Virginia Beach Superintendent recommends 2020-2021 school year begin with virtual learning, may transition to in person

Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 07:17:43-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For Adia Deans, 11, and her brother Owen, 6, the start of their 2020 school year could look similar to how their academic year just ended.

“I’m just kind of bummed out,” Adia Deans said. “I just want to go back to school, you know.”

Adia will be heading into the sixth grade at Great Neck Middle School in Virginia Beach, except she may not even step foot in the building. Instead, she’ll most likely be continuing her studies at home.

“I just want to see my friends again,” she said.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence is recommending that students begin the 2020-2021 school year with virtual learning.

In a letter sent to Virginia Beach parents Thursday evening, Spence said the school district has put together a possible strategy to keep students and staff safe, adding that getting back to learning inside the classroom will be based on regional COVID-19 health metrics.

"I will be recommending to the School Board that we begin the school year with virtual instruction and with a plan, driven by health data, to safely transition to face-to-face instruction, with virtual learning remaining an option for those families who prefer it," Spence said.

Adia’s father, Sean, said he and his wife are willing to work with the school district in order to keep everyone safe.

“We understand times are difficult right now for everyone and if that’s their decision, we’re going to go their way,” Sean Deans said.

Spence said there may be a transition to face-to-face learning later in the school year. Families will be able to choose between in-person instruction when it is safe to do so, or only virtual classes for at least the first semester.

The Deans said their family is in a fortunate situation with one parent being able to stay home, but having school lessons at home can be a struggle.

It’s been a strain on every mother and parent out there,” Sean Deans said. “It’s extra hours put in and different routines; kids sleeping in; kids not going to bed on time. Things are different.”

Related: Norfolk School Board votes for full-time virtual learning for first quarter of 2020-21 school year

The proposed plan comes as COVID cases continue to rise throughout Hampton Roads.

The superintendent said the plan represents countless hours of research, deliberation and feedback from parents, staff and medical professionals.

The school system will use a color-coded zone system to determine when it is safe to transition to face-to-face instruction:


Green will be implemented when test positivity rate is below 5%, for 14 days, and fewer than 10 per 100,000 new cases are reported per week, based on a rolling seven-day average.

Face-to-face instruction will be offered, with health and safety mitigations, for Option 1 students. Virtual instruction will be offered for Option 2 students.


Test positivity rate must be between 5% and 10% for 14 days, with more than 10 per 100,000 new cases per week, based on a rolling seven-day average.

Face-to-face instruction, with significant health and safety mitigations, will be offered for pre-K through fifth grade, as well as sixth grade, ninth grade and students designated as requiring additional services.

Virtual instruction will be offered for grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12, as well as families who selected Option 2.


Test positivity rate is above 10% for 14 days, and more than 100 per 100,000 new cases per week are reported based on a rolling seven-day average. Red could also be implemented if Virginia is in Phase 2, as mandated by the governor’s office.

Virtual instruction will be offered for all students.

Virginia moved into Phase Three of reopening on July 1.

The virtual learning plan will now be presented to the school board. One of the school board members told News 3 they will be voting on the plan Tuesday, July 28. There will also be an opportunity for the public to weigh in.

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