Two seats are open this year on the Arlington School Board, a five-member body that helps oversee the Arlington Public Schools system of about 26,000 students in Northern Virginia.

There are three candidates competing for these two slots this fall, at a moment when the school system in Arlington, like districts nationwide, is facing unprecedented challenges. Not only has the coronavirus pandemic thrown the U.S. education system into chaos, forcing teachers, including those in Arlington, to shift their classes online, but the county is also facing a significant drop in enrollment — down a full 4 percent from last year — and a budget deficit running to $20 million or more.

On top of thorny questions over when and how to return students and teachers safely to classrooms, Arlington is also facing calls to remove police officers from school buildings, as well as allegations that the system has failed to adequately recognize and address the myriad legacies of systemic racism that are shaping students’ experiences in classrooms and hallways.

In interviews, each of the three candidates — who, if elected, would serve four years — spoke briefly about how they view and would tackle these issues. These profiles are based on candidates’ answers and have been edited for space and clarity.

Cristina Diaz-Torres

Diaz-Torres, 29, is a manager of product design and delivery at Education First Consulting. She is a former teacher who said she would bring needed first-person experience to board discussions and decisions. She is also Latina and hopes that winning a seat would ensure that, in a system where about 30 percent of students are Hispanic, “there is someone advocating for the students that look like me and shares their cultural and demographic backgrounds.”

What are the biggest chal­lenges facing Arlington Public Schools?

They are equity writ large — we have disparities in income, across demographics, problems for students with disabilities, from low-income backgrounds, students who are bilingual — but also obviously things caused by the pandemic. We need to make sure kids are getting a quality education, no matter the delivery plan, and make sure that we are addressing students’ social and emotional needs. It’s a very trying time.

Do you support Superintendent Francisco Durán’s reopening plans?

Yes, I am in support of it. I actually wrote a piece in Blue Virginia back in May that outlined a similar plan. It was great to see the superintendent’s plan include outreach for the community, a concrete way to address social and emotional needs and a plan to get devices to all kids.

What would you need to see before schools fully reopen?

If we’re talking about all kids in all classrooms, then we need to have both family and staff confidence. Right now, even among our families, we’re still seeing about 30 percent who want to stay virtual, as well as an even greater percentage of our employees, so it comes down to people feeling comfortable and us having the equipment to respond to any sort of outbreaks that come up.

What are your views on the boundary redrawing process currently underway in Arlington?

We’re in a tough time because of the pandemic. We have a new elementary school opening in 2021, and the boundary process that has been proposed for this fall — well, it can colloquially be termed a “steady state adjustment,” I think, because it’s resetting the attendance zone for that particular school and then leaving everything else pretty much the same for the purpose of just getting through the rest of the pandemic, which I think is appropriate. Our families are already dealing with so much stress and tension that we do not need to be doing a massive upheaval of elementary school boundaries in the middle of that.

Should Arlington Public Schools keep police officers — known as “School Resource Officers,” or SROs — patrolling hallways inside schools?

I do not support SROs in schools, and I support the ongoing conversation about removing them and figuring out an appropriate redesign. I don’t think they have met the criteria of what we want a discipline force to be, and there are many other options available across the education field — things like deans, hall monitors with more clear powers — people who are embedded in the school community, trained by the school system, who have a better understanding of what the culture of the school community is supposed to be and who are not wearing a badge and causing undue stress for our students of color.

David Priddy

Priddy, 46, is a stay-at-home dad who describes himself as a “community activist.” He used to work for an elevator company and says his business experience would give him an advantage during financial planning discussions. Priddy has two children enrolled in the Arlington school system: an eighth-grader and a fifth-grader. He is running for a board seat, he said, because “I do have a powerful voice, and I do know how to bring people together” to accomplish needed improvements at a pivotal moment in school history.

What are the biggest chal­lenges facing Arlington Public Schools?

First and foremost, a safe return to school from [covid-19]. Second is bringing equity throughout Arlington Public Schools. And third would be, how do we operate, knowing that we’ll be at a deficit?

Do you support Superintendent Francisco Durán’s reopening plans?

Yes, I support the superintendent’s plans for reopening. I appreciate his attentiveness to the safety of students and staff. He’s been very thoughtful and very understanding of people’s situations.

What would you need to see before schools fully reopen?

We need a low percentage rate. With the reopening plan, we need to have confidence that the safety and health procedures in place are working. We need a contact tracing system, so we’re sure we can figure out where the outbreaks are. For parents, we need a clear communication path. And, for the safety of students, teachers and staff, we need significant PPE supplies, ventilation in the facilities themselves, isolation rooms for coronavirus patients — and those must be up to code. Everything must meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

What are your views on the boundary redrawing process currently underway in Arlington?

We do need to fill the new school that is opening next year, and we’re dealing with overcrowding. There were originally supposed to be more schools involved in this boundary change, but as a result of the pandemic it was scaled back so it only affects 13 percent of students now, and I think that was the right move. I’m glad there are community engagement processes on the calendar right now, and there will — and should — be more.

Should Arlington Public Schools keep police officers — known as “School Resource Officers,” or SROs — patrolling hallways inside schools?

We know there are many incidents in school that require a counselor or mental health professional instead of a police officer. We need to review our practice of having SROs in schools and make sure they are the best use of our system. Do I support the removal of SROs? Yes, but it’s not that easy just to get rid of them. It’s a long-standing program — and the county pays for police in schools, so if we remove them, Arlington Public Schools will lose that money. We’re already going to be in a budget deficit this year so we need to figure that piece out. And second, Arlington Public Schools needs to find personnel to replace the non-policing functions that SROs perform. So we need to have a plan before we decide to remove them.

Symone Walker

Walker, 49, is an attorney with the federal government. She has two children: an eighth-grader enrolled in Arlington Public Schools and a ninth-grader who attends private school. She said she is running “for change, not for a position,” because she has long been concerned by inequity in the Arlington school system. After stints serving on parent-teacher associations, the superintendent’s Committee for Equity and Excellence and the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee, she has grown frustrated with the treatment of special-education students, as well as of Black and Brown children.

What are the biggest chal­lenges facing Arlington Public Schools?

The biggest challenge right now that I’m seeing is to create a sense of harmony and unity among our parents who want to return to school, who want their kids back in schools, and our teachers who feel it’s not yet safe for them to return. It’s a divisive issue, which saddens me.

Do you support Superintendent Francisco Durán’s reopening plans?

I think it’s a fair compromise that kind of meets parents and teachers in the middle. There are parents that are reaching out to me advocating that hybrid is not enough — they want kids back in school five days a week. There are teachers who don’t feel they should be returning to the classroom at all. . . . To me, this is a pretty fair middle ground.

What would you need to see before schools fully reopen?

I would like rapid testing available at least for teachers, but ideally for both teachers and students. I would like to see a downward trend of cases in the community. I would like to see Arlington County do a better job of enforcement — of requiring masking and social distancing, especially in bars and restaurants. I would like to see the county more invested in enforcing safety measures so our kids can go back to school.

What are your views on the boundary redrawing process currently underway in Arlington?

The School Board right now has a very accelerated timeline for redrawing boundaries for certain schools in North Arlington, and they want to have a decision made by Dec. 3. I think that it’s premature to plow through with that now, given the state of flux that we’re experiencing with our students — we have probably close to 1,200 students that left the district since June alone, probably for private schools or home schooling. We just don’t have a full grasp on the impact of how many students are gone, and the majority of students leaving the district are from the schools for which the boundaries are being drawn right now.

Should Arlington Public Schools keep police officers — known as “School Resource Officers,” or SROs — patrolling hallways inside schools?

My view is that we should not have SROs residing in our schools. Students with disabilities [and] Black and Brown students often have a more negative experience with SROs, resulting in higher referrals to law enforcement, more criminal charges, more interactions that are negative. I think resources are better spent on having more mental health providers in our schools.