‘Trying to hit a moving target’: Virginia Beach schools hoping to bring some students back to classrooms by Sept. 29

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools leadership is hoping to bring some students back into the classroom by Sept. 29, a week earlier than what they said they could do last week.

In a letter sent to the community Monday, the district explained they believe they have found a path to return to face-to-face instruction as long COVID- 19 cases numbers in the region remain steady or improve in the coming days.

Under the district’s approved plan, parents who chose to send students to face-to-face learning once health metrics reached and stayed within certain boundaries for a certain amount of time, could have expected students to start going back into buildings Sept. 22.

Since Sept 4., the eastern region of Virginia has seen COVID-19 metrics that place the school system in the “yellow: mild-moderate” phase. That phase means having two weeks of having a seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate between 5 and 10 percent and two weeks of 10-100/100,000 cases per week (26.5 to 264 cases per day.)

Under the “yellow mild-moderate” phase, students pre-K through sixth grade and ninth-graders would return.

However, last week, district leadership said they wouldn’t be ready until October.

“It has been a bit of a moving target because there are so many nuances with … we are trying to run two school systems, a virtual system and a face-to-face system,” said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. “Making sure we have enough staff to do both. That’s been more complicated, frankly, than we anticipated.”

However, Spence said it became quickly apparent how important it was to get younger students back in the classroom.

“We have heard from some of our parents about the concerns they have with their younger students in the virtual setting,” Spence said. “Very confident that the schedule we sent out today is the schedule that will work for us.”

The proposed schedule is listed below:

  • Sept. 22 – If cases improve, students in designated special education groups can return on this date
  • Sept. 29 – Pre-K, kindergarten, grades 1 and 2
  • Oct. 6 – Grades 3, 4 and 5
  • Oct. 8 – Grades 6 and 9 (to correspond with the beginning of second marking period)
  • TBD – Grades 7 and 8, 10 through 12

“If our plan is working and we are bringing kids back and things are going the way we anticipate they will with our health mitigations, we will talk with our school board and we may be able to bring (grades seven, eight and 10 through 12) back earlier than the first quarter,” Spence said.  

Tuesday through Friday will continue to be instructional days, with Mondays serving as an asynchronous learning time for students and as professional learning time with office hours for teachers. We will be sure to let you know of any changes to this plan.

Because select students will be reporting to the school building Sept. 22 and many educators serve as both virtual and in-person teachers, all high schools will revert to the 7:20 a.m. to 2 p.m. schedule for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. This allows officials to meet transportation needs across the division.

Officials also say there will be a slight change to the elementary schedule once they return to face-to-face instruction. 

Elementary A schools will begin at 8:20 a.m. and B schools will begin at 9 a.m.  This will help to accommodate elementary school transportation and cleaning schedules.

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