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Virginia lawmakers debate bill on getting kids back in the classroom

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 16:32:32-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Virginia Democrats unveiled a proposal this week to require schools offer some form of in-person learning during the 2021-2022 school year.

The issue has become a sticking point between both parties. Earlier this month, the Senate passed a one-sentence bill requiring in-person and virtual learning to be offered at schools, but now House Democrats have come out with a more detailed bill.

The House plan only refers to the 2021-2022 school year and requires at least a hybrid system of in-person learning.

"I think it's more important than really anything," said Del. Alex Askew (D-Virginia Beach). "We know that our children learn better in the classroom."

Republicans don't feel the proposal goes far enough. Many of them believe students should be back in the classroom five days a week.

"This bill is a lifeline to Democrats who are stuck between the teachers' unions on one side and frustrated parents on the other. It's no kind of lifeline for our kids," the VA House GOP tweeted.

News 3 asked Askew for his response. "I think we would love five days a week, but I think we need to start from a place of caution and work our way back in the classroom," he said.

Everyone remains hopeful by the fall that life will have returned more to normal, but given the unpredictability of a pandemic, the bill aims to lay out a framework so kids can return to school.

"I think this legislation is needed because we've seen so many changes with the virus over the past year," Askew said.

Meanwhile, separately from this, Gov. Ralph Northam has directed school divisions to come up with plans to offer some form of in-person learning by March 15.

Norfolk became the latest city to approve plans on Wednesday, calling for a phased hybrid approach with the first students returning on March 15.