Virginia Department of Education releases new guidelines for social distancing as schools prepare for reopening

Education
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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Education has issued new school guidelines for social distancing as schools plan for reopening this fall amid the coronavirus outbreak.

New guidelines released by the Virginia Department of Education Monday show a more relaxed approach to reopening, while still maintaining proper social distance.

Officials are now recommending that schools maintain a minimum of 3 feet between people when they enter Phase 3 of reopening this fall, however, if the distance could not be met, they are encouraging face coverings to help reduce disease transmissions.

The 3 phases, outlined by Governor Ralph Northam earlier in June, showcase a hopeful approach that Virginia schools will reopen with in-person instruction in some capacity this fall.

Aligning with the state’s reopening plans, the school reopening guidelines are in phases that will give school divisions flexibility, and are recommendations, not mandates.

The 3 phases are as follows:

  • Phase One: Special education programs and child care for working families
  • Phase Two: Phase One plus preschool through third-grade students, English learners, and summer camps in school buildings
  • Phase Three: All students may receive in-person instruction as can be accommodated with strict social distancing measures in place, which may require alternative schedules that blend in-person and remote learning for students
  • Beyond Phase Three: Divisions will resume “new-normal” operations under future guidance

Most school divisions will start in Phase 2, which features mostly remote learning, with in-person classes for Pre-K through 3rd grade.

Divisions will have to submit plans before they advance to the next phase.

The department, citing the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, encourages in-person instruction for all students come Phase 3, however they say distancing measures should be implemented.

Remote learning and teleworking will be permitted for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness.

In cases where 3 to 6 feet of distance is not feasible such as school buses, officials are encouraging face coverings.

Large school gatherings are not encouraged with a limit of 250 people per gathering.

Both indoor and outdoor athletics are also allowed, but will be limited to 10 feet of physical distance. This applies to all instructors, participants, and spectators, with the exception of incidental contact or contact between members of the same household.

For the full set of guidelines, click here.


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