Virginia Beach students going back to school with masks and social distancing — and hoping it’s for good

Back to School

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It was back to school day Tuesday at W.T. Cooke Elementary School in Virginia Beach.  Students pre-K through second-grade returned to the school prepared to take up face-to-face education in the age of COVID-19. 

The children were greeted with signs that read, “facemasks required, please keep 6 ft. safe distance” 

Dr. Aaron Spence is superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools and had some reassurances for the community.

“You will see Plexiglas barriers up at tables. We have children at least 3 feet apart, kids are wearing masks. That’s one of the big concerns over the summer: Do you really think kids will wear masks? I can tell you unequivocally walking through these buildings, children are wearing their masks.” 

Across the city, about 9,200 pre-K through second graders are coming back. They are not tested for COVID-19 at school, but parents are sent a self-screening tool to aid in monitoring their own children at home. 

If there is a positive case at school, the Virginia Department of Health will be contacted.  

“They do their contact tracing to determine who is low-risk, and who is high-risk in terms of exposure. Those individuals are contacted if any type of self-quarantine needs to happen, and is directed by the Virginia Department of Health,” Spence said. 

“It’s the day we’ve been waiting for since March,” says Cooke Elementary Principal Casey Conger.  She exudes happiness as the students return.  

“We sent them home in March. No one knew it would be this long not to have them here.” 

It’s been that long, and for the 65,153 Virginia Beach students, it’s estimated about 40 percent will not be returning.  

These are the numbers provided by Virginia Beach City Public Schools of students who chose Option 1, or those returning for in-person instruction.  

Numbers for Option 1 (in-person) instruction: 

  • 3rd grade: 2,819 
  • 4th grade: 2,838 
  • 5th grade: 2,912 
  • 6th grade: 2,916 
  • 7th grade: 2,880 
  • 8th grade: 2,822 
  • 9th grade: 3,290 
  • 10th grade: 3,107 
  • 11th grade: 3,033 
  • 12th grade: 3,086 

 Students by grade returning to school:

  • Sept. 29 – pre-K, Kindergarten, grades 1 and 2 
  • Oct. 6 – grades 3, 4 and 5 
  • Oct. 8 – grades 6 and 9 (to correspond with the beginning of second marking period) 
  • TBD – grades 7 and 8, 10 through 12 

Thousands are not coming back, afraid of getting COVID-19, and remaining at home to continue online learning. 

“Many are not coming back… Some may have a pre-existing health condition. They are concerned about that, or they’re thriving in the virtual learning environment, and you have some parents who say you know ‘virtual learning is working great for my kid. I think I’m just going to stick with that for now,’” Spence said. 

It is also “wait and see” for grades seven and eight, as well as 10th through 12th graders, to see how the return goes for the other grades. That will determine how those students will be brought back to face-to-face learning.  

Over in Chesapeake, 10 On Your Side received some pictures of pre-K and Kindergarten students who went back last week, and first, second and third graders who started going back Monday.

According to the city, on Oct. 12, fourth, fifth and sixth-graders will return to school on a blended schedule where they will not be in class each day.

On Oct. 26, seventh-graders will return on a blended schedule. On Nov. 9, ninth-graders will return on a blended schedule. On Nov. 12, eighth-graders will return on a blended schedule. On Nov. 16, 10th through 12th-graders will return on that same blended schedule.


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