.

      1. MAdams Avatar

        As someone who Larry has accused of being “anti-government” as I’m a Libertarian, that is a resounding yes.

  9. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    So private schools like Faison (just one in Richmond) that service Autistic kids aren’t proven to help?
    Wow, you could have fooled me Larry.
    Especially when schools districts are forced to pay for kids to attend them out of their school district money. I suggest you look up how much your locality pays out in Private Day schooling each year. You might be shocked, but that only happens when parents refuse to accept a crappy education and force localities to comply with FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education) as required by federal law.
    So yes, private schools have been shown to do a much much better job especially with “handicap” kids as you say….

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      “Parents refuse to accept a crappy education”. I don’t agree with that generalization. Some public schools do an outstanding job with the handicapped. To some degree it is a matter of resources available to the school district.

      Virginia Beach where I live is a very well funded school district. My wife now retired worked in a local elementary school that has a wing for the severely and profoundly handicapped. The school and its teachers give those horribly afflicted children as much or more attention than the other children in the school and simultaneously give their parents a break from the exhausting job of caring for them.

      It is very, very difficult work that can be dispiriting, but the teachers do it every day willingly.

      I am sure that your implication that special needs children are poorly served is true in some locations. But be careful to understand the totality of the situation before criticizing so broadly.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Indeed, it’s very specialized work that requires highly educated and skilled teachers that individual school districts may not be able to afford and a regional one might.

        The public schools are still accountable when they outsource and yep, they are still sued…

        Locally, I’ve been told that it can cost 30K a year and up for these kids.

        Talk about “wealth transfer” … and socialism…. geeze

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Did I say that private schools don’t work? When?

      I support non-public schools as competition to public schools.

      And that includes if a public school system can put dollars on schooling in a non-public setting – like for handicapped and autistic – as long as it is transparent and accountable and meets standards.

      I think you serious misunderstand what I am saying – perhaps on purpose but I’ll keep coming back at you to get it straight.

      1. NorrhsideDude Avatar

        You said:
        “And right now – as far as I can tell – no one is saving (sic) that private schools and vouchers would better suit them either…”
        So yes, private schools and vouchers would much better suit some children. I gave you an example- my oldest daughter remember she’s one of them “HANDICAPS”. Maybe in your eyes that makes her less but she is worth what the Department of Education says she should receive as services and not just a laptop full of them “learnin softwares”.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          If people believe that then why aren’t they just leaving the public schools and going the private school route?

          money where the mouth is?

          Aren’t folks essentially expecting other taxpayers to pay for educating their kids since their property taxes come nowhere near the cost?

          Otherwise – they’d just bail from the public system and do it themselves. People actually do that.

          Instead of a bigger and better house and new cars – they scale down their own standard of living to provide private education for their kids. No?

          1. NorrhsideDude Avatar

            Yep some of us do just that. And some us expect others to do it too. I have delayed lots of gratification to provide what my girl needs.

            Yes I expect when government sets standards of education they meet those standards. Courts also back this premise. I have spoken to delegates, state senators, been asked to testify at GA committee meetings and hearings about special education issues and have volunteered to act as an unpaid advocate for other parents. I have also volunteered to tutor and teach special education kids too. Protecting children is important. My girls know their dad has their back.

          2. sherlockj Avatar

            Fact alert: we all pay for educating children in public schools whether we have kids there or not. That is why they are called public schools.

            Believe it or not, not everyone can afford private schools, so your “money where the mouth is” comment is insulting.

            Constructive criticism of public schools is just that – a way to improve them.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: ” Yes I expect when government sets standards of education they meet those standards. ”

            interesting – isn’t this a big complaint with some?

            p.s. – I have no doubt what so ever you are a best dad!

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: ” Believe it or not, not everyone can afford private schools, so your “money where the mouth is” comment is insulting.”

            Actually – not and not intended that way either.

            I could have said if you wanted to have kids – why do you expect others to provide for them if you say you believe in the free market and not socialism?

            public education is inherently a very socialist concept.

            would you not agree?

            is that “insulting” ?

            and now we want to extend the concept to taxing everyone so that parents can be provided with the money for private schooling because the don’t like what the public schools provide?

            big conundrum. no?

          5. NorrhsideDude Avatar

            Yes it is a big complaint. There was a class action suit against Chesterfield a few years back by special education parents. I was not a part of that. But they deserved it. They are the school district who locked my oldest daughter in a quiet room. Not the best idea to do that to a 7 year old girl having a panic attack for the first time… putting her in a closet witb a window did not do wonders for a kid win an anxiety disorder. That was her last day there…. that evening she began discussing suicide and she was in the care of a psychiatrist for years afterwards – not just for suicide talk but the anxiety attacks.
            That was years ago and with the help of some heroic special ed teachers she has her sights set on college now. She’s much tougher than me and she’s my hero.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: “constructive criticism” – that’s what you’re calling this stuff about “leftist indoctrination” and “social justice warriors” and ” open up no matter the science or we’re gonna raise hell” ?

          We have critics coming from all directions at the public school system – no matter what they do. We call them names, insult them, call them incompetent and corrupt…etc..

  10. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    Maybe so. In Central Virginia in the course of my daughter’s education I have had to threaten to sue multiple times and seek the help of wonderful people like the Autism Society of Central Virginia to find advocates to help ensure my as – Larry says “handicap”- we prefer challenged, daughter the supports she needed that public schools wouldn’t or couldn’t provide. They instead paid apporoximately $20,000 a year to a private day school where she has her needs met.
    Not to mention as a child she was subject to seclusion and restrain practices that included the use of “quiet rooms” and seclusion from her peers. Her private school does not use quiet rooms or exclusion. Her private school also works hard with students to develop social skills necessary for her to survive in the outside world.
    As far as this and that about government… they wrote the FAPE requirements for special education all I did was hold them to those requirements.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Good for you. In those circumstances, I hope most of us would have done the same thing.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I apologize for using “handicapped” instead of challenged.

      But you do expect the government to pay for and provide educational resources, correct? And you have your own expectations which may well differ from providers.

      Just to point out – that the rich have more resources and more options as a result for their kids – challenged or not challenged and I suspect that such schools provide those services to anyone who has the money to pay.

      The “concept” of public education has evolved over the years. Originally they did not educate kids with challenges. They stayed home and were the parents’ responsibility.

      Don’t get me wrong. I do not begrudge this at all. I consider yet another reason why public education is an important institution for most of us.

  11. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Thank you Captain Sherlock. This is a very important post. Private schools could end up caught in the cross fire of COVID politics. I forwarded your excellent analysis and Mr. Haner’s article to the President of Randoph Macon Academy. They intend to open with 5 day a week in person instruction on August 18th. They seem to have a sound plan in place.

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