Shut Down All Public Schools Until Teachers Can Be Vaccinated, VEA Demands

Virginia Education Association President James J. Fedderman

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Education Association President James J. Fedderman has called for all public schools in Virginia to shift to all-virtual instruction until teachers and staff have been vaccinated. “Learning losses can be made up,” he said in a video statement. “Loss of life cannot be.”

“Governor Northam this week said that getting Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to end this pandemic, rebuild our economy, and move the Commonwealth forward,” Fedderman said. “We call upon the Governor, school board, and school superintendents to keep all students and staff safe with virtual instruction until staff are vaccinated.”

What concrete evidence did Fedderman present to justify the continuation of online learning? The rolling 7-day average of daily cases in Virginia now exceeds 5,000, according to the VEA web page accompanying his video, and more than 5,200 Virginians have died. Nationally, more people died of COVID-19 than any day since the pandemic began.

In the video Fedderman also drew upon his personal experience. Over the holidays he said, his entire family was infected by the virus over the winter holiday. He spent two weeks getting barely two hours of sleep a night and lost 30 pounds from the “vicious disease.”

Here are some of the facts he did not mention.

According to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, only 105 of the 2,078 health outbreaks identified across Virginia occurred in K-12 settings. lists 2,186 schools in the state. Admittedly, many public schools have closed, but many have remained open. Outbreaks have occurred in fewer than one in 20 of the total.

Moreover, schools are an insignificant contributor to the spread of the disease. The number of “outbreaks” in K-12 settings have been a tiny fraction of the number of those in colleges, hospitals, correctional facilities, and nursing homes. All told, only 625 confirmed cases in schools have been logged — and zero deaths. So, the idea that school teachers’ lives are at risk is pure alarmism.

Some members of the General Assembly understand this. Three state senators writing recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch — Siobhan S. Dunnavant, R- Henrico, J. Chapman Petersen, D- Fairfax, and Joseph D. Morrissey — have advocated the reopening of public schools. Online learning just isn’t working for some students, they observe; Latino and black students are harmed disproportionately (as Bacon’s Rebellion has noted repeatedly). Aside from stunting educational progress, they add, social isolation has contributed to student mental health, social-emotional and abuse issues.

All the more frustrating, Virginia’s private schools have remained open, and they have proven that they can operate safely through the pandemic. The legislators write:

This is not just within ‘elite’ private schools. In Richmond specifically, Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School which serves economically disadvantaged fourth- through eighth-graders primarily from Richmond’s East End — has been offering in-person learning since July and has experienced only two COVID-19 cases. …

Through the prudent use of temperature taking, the pod system, alternating arrival and dismissal times, requiring masks for teachers and children, and limiting interactions between classes and staff, schools can safely offer in-person learning.

On the one hand it is reassuring that the common-sense position of reopening public schools is a stance that can transcend the usual partisan lines, as evidenced by the legislators’ letter. However, the VEA’s position is deeply disturbing. In the video, Fedderman seems sincere enough. He’s probably a very nice man. But he never once acknowledges the cost of school shutdowns to Virginia’s school children, much less to the minority children who are most impacted. The one and only concern he expresses is limiting the miniscule risk to school teachers.

This may sound harsh, but Fedderman’s attitude — which is shared widely among VEA teachers — strikes me as extraordinarily selfish. Let this be a warning to all Virginians as the VEA grows in power and influence in a state government dominated by the Democratic Party. The interests of the VEA are antithetical to the interests of Virginia’s children.

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29 responses to “Shut Down All Public Schools Until Teachers Can Be Vaccinated, VEA Demands

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Mr. Northam is considering summer school and year round schooling. Our governor should make this happen and establish it as permanent. I think Mr. Fedderman is going to win this round for now.

    • He is! And not a peep about it in BR, yet! I think they might be waiting for the proper criticism narrative… 😉

      Northam wants to have the kids catch up… I’m sure they’ll find some
      criticism of that too!

      • If Gov. Northam presents data or rational for his (at current non-existent) proposal, I’m sure he’ll get criticized if they lack merit.

        Your disingenuous statement that people are waiting for talking points, is merely projection on your own part.

        • Oh no… stay tuned…

          • “Deflection is an intense focus upon and antagonism toward the legitimacy of the actions, feelings, and beliefs of others, especially the partner, and an intense misdirection of attention away from the primary aggressor’s actions.”

          • Larry, you must play by the rules. His rules. Of course, maybe he’ll just take his whistle and go home.

            Probably angling behind the scenes for hall monitor.

          • oh geeze… as long as it’s just ankle-biting…..

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        Mr. Larry I am delighted our governor sees the light on this. Maybe his people really do read The Rebellion.

  2. And I thought the Democrats were the ones who focused on science and data. My brother in New Hampshire and my niece in Minnesota have been teaching students in person, for at least part of the time. They teach in public schools. And guess what, both states have teachers unions.

    Why aren’t Virginia’s officials standing up to the teachers unions? And what’s even more absurd is the Commonwealth is putting teachers high on the list for COVID vaccinations, along with people who actually have considerable contact with the public and really face more risk of being exposed and contracting the disease. Now this would make perfect sense if the Commonwealth included a proviso that vaccinated teachers would need to return to the classroom.

    Hell, Virginia is skipping becoming New Jersey and is on the road to become Illinois.

    • Exactly right. There is enormous evidence from Europe as well as the United States regarding the limited risk of COVID spread through schools. This study pretty much sums it up …

      Liberals continually tout their love for science and science-based decision making. However, when left leaning special interests like teachers associations / unions decide to flout science Virginia’s political Democratic core suddenly becomes anti-science.

      On the good news front, once again Chap Petersen has proven he is one of the very few state legislators willing to put common sense ahead of partisan stupidity. Stunningly, Joe Morrissey joins him. Good for both of them.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Mr. Northam ought to send some experts to Israel. 20% of their population vaccinated in a brief period of time. 2 million people have had one dose and they will get the second dose early next week. There are only 9 million people in Israel.

    • The Feds are changing some of the guidelines as it has become apparent that not everyone who is eligible is showing up in time before some of the doses are expiring so they are now recommending that lower groups get the vaccine when that happens rather than letting the vaccine dates lapse.

    • Our system of government with federal, state and local governments, is quite good for many things. But dealing with a massive crisis in short order is not one of them.

      I agree that, when people don’t show up for their appointment, someone else should get jabbed in the arm. Once again, addressing COVID-19 requires adult behavior and taking responsibility for oneself. While there are quite a number of people over 75 who need help, there are also a lot of 75+ individuals who are still heavily involved in work, volunteer activities, etc., who are very capable of managing their own affairs.

      • I’ve heard rumors that here in Richmond that a good number of front-line medical workers are refusing to take the vaccine. WTF? Apparently, some of the vaccines are being wasted. I have not been able to check that story out, however, so take it for what it’s worth.

  4. Baconator with extra cheese

    Hanover has had inperson instruction this entire time… as you can tell by the lack of press coverage it has not been devastating to the teachers…. not even the BIPOC teachers.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I had to look up bipoc. That is a new one for me. There are a number of courageous school boards and superintendents who have plowed ahead. Wish them all the very best.

  5. By summer they will be officially a union in many localities and likely to be in a position to strike to enforce their demands. It is illegal for them to strike, but it won’t stop them. This posturing between VEA and other organizations is them jockeying to win the card signing phase and become the bargaining unit.

    The story here, don’t miss it, is that this….person….got sick at a major family gathering! If he is so careful and afraid, that was a dumb ass place to be!

    The grandson is in his second week at a private school, in person, and his nurse practitioner mother is thrilled he is back in class. Maybe his local school opens in a couple of weeks, or maybe not….

  6. Baconator with extra cheese

    Steve did you just call a BIPOC a dumb azz? Whoa…. not a wise move NonPOC.

    • Strike and insert “unwise.”

      • Baconator with extra cheese

        So is the VEA President also calling for mandatory vaccine participation from VEA membership since he states schools should be virtual until ALL staff is vaccinated?
        It seems a fair amount of people, including medical professionals and members of the BIPOC community, are forgoing vaccination.
        Should they in turn be terminated from public employment?
        But I agree this is muscling for a power grab… the GA will grant them the right to strike soon enough…. Schools out forever! Well public schools….. and again those they swear they are protecting will get hurt the worst.

  7. Baconator with extra cheese

    Seriously someone in the media should ask the VEA if they back mandatory vaccinations for all teachers…. I mean the guy is using muscle and making demands… but sometimes that leads to going a bit too far….
    Someone should also put Dr. Governor and Dr. Avula on the spot at the next ‘Rona update… ask if they are supporting the VEA demanding ALL teachers be vaccinated before any school opens… and if that means mandatory vaccinations for teachers to work in public schools.

  8. Have youse guys SEEN the length of the needles?! I think it hits bone!

  9. Baconator with extra cheese

    Widespread reports of soreness at the injection site…. no shizz with that going in your arm!

    • I’ve been informed that the side effects are most prevalent after the second dose. It appears going from ~50% immune to ~95% is wear the rubber meets the road.

      • It kicks in an immune response from the first dose. As one TV doc said, “That’ a good thing. It means your immune system will react to the virus.”

        • I’m aware of that, however you’re not considered immunized until the second does has been administered. That’s why you saw the prevalence of people who received their first does contracting the virus still.

          First Dose == ~50% immunity
          Second Dose ==~95% immunity

          My frame of reference had no other reaction to the first dose than injection site redness that comes with the yearly flu vaccination.

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