Portsmouth will return some students to in-person learning next month


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — After learning virtually for the entire school year thus far, some Portsmouth students will be returning to in-person learning starting next month.

The Portsmouth School Board met Thursday night to discuss the reopening of schools and voted 6-3 to bring some students back starting April 12.

Last week, the board met and reviewed a proposal that would bring some students back to campus starting in April.

On Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy provided a slightly altered approach to the plan.

Students in Portsmouth have been learning 100% remotely since the school year began last fall. Portsmouth schools have been cautious in making a move toward in-person learning.

Bracy says after hearing the board’s feedback last week, the revised plan will bring pre-k through sixth-grade students back to campus at the same time instead of multiple phases. It’ll also offer full instruction days instead of half days. However, middle school students will not be going back to the classroom as originally proposed.

Starting April 12, pre-K through sixth grade will return on a hybrid model of two full days of face-to-face learning and three days of virtual learning.

Special education students and English language learners will also return on April 12 for four full days a week. 

Grades seven to 12 will remain virtual for the remainder of the school year.

The original plan presented last week had middle school students returning on a hybrid model in late April. Bracy said the updated plan “definitely looks at reaching our most vulnerable learners and giving them the most in-person instructional time as possible.”

All staff will return to buildings March 29.

Bracy said Portsmouth Public Schools will continue to provide secondary students with rigorous and engaging online learning.

Families were surveyed regarding their preferred learning model — hybrid or all virtual — in a survey that closed Thursday. However, teachers and staff were not surveyed this time around.

“It seems like it would’ve been only fair to see how they felt about returning,” said board member Dr. Ingrid Whitaker.

Some board members wanted more assurance on potential operational issues before reopening, but others felt a vote couldn’t be put off any longer.

“Until we reach that point of returning back to school, we will never know and we can’t keep pushing this back. We have to make that tough decision as a board,” said board member LaKeesha “Klu” Atkinson.

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