NORFOLK, Va. - A group of Virginia Republican lawmakers called Wednesday for Gov. Northam to rescind his back-to-school guidelines and push for a five-day school week for the upcoming school year.
"Our children already had a semester of school disrupted. Now we're already looking at even greater disruption this upcoming year for a population that's rarely impacted by Covid-19," said State Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach).
The lawmakers believe Northam's guidelines are confusing and believe students do best when they're in the classroom five days a week. They said students who are high-risk should still have the choice to do remote learning from home.
"I think there's a way to do it safely," said Kiggans. "I've always been a supporter and staunch advocate for school choice, an option to stay at home and do things virtually," she said.
Gov. Northam has called for a phased approach to reopening, including the potential for a hybrid schedule. Students would learn partly from home and partly in the classroom.
One big concern raised by the lawmakers is the potential for lawsuits if they opened up fully. The lawmakers said school divisions may be choosing the hybrid schedule for that reason. "I think right now too many school districts have been forced to make decisions out of fear of litigation rather than whats best for our children," said State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier).
In response, Gov. Northam urged caution. "This about public health. While Governor Northam wants nothing more than to have children back in school this fall, recent surges in other states make it clear we need to proceed cautiously," a spokesperson for the governor said in an email.
Still, the decision is complicated with several different varying factors. The Virginia Beach Education Association recently did a survey of its members and will be making recommendations to the school division. "Regardless of the scenario that is chosen for going back to school in the fall, if PPE is not provided, if certain measures are not made to keep students social distance safe, then there are deep concerns about how they are going to start school in the fall," Kelly Walker, the President of VBEA said.