Schools allowed to reopen soon

June 12, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that most of Virginia will be able to phase in the reopening of public schools this summer.

Local school divisions will have the power to tailor reopening guidelines to local conditions and to impose additional restrictions if necessary.

By the end of this week, most school divisions will be able to begin submitting their reopening plans to the state education department.

Most of Virginia is in phase two of the governor’s plan for reopening businesses, public venues, government offices and other facilities.

School divisions in phase two areas can begin gearing up for presentation of special education programs; child care for working families; programs for preschool through third grade; and summer camps in school buildings.

When the governor announces localities can move into phase three of reopening, affected school divisions will be able to offer in-person instruction for all students “with strict social distancing measures in place, which may require alternative schedules that blend in-person and remote learning for students.”

Beyond phase three of the state’s reopening, school divisions “will resume ‘new normal’ operations under future guidance,” according to the governor’s press release.

In all phases, schools must follow federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines for distancing, health and hygiene procedures, cleaning and disinfection measures and other strategies. Students and staff will get daily health screenings. People at higher risk of severe illness will get remote-access options. Face coverings will be used when 6-foot distancing is not possible, and students will be encouraged to wear coverings.

The Virginia Department of Education convened numerous stakeholders through the Return to School Recovery Task Force, the Accreditation Task Force and the Continuity for Learning Task Force this spring to plan strategies for reopening. More than 800 educators, parents, students and others were asked for their ideas.