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Governor Announces Virginia’s Plan for PreK-12 Education, NoVa to Enter Phase 2, Friday

| June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments | Education, News

Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia students will be returning to school at the beginning of the fall 2020-21 semester, but the school day will look very different. 

The governor also announced that Northern Virginia could enter Phase II of “Safer at Home” loosening of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on Friday, June 12. More information on the Phase II reopening can be found towards the bottom of the article.

Northam said it is possible for Northern Virginia to progress as new cases of COVID-19 continue to trend downward and hospitals have sufficient beds and PPE needed to address the current crisis.

School divisions will have to follow phases for how to open their educational programs. Those phases correspond to the phase jurisdictions are in as per business and other social interactions.

Returning to School in Phases

Students will be able to access more in-person learning as Virginia transitions into phases II and III.

“All Virginia schools will open for students next year, but the school will look very different,” said Northam. He specified that students would meet in small groups and schools would need flexibility to make this happen. 

While school divisions must adhere to state mandated phases, they also have flexibility to create their own solutions without in parameters. 

Superintendent James Lane gave further details.  

As most of Virginia will be in Phase II soon, Phase II will apply to some summer learning programs and daycare programs. Childcare options will be open for students in grades Pre-K through 3rd grade for working families, and summer camps that also serve as daycares can be held on school grounds. Students will need to socially distance as appropriate, adhering to all Phase II restrictions. Most summer school opportunities will still be virtual. 

Students will have to social distance and be in small class sizes. Students with disabilities, or English Language Learners can also access in-person learning opportunities this summer. Lane said they aim for equity and to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations. 

By the beginning of the school year, Northam expects all jurisdictions will have progressed to Phase III. Under Phase III, everyone can return to school but much of the CDC Guidelines will have to be followed. 

First, this means schools must reduce class sizes. They suggest staggering class schedules at the discretion of school divisions, or offering a mix of in-person and distance learning options. 

In schools all desks must be at least 6 feet apart. Students school be kept together as much as possible and not mix with other groups. Students will not all come together in the cafeteria or for assemblies. They must be 10 feet apart during physical activities. 

Older students and teachers are encouraged to wear masks, especially when they cannot distance six feet between each other. 

The schools must also offer virtual learning options for students and teachers who are immune compromised or parents who choose this option for their students. 

Once the state progresses beyond Stage III, school can return to normal. 

Before entering Stage III, all public schools will need to submit a plan for approval. Private schools also require approval. The aim is health and safety, but also considering the emotional, physical, social and psychological needs of the students.

A diverse group of committees and subcommittees worked to come up with the plan. Teachers, principals, parents, educational leaders and superintendents were included from all over the Commonwealth.

At 5 p.m. the governor will post more information on what the phases will look like for schools.

Youth Sports 

Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer also explained rules that youth sports would have to follow. The goal is to decrease physical interactions and stop the sharing of communal equipment. 

During Phase II, sports can begin to hold practices but refrain for any intensional contact, such as tackling or other kinds of touching or close contact. 

People on the field or in gymnasiums must be limited to 30% capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Parents in the stands at outside stadiums can attend if over capacity. 

When Virginia enters Phase III, there will be more leeway. Details about sports during that time have not been announced. 

What Phase II Looks Like

Phase II will allow Virginians to get back to enjoying much of social and entertainment venues that make for an enjoyable summer season. However, the governor recommends people use an abundance of caution.

Under Phase II, the Commonwealth will maintain a “Safer at Home” strategy,” with, “continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.”

The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 50 people. Police should not be called upon to monitor outside gatherings. Establishment, however, will have to adhere to these policies.

“All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures,” said the governor.

Restaurant and beverage establishments will begin to offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy during Phase II.

Phase II also allows for fitness centers to open indoors at 30 percent occupancy. Venues such as museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, outdoor concerts, sporting arenas and performing arts venues can open at 30 percent occupancy as well.

Indoor and outdoor swimming pools may expand operations for exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

“The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two,” said the governor.

Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will remain closed throughout Phase II.

For more details read here.

People should still take precaution. The governor said that COVID-19 is still with us, and people need to be mindful of that. People must still wear masks when in public places.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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