Portsmouth schools to stay 100% virtual until December break


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Portsmouth School Board has decided to keep its students in a 100-percent virtual learning environment until the December holiday break.

The decision was made during a board meeting Thursday night. The vote was unanimous.

The school board was presented a plan to provide pre-K through third-grade students with a hybrid learning model that would bring students and staff back into the classroom on Nov. 16, the start of the second nine weeks of school.

After a discussion, the board voted to delay the start until Jan. 4. Families can choose to remain virtual. At that time, fourth through 12th grades will remain virtual.

Members of the board, such as Costella Williams, said they didn’t want to bring children back when cold and flu season was starting. 

“I think we’re all apprehensive. We all have concerns. I do know that we will probably be the only school division in the area that is not bringing back pre-K through [third grade],” she said. 

Board members Cardell Patillo and LaKeesha “Klu” Atkinson also voiced their concerns about bringing students back and putting both children and teachers at risk.

All teachers, including those who would be assigned to either virtual learning or in-person learning, would all have to teach from their classrooms, according to the plan.

“I do have that same concern that we can’t allow those who have that fear [of contracting the coronavirus] to teach their classes from home if we’re giving that option to our students,” Atkinson said.

The board also stated it wanted the delay the return to in-person learning so they can get more feedback from teachers.

The district already sent out a survey to parents about the possibility of bringing students back.  About 3,100 responded with 55 percent wanting to continue with virtual learning only, according to the district.

Teachers have not been surveyed and the board made it clear they wanted to hear their opinions about proceeding with in-person learning.

Ted Lamb, a school board member and educator, expressed his concerns about virtual learning and knows others feel the same.

“In 24 years, I’ve probably worked the hardest I’ve ever worked with putting traditional measures in place of non-traditional measures,” he said. 

The board hopes the delay will give the district enough time to work out concerns they have with the hybrid model as well as give them ample time to figure out busing concerns, assigning teachers to virtual or in-person learning, and professional development.

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