PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth public school students will continue to learn virtually for the foreseeable future.

Students will not physically return to class until COVID-19 positivity rates “drop dramatically,” the division announced Thursday following a unanimous vote by the school board.

Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, Portsmouth schools have been cautious in returning students to in-person learning.

In November, the Portsmouth School Board decided to start returning students to in-person learning beginning Jan. 4, right after winter break. However, about two weeks later, the division changed its course, instead electing to keep students remote until February.

At that time, the plan was to start bringing back students in a phased plan starting Feb. 2.

In mid-December, Portsmouth Public Schools also canceled all athletic practices through winter break in response to a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The current COVID-19 positivity rate in Portsmouth is above 18%, school officials said.

The rate will need to remain below the 10% mark for 10 days before the school board will schedule a reopening plan.

“With this decision, staff members will continue to be able to telework when possible and not have to report in-person beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19 as was previously scheduled. In addition, meal distribution will continue to be provided for families during this extended virtual schedule,” a division spokeswoman said.

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