Newport News students to return to campus in January

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Public Schools students will be heading back to campus in January.

After another month of planning, the district released new details of its Return to Learn plan at the school board meeting Tuesday night.

Despite the delay, some educators said they still have concerns.

A small group of teachers rallied outside the administration building ahead of the meeting pushing for a cautious and safe return.

According to the plan, students will be be brought back in three phases.

Starting on Jan. 11, certain special needs students, certain English language learners and pre-k through grade two who chose in-person learning will go back to campus.

On Jan. 25, grades three through five will go back on a hybrid learning model. On Feb. 1, students in grades six through 12 will go back, also on a hybrid learning model.

When it comes to current COVID-19 metrics in the commonwealth, Superintendent Dr. George Parker doesn’t shy away.

“We’re creeping in the wrong direction,” he said.

Parker said that upward trend across the state, plus the approaching holidays are a couple of reasons why the district will hold off on bringing students back until after the new year.

“The governor put those restrictions in place for a purpose and hopefully we will see a trend moving our region in the appropriate direction,” he said.

Members and supporters of Newport News Educators United gathered outside the NNPS administration building, hoping to send a message.

“I have a master’s degree and 16 years of experience and I don’t feel like my voice is being heard,” said NNPS teacher and parent Cindy Connell.

Teachers went back to campus this week.

Parker said with several new cleaning and safety protocols in place, this will help teachers get acclimated to a new environment once students are back.

However, the group said there’s still a risk. 

“We’re experiencing something we’ve never experienced before and we can’t really compare this to any other year,” said Caroline McElhenny. “I would say again, it would be really nice to wait until we know there’s a vaccine, it does work.” 

Students and staff will have to complete a daily COVID-19 screening before coming to campus.

“When it comes to a positive reported case, every decision we make will be in collaboration with the health department,” Parker said.  

Parker said this timeline could change depending on the metrics so they’ll be closely watching them.

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