Paulette Anders said if she was a member of the Frederick County Board of Education, she would have supported a vote to bring students back into school buildings.
For her, the sooner kids can begin returning, the better.
“I do believe that starting hybrid, with giving families their own option to stay virtual should they choose, is a safe way to reopen and I think you can do it with [kindergarten] through second, sixth, and I would actually say 12th, because the seniors are in a pivotal time in their lives,” Anders said.
Anders is an official write-in candidate for the board of education race, running to fill one of three open seats.
She is a proponent of keeping a virtual option for families who don’t yet feel safe returning, and she would like to see teachers who want to remain virtual paired up with those groups of students.
“You have to respect what people feel is safe for them and their families. There are teachers that are living with people who are immunocompromised ... there are families who don’t want their students to go back to school,” Anders said. “I want to recognize them too and say, 'Hey, I respect your decision' — and thank goodness we live in a country where you’re able to make that decision for your family.”
But she also feels that there is a disconnect happening between teachers and students through the virtual model.
“I am hearing way too many stories from families that their students are not getting the 3.5 required hours of instruction,” Anders said.
Anders would like to see teachers return to school buildings and teach virtually from their classrooms in order to have more resources in hand and be able to collaborate with other staff members.
Additionally, Anders said she thinks it would be helpful for the school system to have a COVID-19 dashboard that reports out numbers of positive cases similar to those being used by colleges across the country.
In an ideal situation, she would also like the temperatures of students taken upon arrival, but she isn't sure if it’s logistically feasible.
“At some point, you do have to trust teachers, staff and families. Especially families who want school to be in session, you have to trust they will do the right thing,” Anders said. “I am not naive, there will be families who don’t do the right thing. However, we will never ever, ever go back to school if we are going to wait for zero risk.”
When asked if she was concerned about a possible surge of the virus as the weather gets colder, Anders said there is reason for concern. However, much more is known now about the virus than in the past, she said, and she feels schools now have a better handling of the situation and are prepared for potential outbreaks.
“You don’t have to close down for the rest of the school year. You could close down for two weeks, ask everybody to stay at home, practice very safe protocols and then try again in two weeks,” Anders said. “Are we going to have cases in the schools? Absolutely, and is it tragic if we lost one student? Absolutely...but we need to get this hybrid plan in place.”
Regarding racial equity, Anders said she thinks FCPS needs to hire more diverse teachers, but admitted that she is not familiar with some of the other steps the school system has taken to address the issue.
When asked how conversations about race should be handled in the classroom, Anders said she is not a proponent of bringing politics and political groups into the classroom.
“Sometimes things get more political than they need to be...I do think older students in the 11th and 12th grade are ready for some more frank and real discussions, but the fact of the matter is, in the public school system there currently, I don’t feel, there is an appreciation for diversity of thought in the classroom,” she said.
Anders declined to say whether she thinks modern-day racial advocacy movements like Black Lives Matters are political groups.
She said she is a proponent of the school resource officer (SRO) program and believes schools are safer when officers are stationed in school buildings.
Anders said she is not familiar with concerns that students of color have expressed about the program, but as a board member, she said she wants to be a voice for parents, students and teachers of all backgrounds.
The achievement gap, Anders said, is only getting wider as students remain out of school, which is why she is pushing for a return. When asked how the gap could be closed once students return to buildings, Anders did not have any specific ideas and said she would like to learn more about the issue.