Gov. Northam floats possibility of year-round school, concerning tourism industry


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — While Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is “entertaining” the idea of having year-round classes in schools, to help students make up all the learning time lost due to COVID-19, those who make a living on summer tourism want to make sure there’s room to make up money lost because of the same reason.

Northam (D-Va.) made the announcement in his press conference Wednesday when highlighting the importance of teachers receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

“Our children have suffered from COVID-19, as has our families,” Northam said. “One of the things we are entertaining is perhaps year-round schooling for the next year. Perhaps adding increased days this summer. To really help our kids get caught up.”

In some school systems across the state, classes have only been taught virtually since March. While some parents say their students have adjusted well, others have not.

“We want to get our children back in school, we want to do it safely and responsibly and I’ll have more to say [soon],” Northam said, adding that the state Department of Education is working on the proposal.

The problem for Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, is he has heard nothing about the hospitality industry being apart of the discussions.

“We were very surprised by the governors comments at the press conference,” Terry said. “Obviously it would have a big impact on the tourism industry in the state … we hadn’t been consulted and had any discussion on that.”

Nearly a third of those laid off during the pandemic worked in the tourism and hospitality industry, according to the U.S. Travel Association. While the state fared better than some others in 2020, Terry said the industry needs a strong 2021.

“The tourism industry is reeling right now,” Terry said. “We’ve had a terrible 10 months, so anything that would further deteriorate those numbers, were very concerned.”

Not only do beach resort locations like Virginia Beach rely on families traveling in the summer to make money, but they depend on students to fill the summertime jobs.

For decades fought effort to start schools before Labor Day.

Terry said he has contact the Virginia Department of Education to ask for a seat at the table during the discussions.

The governors office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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