RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Department of Education Superintendent Dr. James Lane gave new guidance for schools as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact learning in Virginia. The new advice and priorities were released during a conference call on Thursday.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also held a press conference where Lane spoke about plans for schools moving forward.
Lane says the decision to resume face-to-face classes will be left up to each individual school board. He recommends as school boards make these decisions that they don’t limit themselves to entire semester decisions and instead update plans incrementally based on community spread.
He says schools do not have to wait for vaccinations to be complete before reopening.
Regardless of what school boards decide, Lane says masks, cleaning and contact tracing will still be required. Mask usage is recommended at all times in the building except for when people are eating.
He says even in areas with moderate levels of community transmission schools have been able to open safely. However, if there is an outbreak, schools should consider closing.
After almost a year of shifting school environments and online learning for most students there is a fear that students have fallen behind. Especially after schools had to quickly shift to a fully virtual approach with no plan in place during the spring.
Conversations are being had about having schools switch to a year-round approach, extending school years into the summer or offering more schooling specifically for students struggling with their grades.
Lane says a mandate requiring year-round schooling is unlikely but some schools who have not transitioned back into in-person learning should consider the schedule change.
The superintendent also gave updates on expanded school funding. Virginia recently received a second round of CARES Act funding to use for education. The grant is $903 million and 90% of it will be given directly to school districts. Each district has been made aware of how much they will receive. Lane says Richmond got around $54 million.
There is also funding available for schools through a state grant program for extended learning that renews every year. Some of the CARES Act money may be added to that grant.
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