A Prince William County, Virginia, public school student and a family member, as well as a school staff member, are among the county’s latest residents to test positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a letter sent to parents and teachers on Sunday, school system superintendent Steven Walts named Benton Middle School, Bennett Elementary School and Pennington Traditional Schools as specific schools affected by the new cases.
The Prince William Health District advised school officials that the risk to others remains low.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will provide an update on Virginia school closures at 2 p.m. on Monday. As it stands, Prince William County Public Schools are closed until April 14.
As of Sunday morning, Prince William County had recorded 18 confirmed cases of the disease. Virginia reported 219 cases in total, the majority being in James City, Fairfax and Arlington counties.
Read the full letter below:
March 22, 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff, and Students,
I want to thank all of our students, families, and staff as we deal with this incredibly difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 virus. Please know that many PWCS staff members are working around the clock every day to help adjust our operations to these new realities, with student’s health and well-being as our top priority.
We have learned from a PWCS family that members of their family have been diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition, we have learned of a staff member who has developed symptoms of COVID-19. Earlier today, we communicated directly to those specific school communities affected, which included Benton Middle School, Pennington Traditional School, and Bennett Elementary School.
The Prince William Health District advised the Division that the risk to others is low, and for that reason, to our knowledge, they have not contacted any PWCS families. Nevertheless, PWCS wants to provide the school community with all information known to the Division which might enable parents to best protect their children during this unpredictable time, and we have provided notifications even when the Health Department does not.
The Governor’s office announced today that they will provide an update on Virginia school closures at a 2 p.m. news conference tomorrow, Monday, March 23. The Governor also announced today the COVID-19 crisis in Virginia will stretch out for several months. However, we have no additional information or details about the pending announcement at this time. We know that students, families, and staff have many questions, especially students in the class of 2020.
I assure you that as we receive new information and guidance on a nearly daily basis from local, state, and federal officials, PWCS staff are working as rapidly as possible to interpret it and determine if, and how, to adjust PWCS operations. This includes delivering instruction to students and meeting graduation requirements. As we all adjust to these new realities, I know that PWCS staff members will work hard over the next few weeks to adapt our instructional practices as best we can.
We provided optional learning materials for families to access, and we encourage you to take advantage as you see fit. However, we ask you continue to place health, both physical and mental, as the top priority. If any student is in need of emotional support during this stressful time, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive virtual support.
If you or a member of your family have concerns that you may have COVID-19, we recommend contacting your health provider or visiting the CDC website.
I want to personally thank those staff who are working hard to distribute food to our students and families, and those working hard to help our students and families adjust to this difficult situation. Also, thank you to all our families and students for your support and flexibility as we work to answer your questions and support your needs.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” I too hold this hope and I know that while we may need to be apart physically, I know that we are together in spirit.
Steven L. Walts
Superintendent of Schools
Prince William County Public Schools