Northam lays out plans for reopening Virginia schools in fall

covid-19

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Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a phased approach that allows Virginia schools to resume in-person classes for summer school and the coming academic year.

The K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Resuming in-person instruction is a high priority, but we must do so in a safe, responsible, and equitable manner that minimizes the risk of exposure to the virus and meets the needs of the Virginia students who have been disproportionately impacted by lost classroom time,” Northam said.

Local school divisions will have discretion on how to operationalize within each phase and may choose to offer more limited in-person options than the phase permits, if local public health conditions necessitate. Entry into each phase is dependent on public health gating criteria, corresponding with the Forward Virginia plan.

School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities, within the parameters of the Commonwealth’s guidance.

Beginning with Phase Two, local divisions and private schools must submit plans to the Virginia Department of Education that include policies and procedures for implementing Virginia Department of Health and CDC mitigation strategies.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA has issued an Order of Public Health Emergency that requires all Virginia PreK-12 public and private schools to develop plans that demonstrate adherence to public health guidance.

Public schools must also outline plans to offer new instruction to all students regardless of operational status.

Detailed information on each phase can be found in the guidance document available here.

“These plans are informed by a range of perspectives and will help ensure that we prioritize the social emotional well-being of all of our students, their families, and educators as we go back to school this summer and fall,” Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said. “In-person learning is most essential for special education students, English language learners, young children, and other vulnerable students who depend upon the structure, in-person connection, and resources our school communities provide.”

VDOE has also developed comprehensive guidance to aid schools in planning for a return to in-person instruction and activities. “Recover, Redesign, Restart” will be made available at doe.virginia.gov tomorrow.

“School will be open for all students next year, but instruction will look different,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. “The phased, hybrid approach allows PreK-12 students to have valuable class time and face-to-face interaction with their peers, while prioritizing health and safety by ensuring physical distancing measures are maintained. This plan keeps equity at the forefront by giving divisions the opportunity to deliver in-person instruction to those who need it the most.”

In every phase, PreK-12 schools must follow CDC Guidance for Schools, including social and physical distancing, enhanced health and hygiene procedures, cleaning and disinfecting measures, and other mitigation strategies. These precautions include, but are not limited to:

  • Daily health screenings of students and staff
  • Providing remote learning exceptions and teleworking for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness
  • The use of cloth face coverings by staff when at least six feet physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Encouraging the use of face coverings in students, as developmentally appropriate, in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained

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