VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach City Public Schools board voted to “stay the course” with its reopening plan amid rising Coronavirus cases.
The decision means the VBCPS district will district will not make any changes to the current reopening plan. School officials will continue to use the red, yellow, green zone model for determining when to close and open campuses.
The vote came after board member Victoria Manning proposed a motion to remove the current metrics that determine when schools should open and close during the pandemic.
Her motion also proposed to return Option 1 students back to class on Dec. 7. In addition, it would’ve given Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence the authority to close individual campuses if an outbreak occurred versus shutting down the entire district.
Meanwhile, students with disabilities returned to in-person learning Tuesday.
Dr. Spence said this is the same group of special education students who received face-to-face instruction over the summer.
Last month, the district moved learning online for all students, in response to coronavirus metrics.
Manning posted a letter online, that she sent to other members and the superintendent.
She asked for the board to vote at its meeting Tuesday night to reopen schools for in-person learning.
In the letter, Manning believes school is the safest place for children to be. “Our community is suffering. Our students with special needs are suffering. Parents have to choose between staying home with their children or going to work to be able to pay the bills.”
Manning explained learning gaps with online classes are creating even more problems, some call it the “COVID slide.” Manning hoped to change the criteria for school closings. In November, Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said transmission is not happening within schools.
Her letter ends with: “Please consider the long- term effects of these school closure decisions on our children and community. Our sister city Chesapeake is keeping their students in school and I believe we can do the same.”
More than 50 people signed up to speak to the board about the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting.
For about three hours, parents, teachers and others in the community addressed the board, hoping to sway members.
“Why do we have to beg you not to fly too close to the sun and instead take a safer path?” one man questioned.
Some speakers pressed to keep school virtual until at least January, arguing safety after the holidays.
However, many others felt differently.
“We cannot lock our children down because of politics and fear and because of the metrics that we may have set in place earlier this year,” said one woman. “I think we need to look at new information and make new decisions.”
Board member Beverly Anderson said she understands the “COVID fatigue,” but she also said the district can’t afford to roll the dice and see what happens.
“Everybody’s tired of the virus. Society is tired about hearing of the virus, but we really, really need to take into consideration the odds and the safety concerns of everyone – students, teachers and staff,” Anderson said.
Manning also voiced concern for the employees and the community, but she said her push to reopen campuses is critical too.
“You said you don’t want one person to die, I don’t want one person to die either. I look at it that people can die if we don’t get kids back in school. The anxiety and depression are real,” Manning said.
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