Local school divisions develop plans for fall return

Posted at 3:34 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-22 16:50:53-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Local school divisions are weighing their options as they try to ensure students can return to the classroom this fall in some capacity.

Portsmouth School leaders met Monday to continue discussions. Virginia Beach has offered parents a survey to express their thoughts.

"You want your students in school. They learn best when they're in class face-to-face," said Dr. Elie Bracy, the Superintendent of Portsmouth Schools.

Schools have received guidance from the state about the best plan, including potential staggered schedules. For Portsmouth, Bracy said they're on track for a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face learning. Students would be in class two days a week and then learn virtually two days a week. Under their current plan, a fifth day be a professional development day to allow teachers to plan for the next week.

Particulars are still being worked out, but he hopes to have more concrete details to release in July.

"When we look at the plan and we're planning for this, we're trying to get them in as often as we can and right now it looks like the two face-to-face and two days virtually is probably the best for them," said Bracy.

As the plans come together, Virginia Beach State Sen. Bill DeSteph is worried school divisions may be confused over how much say they have, saying the state Constitution and General Assembly give school boards the power over local schools. He says decisions about reopening are not up to the governor or the Department of Education.

"Children need socialization whether its through sports, whether its through school," said DeSteph. He sent a letter to the governor, expressing his concerns and has accused him of "overreach."

"The staggered schedule is what bothered me the most," said DeSteph. "You can't have kids going to school two days a week."

DeSteph believes there is a way for schools to fully reopen in the fall. In response to his letter, Gov. Northam's Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer, said, "the suggested guidance the state put out is just that, suggested."

For Portsmouth, they're following the state guidance and are working with the health department on the best strategies for reopening. "We're going to be working closely with the local health department with any plan that we submit," said Bracy. "We need to make sure they're okay with it."