Local leaders respond to school closures for the rest of the academic year due to COVID-19


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — In an unprecedented move, Gov. Ralph Northam closed Virginia’s schools for the remainder of the academic year in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement that schools will not reopen came on March 23. The Virginia Department of Education has applied for a waiver to excuse students from federally-mandated Standards of Learning tests. Local school administrations have organized to keep children educated and taken care of, by providing online curriculum and free lunches to students who need them.

“School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID19 spreads and protect the capacity of our healthcare system,” Northam said.

Hampton Roads’ school administrations began reacting to Northam’s announcement about school closures by sending out communications to parents who are unsure of what the next move for educating their children is.


Chesapeake Pubic Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton communicated with parents via email on March 23. Cotton said that CPS will look to the Virginia Department of Education to provide guidance on how schools and families should move forward with public education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know you have many questions and we will continue to address them as quickly as we can.  The Virginia Department of Education will provide guidance in the coming days as we all work to address this unprecedented situation,” Cotton wrote in the email.

On their site, Chesapeake Public Schools officials say they are “committed to providing engaging learning experiences for students during a district closing” as they discussed the emergency academic plans.


Hampton City Schools officials are waiting on guidance from the Virginia Department of Education on how they should continue to operate during state-wide closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. They expect the VDOE will offer guidance on continued learning, graduation requirements, and issuing verified education credits in the wake of the crisis on March 24.

HCS officials ask families to continue using the division’s alternative learning plans website to keep their children engaged with education while the schools are closed. Other HCS resources will be launched in the coming days, and the administration will continue to provide food for students in need at seven designated sites.

“We thank you for your understanding and support as we work through what has become a ‘new norm’ for the remainder of the school year,” HCS officials said in an online statement.

On their site, officials answered frequently asked questions including spring break, alternative learning plans, grades, AP exams and other pertinent information.


Isle of Wight County Schools officials also sent out communications about the school closures on March 23. Officials said that IWCS Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton will provide more information about ongoing education efforts to families on March 25. That coming communication will address graduation requirements, GPA, grades, and the continuity of education for students.

“We will continue with our meal distribution plan for the remainder of the school year. We realize these are trying times for everyone, and we understand you have many questions. IWCS is working tirelessly to provide answers for you and we will share that information with you through our usual channels,” school officials wrote in an email.

IWCS told parents on March 25 that they will try to hold a graduation ceremony and prom after the social distancing guidelines have become relaxed. The final average of graduating seniors will be based on assignments fulfilled before March 13, so students need to turn in outstanding assignments to be figured into their semester average. Those who want to improve their average can do additional work during the school shutdown, but no students will be punished for work assigned after March 13.

Counselors will call seniors to make them aware of their graduation status based on guidance provided by VDOE.

Beginning Monday, March 30, Isle of Wight County Schools will be delivering meals to students in Red Oaks Mobile Home Community. An IWCS bus and volunteers will distribute meals on site from 11:30 to 12:30 Monday through Friday.

Read more on Isle of Wight Schools’ site.


The Superintendent of Newport News Public Schools provided an update on Saturday, March 28 with the academic plan for the remainder of the school year.

His email to families touched on everything from student grades and testing, graduation requirements, medication pick up, meal service and school office hours.

You can read Dr. George Parker’s full message at this link on the Newport News Public Schools site.

NNPS has created a robust education plan for the coronavirus closures, which can be read in its entirety here. The plan includes lessons for preschool and elementary school students for the next 10 days.

Middle and high school teachers will continue to provide online instruction.


Norfolk Public Schools ‘Superintendent Dr. Sharon I. Byrdsong offered a comment online about the March 23 announcement that Virginia’s schools will be closed until the end of the academic year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Our students, families, staff, and community are all in this together as we deal with an unprecedented situation,” Byrdson said in her statement. “Norfolk Public Schools will ensure that students will continue to learn, and families and staff will continue to be provided with critical answers to the important questions on their minds.”

NPS leaders will focus on graduations, standard credits, grades, and the continuity of learning in their upcoming plans, Brydsong said in her statement.

NPS will offer office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Parents must make an appointment with their school principal to enroll new students, pick up learning packets, and gather medications and student belongings.

Teachers will hold virtual hours Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to speak with parents and students about learning activities.

NPS’ “Learning in Place” plans are available online and in paper form at food distribution sites. The school system is working to develop the next phase of lessons for the weeks of April 6 to April 24. These updated plans will be available by April 6.

Parents are encouraged to help their students complete the “Learning in Place” plans to keep continue education. When schools reopen, teachers will structure their lesson plans based on the belief that most students completed the “Learning in Place” plans. Their will be some review of past material.

Students with disabilities will also be offered “Learning in Place” plans. Case managers and service providers will contact parents to discuss these children’s needs and develop a temporary learning plan.

Student with disabilities will be provided with learning opportunities in the same manner as general education students through the Learning in Place Plan and with the introduction of new instruction.

NPS is also working on summer school plans. Details will be made public when they are finalized.

School officials have also provided a coronavirus communication update newsletter insuring parents, students, and staff are up to date with the latest info regarding COVID-19.

Read more about Norfolk Public School’s academic plan on the school department’s site.


Letter from Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy III:

“As you may have seen, today Gov. Northam has closed all Virginia schools through the end of the school year. While our school buildings will be closed, we will continue to provide services for our students.

For one, since last week’s closures, we have provided more than 10,000 meals to children in our city. Please know we are continuing our feeding program while we are closed. Breakfasts and lunches can still be picked up 10 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, at I.C. Norcom High, Wilson High and Churchland Middle School. As a reminder, children do need to be present to collect their meals. In addition, the city will distribute free lunch and dinners available from 12-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. at the following locations – Social Services Building (1701 High Street), Neighborhood Facility Recreation Center (900 Elm Ave.), Cavalier Manor Recreation Center (404 Viking Street), and J.E. Parker Recreation Center (2430 Turnpike Road).

Instructionally, we will continue to provide learning opportunities for our students. Throughout this week, we will be receiving information from the Virginia Department of Education regarding their requirements for the rest of the year. We will provide you more information once we receive this guidance. However, learning opportunities will continue to be provided both digitally as well as hard copies (for families who need that as a resource).

As this is a fluid situation, there are dozens of decisions still to be made regarding the end of this year. We ask for your patience and your flexibility during this time, and please know that we will communicate with you as soon as we have information to share.

Finally, on behalf of our staff and teachers, let me say we are saddened to end our year together this way. We will miss seeing our students for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year. We are hopeful, though, that we will continue to make the best of the time that we will share in this new normal.

As always, I thank you for your continued support of Portsmouth Public Schools.”

PPS will be delivering monthly instructional guides to families during the coronavirus school closures. These will include activities and lessons geared toward each grade level. High school students are receiving instruction online, which is being updated frequently. The next set of lessons will be available on April 1.

Students who don’t have internet access can get printed copies of the academic guides at all of PPS’ feeding sites beginning on April 6.

Read more about the it on the Norfolk Public Schools site.


Suffolk Public Schools have announced that officials are waiting on guidance from the Virginia Department of Education on how to continue learning while schools are shut down due to COVID-19. They anticipate VDOE to release that guidance on March 24. After that, SPS will release an updated plan for continuity of learning, meal distribution, and division operations.

SPS will release additional details about the school closure on March 27. These details will include how to handle students cleaning out their lockers and returning school equipment like uniforms, Chromebooks, and library books.

Read more about it on the Suffolk Public School’s site.


To keep parents informed, Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence has created a video series called “Deskside Chats” that will air online on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In those videos, Spence will answer questions and provide updates. Parents can submit their questions here.

All formal dances this spring have been canceled for Virginia Beach students, including ring dances and prom due to Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order.

Another message from Spence on Thursday gave details about graduation.

“As mentioned previously, we remain fully committed to honoring the hard work of our graduating seniors with a ceremony, and our team is looking at several options to do this in both a memorable and safe way – virtually and/or in-person. Our current thinking has us exploring possibilities for ceremonies later in the summer months. Though nothing is official, as the planning pieces come into sharper focus, we will ask the community for feedback on the possible options,” the message read.

The fourth quarter will begin on April 27. Beginning April 6, teachers will participate in professional development on Mondays. Students will have access to their teachers Tuesday through Friday, and that schedule will be in place the remainder of the school year.

All students need to continue to complete and submit coursework to be able to move to the next grade level or earn high school credits. Third quarter grades will be calculated based on their grades as of March 13. Those who need to improve their grade average can do so by completed missed assignments. The schools are still trying to determine how they will grade fourth quarter work.

The continuity of learning plan will be in effect until April 24. The plan will transition to a virtual learning model starting on April 27. Spence said schools have been given clear guidance from the VDOE that they must continue instruction and students must still how mastery of learning standards in order to advance to the next grad level.

Virginia Virginia online students should follow directions given by their teachers. Advanced placement students will be able to take their exams at home. IB exams have been canceled. Students who are dual enrolled at TCC will continue to have graded assignments from their college instructors.

Seniors who were on track to graduate as of March 13 will be able to do so. The schools will be flexible with seniors and work with them on graduation requirements during the school closure.

Students who are having issues with school-assigned Chromebooks can exchange them for a similar device at the school system’s food distribution sites. The school will also help students who are having trouble with their Chromebooks or need options for internet connectivity. If you need this help, call the Department of Technology Help Desk at (757) 263-1111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays or fill out an online form.

Parents who need to enroll their students for the next school year should also call (757) 263-1111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. This phone number won’t be answered during spring break.

School buildings will remain closed to the public; however, school buildings will be open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for essential school operations. Parents who need to pick up personal belongings or complete enrollments and withdraws for their students must make an appointment before coming to a Virginia Beach school. They can make an appointment by emailing their school’s principal.

Parents needing to pick up their student’s medication may do son Tuesdays or Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. A photo ID will be required and children are not allowed on any school campuses.

Check back at wavy.com for updates.

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