RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam paid a visit to Louisa County High School Thursday, saying it’s a model for how the return to in-person learning can be done safely.
“We’re here to really promote our children being back in the classroom,” Northam said. “This is an example of how things can be in Virginia.”
The visit comes nearly one year since the governor first shut down schools across the Commonwealth.
Northam encouraged school districts to reopen by March 15 back in February. Some have critiqued this recommendation, saying it’s currently unenforceable. However, Northam thinks it’s getting the job done.
“When I made that announcement several weeks ago there were 40 school districts in Virginia that hadn’t made plans for in-person learning,” he said. “Now there is only one so I think we are moving in a good direction.”
Currently, Northam said Sussex is the only district that hasn’t made plans for in-person learning, as Richmond recently made plans to have 800 students return on April 12.
“I’m convinced if we continue to work with the districts they will be able to do this safely and responsibly,” Northam said.
The General Assembly recently passed a bill requiring schools to offer in-person learning by July 1. Some legislators want the governor to add an emergency clause so it will take effect as soon as he signs it. Northam said he is going to look at the bill and talk to legislators before he makes a decision on the emergency clause.
Northam’s visit to Louisa comes as governors in at least two states are lifting mask mandates. Northam said this is premature. In fact, he said it’s possible that face coverings will continue to be a staple for schools this coming fall.
“All options are on the table. I would love personally not to have to wear a mask but until we reach herd immunity, until those numbers are down in the community, we need to continue to follow the guidelines,” Northam said.
Northam also responded to concerns about high school sports being subject to the 250-spectator cap, which currently includes cheerleaders and band members, even as some outdoor sports venues are now allowed to hold up to 1,000 people in the stands.
“As a father of a daughter who was a cheerleader, I feel very strongly that they are not just spectators,” Northam said, adding that he would look at possibly changing the executive order.
The governor said that if the numbers continue to trend downwards, they will increase the number of individuals that can attend outdoor events.
“We want to do this safely and we have a plan … as soon as we can we want to get back to normal,” Northam said.