RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia students are set to head back to school in person in the fall, but their experience will look much different, as the Commonwealth continues to navigate through the Coronavirus pandemic.
Schools will reopen in three phases, with phase two happening now, and phase three set to begin closer to the Fall when the 2020-2021 school year is set to begin. Remote learning will continue to be an option in most cases in phase three.
“Public school divisions have to submit a plan that details how instruction will look in Phase 3 and essentially what they will do to mitigate the learning loss that continues from Spring 2020 and how they plan to go back immediately to remote learning if there were to be another wave or spike in cases,” State Superintendent, Dr. James Lane explained.
Health plans for schools are due 1 day prior to implementation, and academic plans are due 15 days prior. VDOE says they will work with schools and school divisions to help them revise or improve their plans as they are submitted.
Recover, Redesign, Restart is a 130+ page guide for schools as they plan.
In order to follow social distancing, Dr. James Lane says schools will need to consider alternative and innovative schedules. VDOE provides examples in the Recover, Redesign, Restart guidance.
During all phases of reopening, it is recommended that schools in the Commonwealth follow CDC Guidance for Schools:
•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 6 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.
Dr. Lane says parents who may have concerns about how their school is planning, are encouraged to work directly with their school division as the process continues.
“Our information is guidance and recommendations and ultimately the decision with how schools will open will be left to the school districts. So I think the best thing a parent can do, is an advocate with their local superintendent and their local school board for how they want to see their school reopen,” said Lane. “School divisions not only have the flexibility to be more stringent in the requirement they have in terms of health mitigation strategies, but schools do have the opportunity to deviate from our guidance and our process.”
Lane says school divisions that choose to deviate are asked to submit a form to the VDOE.
“We all wish this pandemic was not a part of our lives, but as we move forward, we have all learned new tools to help us be better leaders, better teachers and better students," Lane explained.
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