Norfolk Academy continues phased approach to fight COVID-19 while getting students back in class


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Public schools start class Tuesday and almost all the education will be remote learning, but private schools are taking a different approach with in-class education — and one of those schools is Norfolk Academy. 

You won’t get very far onto the Norfolk Academy campus. You’ll get about as far as the guard gate, and then you are stopped.  

“I’m sorry to tell you, you’re not welcome on our campus,” longtime Headmaster Dennis Manning says with a good-natured laugh. Parents of students can only drop off and pick up their children and are not allowed in the school.

What Norfolk Academy has done is create a ‘COVID-19 free’ protective bubble.  

“The mission from day one has always been the health and safety of 1,200 children and 200 plus employees,” Manning says. 

Dedicated to carrying out that mission, the academy hired Mako Medical to provide COVID-19 testing to all students and personnel.   

On Friday, Mako tested fourth through sixth-graders and all those who are COVID-19 negative can return to school Tuesday. 

They will join the first through third grade students who returned Monday.

Of those 494 students, faculty, and staff tested, only one student tested positive which is about 0.20%.   

Manning adds, “We will just keep moving forward and phasing in students as we’ve done our testing.” 

Seventh through ninth grade students will be tested Friday, September 11 with COVID-19 negative students returning September 14.  

Finally, high schoolers grades 10 through 12 will be tested September 18, and those testing negative can return on Monday, September 21.  

Everyone else, including those who do not want to return to school, will have the option of virtual remote learning.   

One of Norfolk Academy’s main medical consultants is the head of infectious disease at Johns Hopkins University. 

With that, one of the academy’s attack plans includes thermometers. There are five thermal temperature scanners that are on the ground and mounted on the ceiling. As students walk by or under the scanner, temperatures are recorded and nurses flag any temperature at or above 100.4 degrees.

Additionally, most classrooms have medical-grade air filtration purifiers designed to remove 99.9% of all particles.

“We have marshaled every resource available to us. It has required everyone to put his or her shoulder into this,” Manning adds. 

At Norfolk Academy, social distancing and masks are mandatory, as well as hand washing and sanitizing.

There are signs everywhere reminding students to be COVID-19 smart. The signs read, “Be Bulldog smart, stay 6 feet apart.” 

Athletic events are 6 feet apart too. Tents are set up with big spaces like gyms used for all school activities including educational instruction.

Students are also allowed to eat lunch outside.

“Things shift and change it seems daily, weekly, and it’s a dynamic operating condition,” Manning continued.  

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