Educators and Parents

This is a must read for educators and parents…


Speech by PWEA Member Catherine Smart (posted with her permission)

Good evening.

I am Catherine Smart. I am the parent of a Woodbridge High School senior. My husband works in the city. I am also a teacher at Colgan High School.

I recommend that high school learning in Prince William County Schools be conducted completely in a virtual environment for the fall semester. A month ago, my teenage son became infected with Covid-19. He came home with the virus unknowingly. It took less than an hour for him to spread it to the rest of the family. Half a week passed before any of us exhibited symptoms.

All four of us had different symptoms. My 19 year old had virtually none. My 17-year old experienced violent vomiting that was so harsh his back seized up. He was disoriented and couldn’t stand on his own. My husband and I had debilitating headaches, muscle aches and chills, hallucinations, dizziness, and extreme fatigue. Symptoms have lasted a month. There was at least a week apiece where my husband and I were unable to care for ourselves, or our sons. I couldn’t even sit up without help. My husband is still not cleared to go back to work.

First, our family is like your family. Our lives are enmeshed in multiple community settings — both within PWCS and throughout the broader DMV area. It is impossible to extricate my viral vulnerability in my workplace from my husband’s. Any students I interact with by being in the school facility are automatically added to the risk that must be borne by my husband and children, and by anyone they must interact with.

Second, Covid-19 has cost my family a month so far. In that time, we had 4 terrifying trips to the ER — one of them today — and several conversations about whether we each needed to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. We’ve been wildly, viciously ill. And yet — our cases are considered mild. The potential risks to others who might not be as lucky is unconscionable.

Third, not one of my family EVER had a temperature. This is one of the basic triage methods for detecting illness, and yet if the four of us were students at a PWCS school, it would have been a minimum of four days before our disease was noticeable enough to test. Taking student temperatures will simply not function as an accurate screening measure.

Fourth, young people might not become as ill as older people. But the staff at your children’s schools, my children’s school — we do not live in a vacuum. We have families for whom we must provide care and safety. Our health and our lives are at risk if we are forced to attend school in-person without a vaccine, or at least some significant advancement in medical ability to prevent and halt the coronavirus.

Any method of minimizing the daily population in a PWCS high school still means more than 1,000 students for all but two schools. More importantly, most staff would come in contact with large numbers of the student population. There is no ability to rotate faculty. This is an exponential risk for staff, and an unbearable human cost.

Finally, none of the many, many doctors we have spoken to can tell us whether we are now immune from the virus, or for how long. The clock is ticking on my family’s vulnerability, and it is a terrifying sound. My son does not feel comfortable attending in-person schooling at our beloved Woodbridge High School. His fear of becoming ill with this virus again is so great that he is willing to miss his senior year of in-person high school to ensure his physical wellbeing. That speaks volumes.

My family — county residents, county students, county teacher, District of Columbia/federal employee — is not a theoretical concept. Covid-19 invaded our home swiftly, completely and ruthlessly. PWCS cannot knowingly put other families through the same horror. I urge you to allow, at the very least, the fall semester of this upcoming school year to take place online.



If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Patty Brown

If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.