VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Students in the area's largest school district could begin returning to class on February 1.
It's a decision that came down from the Virginia Beach School Board during a Tuesday night meeting that went until around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
The board voted to accept the Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence's recommendation to phase in Option 1 elementary and select special education students on February 1. But members added that the return is contingent upon a 7-day decline in the community positivity rate of COVID-19.
Spence sent a letter to all VBCPS families and students informing them of his recommended change after receiving information from health officials on the "increased burden on the city's health system from COVID-19 cases in the community."
He says those from whom he has received information included Dr. Demetria Lindsay, Public Health Director with the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health, who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting.
In the letter, Spence said he is no longer confident in VBCPS' ability to keep up with contact tracing. He is recommended that student's in Pre-K through sixth grade return to school the week of Feb. 1, the start of the second semester. After a three-week monitoring period, secondary students would then return the week of Feb. 22.
During last week's school board meeting, it was proposed that students could return to face-to-face learning as soon as January 19 under the new proposal.
Now, Spence is recommending that, rather than continue to return for additional votes on this matter, the school board grant him the authority to consult with VBCPS' internal health staff and the health department to determine if the timeline works. If not, he says he will delay returned in-person learning further with sufficient notice to the Board and community.
Spence says over the next three weeks, he will work closely with health officials to determine the needed resources to ensure the schools are meeting contact tracing requirements.
The school board met for a special meeting that started at 3 p.m. and met again at 6 p.m. for a formal meeting. As of 10:30 p.m., the meeting is still ongoing, and it's expected to last through midnight.
Click here for a full agenda of Tuesday's meeting.