VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Students in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system could return to face-to-face learning as soon as January 19 under a new proposal. This comes despite rising COVID-19 cases.
The school board met on Tuesday night, and Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence proposed the phased return.
“I really believe what’s in the best interest of children is to have them in school with us,” Spence said during an interview on Wednesday.
Spence explained that the school system had an evolution in thinking about how schools can function in a pandemic. He stated he has strong concerns about the social and emotional well-being of students, and there’s evidence to show they’re hurting academically as well.
“I know there are many who will think that we’re being reckless, but I don’t feel that way,” Spence said. “I don’t think that’s what the data and the science tell us. I think the data and the science tell us we can do this safely.”
Under the proposed return plan, students in grades six and below who have chosen face-to-face learning would return January 19. Grades seven and above would go back on February 8 in a hybrid model, meaning in school part-time and virtual part-time.
The school board will vote next Tuesday, January 12.
Meantime, parent Stephanie Baker told News 3 that she is hopeful.
“My first reaction to the proposal is that I wanted to cry. I was so excited,” Baker said. “All children cannot learn virtually. I’m a parent of two children who have 504s, and they need to be in a classroom and an environment that suits them best.”
Kelly Walker, the president of the Virginia Beach Education Association, feels a return is “premature.”
“Now that those parameters have changed, many are very concerned they’ll be in an unsafe learning environment,” Walker said.
Walker also indicated that more teachers may choose to resign.
“We’re going to lose more educators as a result of this.”
Spence said in addition to past mitigation strategies, they’re also implementing safety teams that would visit each school at least on a bi-weekly basis.
Spence also told News 3 that if a school sees an outbreak, they would consider closing that school rather than the entire district.