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UDATED: Prince William Schools Releases 3 Possible Plans for Returning to School

| July 8, 2020 | 0 Comments | Education

Photo by Ashleigh Henegar

UPDATED: July 9 at 1:40 a.m. 

The Prince William County School Board agreed to Plan II, by which most students would attend school two days a week.

Original Article: 

Prince William County Schools released three proposed plans for returning to school in September at the July 8, 2020 school board meeting.

The plans all adhere to CDC Guidelines for returning during COVID-19 as well as Virginia state regulations.

“It is not a choice,” to comply, said Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts. He notes that Virginia is still within Stage III, and the governor is holding all schools to certain standards, rather than allowing schools do as they please. The governor just issued additional restrictions as of July 6. 

Walts asked that the school board come to a consensus on a preferred plan by the end of the meeting before the final vote next week. The plan needs to be approved by the state and the Prince William Health Department.

Image from Prince William County Schools slide on the opening of schools.

Plan I is 100% virtual for the health and safety of students and staff. 

Plan II would have the majority of students attending just one day a week. The school would be open four days. One day out of the week, teachers would have virtual office hours. 

Some students with special educational needs would be eligible to attend four days a week. Prince William teachers with students in grades K-5 could have their children in school four days a week to satisfy childcare needs. There would still be a 100% virtual option for students, and an option for teachers with health issues to telework.

This is the “gold standard” for distancing, according to Virginia Board of Education Chairman James Lane, said Walts. As only approximately 25% of students would be in buildings at any given time, PWCS would meet CDC Guidelines nearly to the fullest extent.

Plan III would have students in school two days a week and schools would be at 50% of their usual capacity. Teachers of elementary age students would also have the option of sending them for four days. Special education students could utilize the four day schedule as well.

The virtual learning would remain an option for students and teachers who qualify.

Students will not be able to social distance to the fullest extent recommended by the CDC in school and on buses, but the plan meets all required guidance. This plan would require more mask wearing by students. 

There was forth plan, a full return to normalcy, but Governor Northam said that could not be implemented at this time. 

The division is recommending moving the school start date back to Sept. 8 for students. Teachers will start as originally planned, and would use those extra weeks to train before students returned to school. 

Walts said that neighboring jurisdictions are coordinating with Prince William. The coordination will make it easier for teachers who may work in Prince William, but live in Fairfax or Manassas, or vice versa. 

Dr. Jennifer Cassata, Director of the Office of Accountability, analyzed Prince William County Schools’ parent survey. She said the answer revealed that people were very polarized on the issue. Many parents who said they felt “very comfortable” with schools opening, and another large faction said they were “very uncomfortable” with it. 

Of those “very” comfortable with in-person learning, almost 100% said their children would be back in school. They named social and emotional wellbeing as their first priority for their children. 

Those who felt “very uncomfortable” named health and safety as their number one concern. Approximately 50% of those parents said they would have their children return to in person school regardless. 

Overall, 80% of parents said they would have their children return to in-person school. Of the 20% who said no, 83% of them said they would utilize PWCS virtual option; another 11% said they would homeschool their children. 

The survey also revealed that 77% of families owned devices such as computers that children could use. 97.5% of families had access to broadband internet. Of those who did not, some were using cell coverage. 

Of the 12,684 students who occasionally road the bus, 37% of parents said they would have them back on the bus, 42% said not sure. 

Chairman Babur Lateef prefaced the meeting explaining how difficult a situation everyone is in, and assured parents PWCS wants the best for their families.

“I want you to know the school board is listening,”Lateef said. “We have heard all of you.”

He said the challenge they face is akin to rebuilding a building after an earthquake, knowing there will be aftershocks.

He said their priority is the safety of teachers, students and staff, but stakeholders need to keep in mind that, “we are still in an emergency.”

The article may be updated or more information provided in a subsequent article. 

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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