Like many Hampton Roads divisions, Portsmouth schools to begin fall with virtual learning


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Like many other school divisions in Hampton Roads, the Portsmouth School Board has decided to begin the fall semester virtually.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to begin the 2020-2021 school year online for at least the first nine weeks of school. After those nine weeks, the division will reassess school operations.

The item was on the agenda for discussion only Wednesday night, but board member Costella Williams motioned to vote during the meeting as well to give families more time to plan. The board approved the motion.

Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy is hopeful Hampton Roads will no longer be a coronavirus hot spot come November.

“This gives us more flexibility if we start off with the nine weeks,” he said.

Officials said this was the first choice for close to 70 percent of parents and staff who answered the division’s ongoing survey.

Accountability measures will be in place for students and teachers during the period of virtual learning. There will also be more support for parents from the schools.

“There will be parent training available and we will also have family and parent liaisons that will be assisting,” Bracy said.

All students will be issued a Chromebook or iPad. Portsmouth Public Schools is also looking into possibly using buses as mobile hot spots to assist students with internet access.

Students with special needs and English language learners will also have access to school buildings for in-person assistance and instruction.

Surveys will remain open for staff and families to complete through Aug. 3.

Here are the options families and staff have to choose from:

  • Option 1: Virtual for all
  • Option 2: Hybrid plan for all (two days in-person, three days virtual)
  • Option 3: Hybrid plan for elementary and middle schools, virtual for high schools
  • Option 4: Full in-school return

“Since Gov. Northam’s announcement in June that we would be reopening schools in September, our staff and administration has been working tirelessly to ensure we were prepared to open schools in the safest way possible for our staff, students and families,” said Dr. Elie Bracy, III, superintendent of Portsmouth Public Schools. “While we are saddened to not be in our buildings with our students at the beginning of the year, the Board’s decision tonight was the best one in consideration of the health and wellbeing for our entire community. We are ready to start the year in our online classrooms and provide the supports necessary for our students to excel in the 2020-2021 school year.”

More information, including guidelines for operating under a virtual schedule, will be shared directly with staff and families Aug. 3.

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