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Norfolk School Board releases plan for in-person learning with no specific start date

Posted at 5:12 AM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 16:41:28-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk Public School’s reopening plan is leaving many parents with more questions than answers.

There’s no set date for students to return, but leaders say it’s safer that way.

The Norfolk School Board met Wednesday, October 21 and approved a plan for returning to in-person learning.

If health indicators set by the Centers for Disease Control remain in the green for 14 days, students could begin returning to classrooms as soon as November 4, with Equity and Opportunity students as well as grades pre-K through 3 returning first on a proposed hybrid schedule.

"The school board voted to keep the health and the safety of our students and staff foremost in mind when we approve the return of students," said Norfolk Public School Board Chair Adale Martin.

According to the school board, in Phase One, students with disabilities will attend school four days a week. The possibility of English learners attending school four days per week will be reviewed by the administration.

Kindergarten through grade 3 would return on a hybrid model in Phase Two, while grades 4 and 5, and possibly prekindergarten students, would return in Phase Three.

Grades 6 through 8 would return in Phase Four, and 9 through 12 in Phase Five.

Students in Phases Two through Five will attend school in-person two days a week and receive virtual instruction two days a week, while Wednesdays will remain an asynchronous learning day for all students.

Cassie Hitchcock wants to move forward with reopening right now for her six-year-old son in first grade who she worries is falling behind while learning virtually.

"He really needs to get in and it’s super frustrating to see him struggle and, you know, not be able to grasp [school work] the way that he should be able to if he was in class," said Hitchcock.

For parents like Hitchcock who are anxious for their children to get back to the classroom, the new plan isn’t putting them at ease.

"I think they should allow the teachers to do the virtual school, and the teachers who are willing to go back, I think they should allow them to go back and I think they should allow students to go back as well," she said.

The School Board said that there would be a three-week transition between the phases pending positive health metrics, and parents and guardians have the option to keep their students in the current virtual learning format.

The Superintendent will continue to explore the best learning models for in-person instruction, including a non-hybrid model.

"We know that there are benefits to in person learning so we’re trying to get there. We’re also trying to build some consistency and give our community matrices which we are framing our decision making," said Martin.

According to a presentation made by members of the School Board, an instructional survey was sent out to parents and guardians between September 30 and October 7. The School Board said 3,796 parents and guardians responded, with 5,785 total responses collected.

Survey responses show that 40 percent of high school parents, 44 percent of middle school parents and 34 percent of elementary school parents "agree" that their students are adjusting well to virtual learning, compared to 29 percent, 27 percent and 22 percent respectively choosing "strongly agree."

The survey also showed that if the School Board votes to return to in-person learning, 61.6 percent of those surveyed, or 2,689 families, will send their children back to school.