The Virginia Department of Health, along with the Department of Education, has released an updated interim guidance for schools navigating when to bring students back to in-person classes.
It asks Virginia school districts to consider community needs, COVID-19 data, and understand socioeconomic factors, literacy barriers and other educational needs when making plans to bring students back in person.
The guide encourages prioritizing younger learners, students with disabilities and English-language learners.
It also urges prioritizing learning over activities. When it comes to adding extracurricular activities, including sports, the guide states that school districts should only move forward once all students have been given an opportunity for in-person instruction.
“Establish reasonably safe in-person educational environments and then think through including extracurriculars and athletics,” the guide states.
Additionally, the guide suggests planning in-person learning for two- to four-week blocks instead of for long periods of time, since the COVID-19 metrics can change at any time.
The guide reads that schools may choose to take a more or less restrictive approach to reopening than what state officials suggests, but regardless of what they decide, it says schools should maintain remote learning options for staff and students who need it.
When it comes to mitigation efforts for coronavirus protections in schools, the guide says that every district should use social distancing, required face masks for everyone in the building for those over 5 years old, hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting, and contact tracing.
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