As COVID-19 cases climb, first-graders set to return to Prince William County classrooms Tuesday

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Approximately 3,000 first-graders in Prince William County are set to return to classrooms on a part-time basis starting tomorrow.

They will join kindergartners and pre-kindergartners who returned Nov. 10, despite an ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases. As of Monday morning, the school division’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 177 positive coronavirus cases among staff and/or students at county schools. Last month there were 84, and in September there were 50. There were 69 new cases the week of Nov. 15-21 alone, the dashboard shows.

Monday’s Centers for Disease Control metrics for Prince William County schools showed the division in the highest risk category for total number of new cases in a 14-day period at 507.0 and the highest risk category for percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive, at 10.8 percent.

At the Nov. 18, Prince William School Board meeting, schools Superintendent Steve Walts said he was not recommending any changes to the division’s staggered plan to bring students back into classrooms.

The school board meets again Wednesday, with an update from Walts on the pandemic and a presentation by elementary school administrators on logistics coupled with the virtual, hybrid, and in-person instructional practices.

The Prince William County Education Association, part of a national union representing teachers, has joined other Northern Virginia teachers’ associations in calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to order a statewide return to virtual-only learning.

Fairfax County schools earlier this month decided, one day before younger students were set to return, to delay its resumption of in-person classes for at least two weeks. Manassas Park schools have also decided to go virtual until at least January. Manassas city schools have not committed to a date to begin reopening for in-person learning.

Northam has said he doesn’t plan to impose any further restrictions on schools, saying “one size doesn’t fit all.”

Plans to return to Virginia High School League sports competitions are also underway, with plans for Prince William students and coaches to return for winter sports on Dec. 7 for basketball and cheerleading.

The school division says it is planning for other winter sports to start on Dec. 14.

Based on current local health metrics, Prince William schools will only have remote spectators for athletic competitions.

Following the return of first-graders this week, Walts said the plan continues for second- and third-graders to follow starting Jan. 12. Students who have chosen the hybrid option will attend two alternating days per week, with Mondays remaining all virtual.

Students in fourth through 12th grades will remain virtual through the second quarter, with a plan for fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth grades to start returning Jan. 26. Students in grades seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th, and 12th would begin returning Feb. 2.

Families can opt to continue remote learning for students.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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