Lawmakers in Richmond join battle over getting all students back in the classroom

Lawmakers in Richmond join battle over getting all students back in the classroom

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - More plans to get Virginia students back in the classroom are coming together from state lawmakers.

“We need to get kids back in school. We need to get kids back in school five days a week, preferably,” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Richmond.

The legislation got its start as a Virginia Senate bill that would require schools to provide some sort of in-person learning, but the bill provided no real information on how to do it. In the Virginia House, VanValkenburg morphed the measure to give it some teeth.

“Let’s be real right, virtual learning is not in-person learning. Kids are not learning as much as they would in the class,” VanValkenburg said.

The bill requires districts to follow new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safely reopening schools. But it also gives parents a choice to keep their kid home and gives divisions a choice to close down certain schools if there is a COVID-19 outbreak.

Monday morning, a house committee unanimously advanced the bill.

“For months, Democrats have ignored the calls of parents and students to return to in-person learning — even as the CDC continued to say it was safe,” said “Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

Virginia Republicans have been calling for a full return to in-person learning for months now. State GOP lawmakers just didn’t have control of the House and Senate to do anything about it.

“Only now, as the politics have caught up to them, are Democrats making this a priority. I find their plan lacking and their politics dubious,” said Gilbert.

The measure would go into effect June 1, if approved, and would affect the 2021-2022 academic year. It also has a sunset clause, going away from state law books in August 2022.

“A lot had changed in a year, and things are always changing, especially as it comes to our understanding of public health and how this impacts people,” said VanValkenburg.

The governor is pushing for students to return in some form by March 15. Only about 40 school divisions in the state offer online-only learning.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.