During Wednesday's School Board meeting, several Shenandoah County said they are fearful of reopening school with in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic.
In July, the School Board approved using a hybrid model, that would have students in pre-kindergarden through fifth-grade attending in-person classes four days a week and students in grades 6-12 going to school one day a week.
Teachers on Wednesday asked the School Board to consider opening with all-virtual instruction this fall.
Strasburg High School teacher Jeff Rudy, who is also president of the Shenandoah County Education Association, said that teachers do not feel comfortable returning to in-person classes at this time.
"It should be noted that my own attendance to tonight's School Board meeting is virtual," Rudy said. "I am afraid to attend this meeting in person. I, just like so many other teachers and staff are afraid during these current teacher workdays and are simply petrified of Shenandoah County schools reopening in the hybrid model in a few short weeks. It is our collective fear that directs the SCEA to support a virtual reopening of Shenandoah County Public Schools until it is safe to return."
The School Board and Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston did not make a decision on Wednesday as to how schools will reopen. Johnston plans on talking with School Board members individually and making a decision based on their input.
There were 12 speakers during the public comments portion of the meeting and most of them were teachers in Shenandoah County.
Sam Gesford, a teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, said that school administrators are gambling with teachers' and students' lives.
"It has been made clear by the initial reopening plan, many in the county are in favor of gambling with our lives," Gesford said. "The lives of teachers, the lives of students, the lives of families connected to both. I say this not to be melodramatic but to illustrate a legitimate fear that many of us, teachers and students alike, feel toward a hasty reopening of schools."
Nina Wilt, a teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, said that even if everyone does all of the social distancing protocols she still doesn't feel like it would be safe for teachers and students.
"Even with masks, with frequent hand-washing and social distancing, being in buildings with hundreds of other people is not a wise move," Wilt said. "This puts my life and the lives of my colleagues and students at risk. Some of our teachers have elderly relatives and by returning to in-person learning they will not be able to see their families due to concerns that they may affect those that are the most vulnerable."
Cara Stombock, a teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, said that she believes virtual learning can serve students well during the pandemic with proper time and resources to prepare for it.
"I realize the community perception of our virtual instruction in the spring is largely negative, but virtual learning can absolutely be done and done well with ample preparation," Stombock said. "Just in the two days we've had to collaborate as a staff, my content team has come up with incredible engaging units that are 100 percent compatible with what our current students currently use."
Stombock said that she wants to return to in-person classes as much as anyone, but she wants to do it when it's safe.
"Most importantly, please know that I want to face my students face-to-face," she said. "I want more than anything to have last year's class in front of me one more time for proper goodbyes. I want a lot of things for this year, but what I want is not the safest option right now, not for the students, myself or my fellow staff members. So I'm prepared to make the best of what we do have and in order to do my very best for the students, I need time, I need resources and I need to be safe."