Stafford County, Virginia, schools have scrapped a plan adopted in early July to begin the new academic year with a mix of virtual and in-person learning.
Instead, the school board has voted to open the year with virtual learning for nearly all elementary, middle and high school students.
“If I was focused on what I think I was elected to do, which is education policy, I would be endorsing a plan, if I could, that focuses on in-face instruction and engagement,” said Holly Hazard, the school board’s chairwoman.
“I’ve heard your cry for this from student to staff to family. However, I think the decision we make tonight is not an education decision, it’s a health decision.”
Because of the risks associated with COVID-19, the board determined that all but exempted students will open the school year with virtual learning. Categories of exempted students are expected to be further defined at the board’s Aug. 11 meeting, but they are expected to include special education students and English language learners.
“I wish we could go back to school every day, but I know we can’t. We can’t do that right now and we have to do the best we can that we’re able with our resources,” said Patricia Healy, board member for the Falmouth district.
Board members discussed the changing dynamics of the pandemic, and superintendent Scott Kizner said it’s still unclear what resources will be available to the school system.
“Since June 15, we’ve had 50 total resignations or leave of absences — 39 teachers, five par-professionals and six other service staff,” said Kizner.
The virtual learning plan will be reviewed by the school board on Dec. 21, before winter break, to determine if it should continue for the remainder of the year.
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