Rep. Bobby Scott holds virtual roundtable to discuss safely reopening schools


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Many schools have started the new year — some in person, but most online. Some colleges are even reworking plans after COVID-19 cases spiked on campus.

On Wednesday, Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) spoke with parents, teachers and health experts about how to return to school safely. The virtual roundtable discussion featured parents, students, school administrators, health experts and more.

Scott kicked the discussion off by saying federal funding is key for school districts to safely reopen, something that would be provided in the Heroes Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives, but is waiting for Senate approval.

“Unless the federal government takes action, it won’t be a question of whether these cuts to education occur, but how deep the cuts will be,” said Scott.

He says funding is needed to replace school ventilation systems, redo classrooms for social distancing, purchase personal protective equipment and more.

“Without federal funding, most school districts simply cannot afford to take the necessary health measures to mitigate these risks,” said Scott.

Matthew Jones is a student at Warwick High School in Newport News. He wants to see online learning for at least a full semester, but he acknowledges the challenges that come along with that.

“Without being in a classroom, I fear that many students will find it difficult to concentrate and even self-motivate themselves to pass,” said Jones. “I worry that these problems, combined with the stress of being in unfamiliar situations, could cause grades to plummet.”

A local parent shared her appreciation for the staff at her child’s school.

Nicole Ellis said, “As a parent, we applaud all of the work that’s going forth thus far with the phased approach, giving the parents options, understanding there won’t be a one-size-fits-all right now because everyone has very unique situations.”

A number of other leaders spoke, including the president of Virginia’s Parent Teacher Association, who said their mission is to ensure all children have access to education while maintaining the safety of teachers, staff, students and families.

“We see education as an overall ‘must’ provision for all of our students. They are our future,” said Donna Colombo, Virginia PTA president. “We definitely see that getting our children back in the schools is important, but we also understand the concerns of all of our families to make sure that our teachers and staff are healthy and stay healthy and all of our children and families are healthy also.”

You can read more about the Heroes Act here.

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