Portsmouth Public Schools proposes bringing some students back to campus in April


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth Public Schools students have been learning virtually for almost a year now, but that could change come April.

The school board held a special meeting Thursday to once again discuss a return to in-person learning.

Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy unveiled a plan to bring pre-K through middle school students back to campus in three phases. However, high school students wouldn’t be coming back at all for the remainder of the year under the plan.

Under the proposal, all K-12 special education and English language learners would head back to the classroom starting April 12, for four days of face-to-face instruction.

On April 19, students in pre-K through third grade would return on a two-day, in-person hybrid model.

Students in grades four to eight would be welcomed back on April 26, also on a two-day in-person hybrid model.

So why are high schoolers the only group to stay virtual?

“In elementary and middle school, we are working it out so that the teachers will move and we won’t have much movement with students. That would be very difficult to manage in high school,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Anita Wynn. “High school students would have to rotate from one class to another and for health reasons and safety reasons, it would not be recommended to have that amount of activity in our high schools.”

Students and staff will be required to wear masks in class and on buses.

Mitigation measures like sneeze guards for students’ desks, air-filtering systems, electrostatic sprayers and disinfecting teams are in place.

“We feel really good about where we are and being ready to go,” said Dr. Jerry Simmons, director of auxiliary services.

Bracy said classrooms will be socially distanced, averaging eight to 12 students depending on the size.

“We have a diagram for each school and each classroom,” he said.

Some board members still seemed hesitant to move forward with Gov. Ralph Northam’s request to offer in-person learning by March 15, given the city’s high percent positivity rate.

“With all due respect, if we’re not at a good place, I could care less,” said board member Tamara Shewmake. “I understand the need for in-person learning. I just want to see where we are as a board. Are we still looking at the metrics?”

The board will vote on this plan next week.

Portsmouth Public Schools has also sent out a survey for families with child in grades pre-K through eight to identify which educational option they want their child in when schools reopen for in-person learning.

The deadline for that survey is Thursday, March 4.

View that survey here.

Stay with WAVY.com for updates. We’ll let you know what happens.

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