2021 Back to School Guide: What Hampton Roads families need to know

Back to School

A breakdown of student start dates, changes this school year, and more

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – “Back-to-School” used to indicate a return to a routine, but not in the age of a pandemic. 

With COVID-19 cases rising, local public-school districts were forced once again to re-examine their plans for the new school year.  

Virginia COVID-19 Metrics | North Carolina COVID-19 Metrics

State law in Virginia requires all public schools to offer in-person instruction to students during the 2021-2022 school year “in accordance with recommended CDC mitigation strategies.”

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to adults and children 12 years and older, so many elementary age children are not eligible.

To help keep returning students and staff safe, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide mask mandate for all schools (public and private) on August 12. This applies to teachers, students and other staff, regardless of their vaccination status. 

This decision was in direct response to school boards that refused to issue mandates, including a couple in our region. 

10 On Your Side has compiled the following information and resources for school districts in the WAVY viewing area. ** Some school systems are still finalizing plans and this post will be updated as things change. 

Traditionally, the school year in Hampton Roads, Virginia has begun the day after Labor Day, but following legislation passed in 2019, that is no longer the case for all public school districts this year. The start dates are listed below.

Another change this school year impacts school vaccine requirements. This legislation was effective beginning July 1, 2021, and amends the minimum vaccination requirements for attendance at public elementary, middle, or secondary schools. Click here for information. 

VIRGINIA

ACCOMACK PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

First day of school for students: Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021  

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN/MASKS 

Prior to the August 12 mask mandate, Accomack schools announced it would follow the recommendations of the CDC on July 9 and the AAP on July 18 and require “universal masking,” meaning all students, teachers, staff, and others must wear face masks in schools, regardless of their vaccination status. 

Face masks will also be required on Accomack school buses. 

Extra cleaning and sanitization measures will be in place to mitigate COVID-19. The Eastern Shore Post reports that additional part-time custodians who were hired last year will continue to work this year. 

CHESAPEAKE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

First day of school for students: Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

Chesapeake Public Schools released the latest update to its 2021/22 return to school plan on August 9. 

All students will return full-time for in-person learning five days a week. 

In the spring, families were provided two virtual options (CVA or VVA), depending on grade level. VVA classes start on August 24. https://cpschools.com/strategic-planning/

MASKS 

The Chesapeake School Board had voted to make masks optional and said parents would need to fill out an exemption form if they did not want their student(s) to wear a mask, but in mid-August Governor Northam announced a mask mandate. Federal regulations require students and staff to wear a mask while riding a school bus. 

SPORTS 

For information on conditioning and season start dates, click here.  

GLOUCESTER 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 30, 2021 

Resources: 

BACK TO SCHOOL/MASKS 

Students will return in-person, five days a week, for the 2021-22 school yar. 

At its School Board Retreat on August 12, the Gloucester County School Board voted to cancel its meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 19 in response to the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Order issued by the State Health Commissioner, requiring all individuals aged two and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools. 

The school is providing a virtual learning option through Virtual Virginia.

HAMPTON CITY SCHOOLS 

First day of school for students:  Tuesday, September 7, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

During its May 19, 2021 school board meeting, Hampton City Schools (HCS) released its plans to open all schools in the fall of 2021 for in-person learning. The full presentation, which was updated in August, can be viewed here. 

HCS approved a 3-phase approach for its 2021-22 instruction plan. The school system has recommended starting with Phase 2. 

  • Phase 1: accounts for student learning in either an in-person or virtual learning environment based on student selection made in the spring. Masks optional for fully vaccinated students and staff. 
  • ** Phase 2 – accounts for student learning in either an in-person or virtual learning environment based on student selection made in the spring. Masks required for all students and staff for in-person learning. 
  • Phase 3 – school and/or community metrics dictate all teaching and learning is provided virtually as determined by CDC and VDH guidance. 

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY SCHOOLS 

First day of school for students: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

IWCS held an online meeting on May 6, 2021 to share information about the 2021-2022 Virtual School alternative option to in-person full week instruction. This year’s virtual learning option will look different and an application and a contract is required to participate in the Virtual School. Full details on Virtual School are available at this link.

NEWPORT NEWS 

First day of school for students: Wednesday, September 8, 2021 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

Newport News Public Schools is welcoming back all students for in-person instruction five days a week for the 2021-2022 school year.

NNPS encourages students and families to “Return to Learn” in person in the fall, but realizes the continued need for additional virtual learning options. All preschool students will be required to attend school in person.

NNPS encourages students and families to “Return to Learn” in person in the fall, but realizes the continued need for additional virtual learning options. All preschool students will be required to attend school in person. 

Remote Pandemic Learning will be offered as an option for K-12 students for the first semester.  

Rising 9th-12th grade students also have an opportunity to apply for the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) program coordinated through Point Option High School, which is a year-long commitment. 

NORFOLK 

First day of school for students: Wednesday, September 8, 2021 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

NPS announced during its May 5, 2021 school board meeting that it will return to in-person instruction five days per week for the 2021-2022 school year. 

The Virtual Scholars Academy (VSA) remains available for eligible students in grades 4-12. The VSA application period for the upcoming school year ended June 14, 2021.  

View the full return to learn plan.

The NPS School Board held a work session on Wednesday, August 18.

PORTSMOUTH 

First day of school for students: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, all PPS preK-12 students will return to in-person learning, five days a week, with pre-pandemic bell and bus schedules.  

Virtual instruction was made available for students in grades K-12. Parents wishing to have their students in virtual learning in the fall were required to complete an application by June 1. The “Virtual Virginia” program operates on a different school calendar from PPS. PPS will monitor students’ progress in Virtual Virginia. Students must maintain at least a C average while enrolled in Virtual Virginia. Any student who wants to return to in-person learning must do so at the end of a grading period (Nov. 9; Jan. 28; or April 5). Only one change will be allowed. 

PPS will follow all CDC and Health Department guidance regarding physical distancing and health mitigation strategies. 

Athletics/Extracurriculars 

Extracurricular activities and athletics will resume to pre-pandemic schedules and operations. Staff is working closely with VHSL and will provide any updates as they are needed. 

SUFFOLK 

First day of school for students: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL 

On the same day Gov. Northam said schools needed to follow CDC guidance for students and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, the school board held a scheduled meeting during which they discussed reopening plans.  

They adopted the recommended return-to-learn plan from administrators for all staff, students and visitors be required to wear masks in all SPS facilities. 

The plan also includes some other restrictions, including meal plans and social distancing requirements.

School Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon conducted a Facebook live to answer questions about the upcoming school year. There were hundreds in attendance. He appealed for everyone eligible to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

If you missed the Q&A you can view it here. 

The school district is returning to in-person learning 5 days per week. Virtual learning (SPS online) sign-up was opened in June. There is currently a waiting list.  

VIRGINIA BEACH 

First day of school for students: Thursday, September 9, 2021 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is welcoming back students to in-person instruction five days a week for the 2021-22 school year, but is also utilizing Virtual Virginia for families who want to take online courses. All students enrolled in Virtual Virginia courses remain affiliated with Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

All students and staff must wear a face covering in VBCPS buildings and while riding the school bus. 

The school district is encouraging those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get the shot(s). 

“All available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, including among children 12 years and older, for preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”

VBCPS

Complete details of the Virginia Instructional Return Plan are at this link.

The school division is also holding virtual webinars on back-to-school information for families on Aug. 26 and Sept. 2.

WILLIAMSBURG CITY SCHOOLS 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 30 

Resources:

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

WJCC Schools says it is committed to opening schools for in-person learning five days a week. To do that, all students and staff must wear a mask while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Masks may be temporarily removed while outdoors and while eating/drinking. There is a federal mandate requiring face masks on school buses. 

WJCC Schools encourages anyone eligible to get the COVID vaccine. 

Students showing signs of COVID will isolate in a supervised area until parents pick them up. Families should use the WJCC Schools Symptom Checker to monitor their child’s wellness. Anyone who is sick should stay home. 

YORK COUNTY 

First day of school for students – Friday, August 30, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

Virtual learning – Although full-time virtual students remain YCSD students, they participate fully in the VVA experience. This program, offered through the Virginia Department of Education, varies significantly from YCSD’s 2020-21 Virtual Academy. To ensure families are well informed prior to choosing this learning option, the division held scheduled several information sessions. 

MASKS 

The York County School Division said after consulting with the division’s legal counsel, it was advised that the Virginia Health Commissioner’s August 12 order requiring masks in schools supersedes any local action. 

The school board’s next meeting is Monday, August 23. 

NORTH CAROLINA

BERTIE 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

The “pathway to a safe and healthy return” this school year was discussed at the board meeting on August 10. The powerpoint presentation examined COVID-19 trends and included the number of Bertie County School employees, by school, who have received the vaccine. 

All staff and students are required to wear cloth face coverings, with a few medical exceptions. View the August 10 presentation here.

CAMDEN 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

Camden will require masks in schools, except for when 3 feet of distance can be maintained with others, starting September 7.

The Camden Board of Education meeting from Sept. 2 2021 can be viewed on their YouTube channel, at this link. 

CURRITUCK 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

As of August 30, Currituck County Schools is now requiring masks indoors for all students and staff, after originally making them optional.

Students and staff will have to wear masks indoors and on school buses, but masks are not required outdoors when social distancing can be maintained.

Any student or staff member with a fever or symptoms connected to COVID-19 will be isolated in a
designated space on campus until they can leave. Students must wear a mask and be supervised while in
isolation. NCDHHS isolation and quarantine protocols will be followed in regards to the student returning to school.

DARE COUNTY 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021.

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

The Dare County Board of Education called a special meeting on August 5 to consider operational procedures for opening the 2021 school year based on updated guidance in the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit for K-12 public schools. During that meeting they decided to make face coverings for students and staff optional.

But in a Sept. 1 specially called meeting, the Dare County school board reversed that optional mask policy in a unanimous decision. This decision came after board members received letters from NC Gov. Roy Cooper and various healthcare leaders asking them to re-evaluate their COVID-19 protocols for the new school year.

Superintendent John Farrelly explained that 98% of classes in Dare County schools are unable to social distance.

The Board also voted to allow a virtual learning change of status up to Monday, September 6 at 5 p.m. The change status will remain for the entire first semester. The board said an email will be sent to all parents/guardians on Sept. 2. The email will include a link where you can go into PowerSchool and either (A.) Request that your student comes out of virtual or (B.) Goes into the virtual program.

Here are some additional bullet points of the approved decisions for this school year: 

  • The school district will not adopt vaccination-promoting strategies that are in the NCDHHS toolkit.  
  • The school district will not monitor/deploy the daily health screening attestation (text) system that was in place last school year. 
  • The school system will maintain temperature check stations at all school entrances and monitor temperature checks of students, staff, and visitors entering the building. 
  • Social distancing on school buses will not be enforced.  All students who ride school buses must wear a cloth face covering. 
  • The school district will not adopt on-site COVID-19 testing strategies and programs that are in the NCDHHS toolkit. 
  • The school district will not collect staff and student vaccination data. 

EDENTON-CHOWAN 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

Students will be required to wear a face mask this school year indoors at all schools, effective Sept. 1.

Students, by federal law, are required to wear masks on yellow buses and activity buses.

Anyone within 6 feet for greater than 15 minutes to a positive COVID-19 case is considered a close contact and will be quarantined as required by the Albemarle Regional Health Services Health Director and NC Department of Health and Human Services. All positive cases must be quarantined for 10 days. Students who are unable to attend in-person instruction due to the need to quarantine will be offered remote learning opportunities (through SeeSaw or Google Classroom) and given up to 5 days to make up missed assignments.

GATES COUNTY

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021  

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN  

Staff and students at Gates County Schools can expect to return to the classroom full-time and wear masks in most situations during the 2021-2022 school year, including in class and on the school bus. Masks will not be required during outside events, like PE and recess. 

HERTFORD 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

ELIZABETH CITY-PASQUOTANK COUNTY 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

ECPPS is welcoming students and staff back in-person for the 2021-2022 school year.  But due to the rapid rise in positive coronavirus cases, the school district provided an updated virtual learning option on Monday, August 16 for students considered high risk for COVID or who live with someone considered high risk for COVID for medical reasons.

On Sept. 23, The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education held an emergency meeting to discuss extending the district’s virtual plan. At the meeting, the superintendent recommended to not offer extended virtual learning and the board unanimously approved.

The explanation and criteria for virtual learning can be found at this link.

PERQUIMANS COUNTY 

First day of school for students: Monday, August 23, 2021 

Resources: 

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN 

A link to the 2021-2022 COVID School Mitigation Plan is posted on the school system’s website. Click here. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 31, the Board of Education held a special meeting where members voted to require universal mask-wearing inside school facilities. All students, staff and guests must wear masks indoors. The decision will be reviewed at the end of each month.


Related Links:

VDOE school reopening FAQs

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