VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There are just two weeks to go until the start of the new school year on Sept. 8.
The Virginia Beach School Board got the latest update on what that will look like at their meeting Tuesday night.
Students will start the semester virtually, but in-person learning could be in the near future.
Virginia’s eastern region metrics for percent positivity of coronavirus cases and the number of new cases are trending down.
The metrics fall into the “yellow” zone of the district’s reopening plan, meaning certain grades could begin the transition to campus.
If this trend continues, students in pre-K, elementary, and grades 6 and 9 could be back in the classroom as early as Sept. 22.
That’s two weeks after the start of the new school year.
Other grades would be gradually be phased in depending on the health data.
“We’re going to stay two weeks virtual, at a minimum, and then we’ll see how it goes with our metrics,” said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. “That’s a week-to-week assessment, but if our metrics tell us so, and we know we have confidence and we’ve done everything we can to prepare, we’re going to bring students back.”
Those metrics could change at any time but the district is busy prepping campuses. We’re told all signage is going up, desks are being spaced out and all sanitizers and disinfectants for schools have arrived.
The district is also looking at investing in outdoor WiFi service to allow students to learn in a more socially distant setting if teachers want to change up the learning day.
School officials said the latest student registration results show 53% of families chose in-person learning to begin the year, while 39% chose virtual learning. A small percentage of families haven’t been verified.
The district is eager to get students back in school when it’s safe, but that comes with challenges. School officials say they’re encountering scheduling conflicts.
“The difficulty of matching family choice for option 1 and option 2 set alongside teacher preference for option 1 and option 2,” said Dr. Donald Robertson, chief schools officer.
Teachers who chose to return virtually may still be placed on campus.
That’ll be determined based on certain criteria like medical needs as well as the needs of students and schools. Spence said his team is trying their best to keep students with their home-school teachers.
Teachers will get their school assignments on Thursday and student schedules will follow shortly after that.
Meanwhile, the district is investing in technology for that virtual return that allows teachers to monitor students’ activity on Chromebooks.
“The teachers will get a report that will say ‘This is how many students were present in your class, and these were the websites they went to’ and if there’s any chat or communication, there’s a record of that,” said Dr. Sharon Shewbridge, director of instructional technology. “Teachers can shut down a website for a student if they’re not in the right spot and teachers can also push websites for places that they want students to be specifically.”
The IT department is expanding its hours of operation to offer technical support to families and teachers.
Virginia Beach Schools is holding its next #VBSafeTogether session on Thursday, Aug. 27 from 6-7 p.m. It will be hosted by Mr. Jack Freeman and the focus of this session is being safe in and out of the classroom. This session will provide information about returning to school in a face-to-face setting once health metrics allow. Staff from transportation, food services, custodial services and facilities services will walk participants through some of the safety mitigation put in place. You can submit a question at this link: https://bit.ly/31thGv6
#VBSafeTogether is a 5-part informational series that began on Aug. 6 and continues through Sept. 6.
Thursday’s session will be conducted via Zoom.
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