Recall seeks Fairfax Co. board member’s ouster over online classes


A coalition of parents angered by the months-long suspension of individual learning in Virginia’s largest school system has petitioned a member of the school board to recall.

MCLEAN, VA (lbl) – A coalition of parents angered by the month-long suspension of individual learning in Virginia’s largest school system has petitioned a school board member to recall.

The petition, filed Monday in Fairfax County Circuit Court by the Open FCPS Coalition, accuses Elaine Tholen of neglecting her duty when she and other board members opted to take about 12 months of in-person learning during the pandemic.

The organizers of the petition say the over-reliance on online learning is contrary to scientific advice and the wishes of most parents.

The coalition said it submitted more than 5,000 signatures, which would require 3,500 or more.

Under Virginia’s unique recall law, Tholen can now ask a judge to dismiss the petition. Then it will be up to a judge to determine whether to dismiss the petition or conduct a test of sorts to determine whether his removal is warranted. If so, he will be removed from office and a special election will be held.

Tholen said in a phone interview that he “has been in academia for a very long time. This has been my career, and I have always put students first.”

In a written statement, she said, “When nearly 60% of the Drensville district’s voters chose me, they knew I would stand up for the interests and educational needs of their children. … I earned the trust and support of my constituents. I look forward to continuing to do so as we prepare to welcome all students individually five days per week.

Fairfax County Public Schools also issued a statement supporting Tholen, calling the petition “misleading”.

“Last year’s decision to provide education through a virtual format was a direct result of the circumstances and the health and medical advice available at the time,” said the school system. “The school board and FCPS leadership were responsible for ensuring health and wellbeing. One of its 189,000 students during the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic. The FCPS went on to reopen its schools as soon as circumstances allowed and surpassed many other school districts in the region. The decision to conduct online classes was a difficult one. The decision was there, but it was the right one.”

The school system has said that students will return to in-person learning five days a week this fall, but coalition member Ian Tompkins said the system is unclear about the details of whether teachers will be allowed to engage with students in the classroom. will be required or they will be allowed to teach. remotely, and whether young students will be required to wear masks.

“Parents have been left in the dark about these issues, and thus there is genuine doubt as to whether the Fairfax County school system is serious about opening up to full-time, in-person declines,” Tompkins said, candidate at a former school board press briefing.

Tholen is one of three members of the 12-person board targeted to be recalled by the Coalition of Parents. It is still collecting signatures for board members Laura Jane Cohen and Abrar Omish.

The recall effort in Fairfax County is one of dozens across the country that have been angered by parents over the past year over pandemic-related school closures and, more recently, teachers and the school system over racism and race relations. addresses.

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