Prince William Co. on track to get kids in classrooms within a month

Students in Prince William County, Virginia’s second-largest school district, are on-track to return students to in-person learning in all grades, by March 3.

Unlike most Northern Virginia counties that implemented 100% distance learning after a December 2020 jump in positive coronavirus cases, Prince William County began a phased return to school plan in November.

In a Wednesday meeting of the Prince William County School Board, Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef,  Superintendent Steve Walts and other staff members provided updates on coronavirus cases and vaccinations, ahead of the board’s planned Feb. 17 vote on whether to move forward with plans that would enable students in all grades to be back in school two days per week, on March 3.

As the number of positive coronavirus cases in the community continues to drop, the number of in-person students being treated as positive is 91, while the number of distance-learners being treated as positive is 225.

According to figures presented, there has been no major spread within school buildings or the school system. Two schools, Charles J. Colgan Sr., High School and Fitzgerald Elementary have met the state health department’s definition of “outbreak,” but in each case, fewer than five people were quarantined

Walts told the board by the end of this weekend, more than 11,000 teachers and staff will have been offered first doses of the coronavirus vaccine: “Appointments will continue to be offered to those remaining based on return date, and then central office and other employees.”

By the end of this weekend, Walts said about 8,270 staff members will have received their first of two doses.

On Jan. 12, the school board approved a plan that would have students in fourth, fifth, sixth and nine grades return to hybrid learning on Feb. 26, if their families chose that model.

In the same plan, students in seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades could return on March 3.

Walts reminded parents the return to school is voluntary for students whose parents previously chose the hybrid model.

“Just as in inclement weather situations, parents and guardians make the ultimate choice on sending your students to school,” Walts said. “Parents and guardians whose students are in-person, but feel that it is now unsafe can opt-back into all-virtual instruction, at any time, by simply contacting your school.”

Walts said he retains power granted by the school board to take measures needed to keep students and staff safe: “This could include changes to school operations, with limited notice, due to the constant dynamic situation with COVID-19, and should a school or schools have a significant impact, at any time.”

Neighboring Loudoun County also plans to have all students back by March 3, while Fairfax County is aiming for March 16.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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