Gov. Northam visits Hopewell Public Schools on first day of balanced calendar

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam visited Hopewell High School on Monday morning to talk to school leaders about their first day of year-round schooling.

Hopewell Public Schools is the first school district in Virginia to have all its schools move to a balanced calendar. Through Hopewell’s model, students will go to school in 45-day periods. Then, they will have a three-week intersession where they can go on vacation or take additional courses.

“Hopewell’s leadership in this space will literally pave the way for others working to accelerate learning and address inequities that have been made worse by this pandemic,” Northam said.

Hopewell Public Schools is joining Richmond Public Schools to make masks mandatory in the classroom.

This comes as school districts across the Commonwealth get the final choice on their own mask policies as in-person learning returns for the fall.

“Kids have got to be in school, but there are ways we can keep them safer in spite of the Delta variant,” said Hopewell Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Melody Hackney.

To limit the spread of the virus, Northam also wants to invest $500 million to improve air quality in the state’s public schools.

Northam says $250 million of this funding will come from the American Rescue Plan. The other half of this amount will come from matched local funding.

Northam says this funding will focus on the current air ventilation repair project to cover the costs.

The funds will be granted as reimbursements for districts to complete HVAC repairs with a minimum allocation of $200,000 per school division.

“We’ve chosen to focus on our ventilation systems knowing the problems that antiquated systems have with mold and also to have a good flow of air coming into the buildings,” Northam said. “It lowers the risk of COVID.”

Hackney believes this project will create a safer space for students, teachers and staff as they continue with their new balanced calendar.

“It means everything to build that trust and confidence of our parents in a time of uncertainty and fear,” she said.

The investment will be voted on during the special session starting on Aug. 2, but Northam says he has support for this funding from General Assembly’s money committee leaders.

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