‘We are very, very excited’: Stafford Co. first in DC area to welcome students back for fall

On Monday, Virginia’s Stafford County Public Schools became the first D.C. area school system to welcome students back to in-person learning five days a week.

At Widewater Elementary School, masked-up students were greeted with a spritz of hand sanitizer Monday before entering the building to start the year. Kids and teachers will be wearing masks inside schools, except during lunch, recess and gym classes.

“Probably one of the greatest skills we’ve taught our students is to be ready to adjust — and for adults too, that fluidity and flexibility is a super important part of life,” Principal Karen Bingham told WTOP. “Think about it: We have kids as young as five who have learned to be resilient.”

Superintendent Scott Kizner said masks will be required for staff and for the nearly 30,000 students who are back in physical classrooms.

“I believe our students and staff understand the importance,” Kizner said. “I think people are just ready to get back to a routine.”


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Kizner said about 500 students will still be learning online, meaning pretty much everyone will be back in the classrooms.

“There’ll be a little apprehension because COVID is far from over and we’re bringing back a lot of children,” Kizner said.

But he said he thinks it’s the right time.

“You cannot substitute the importance of the relationship that a child has with a teacher in a classroom,” Kizner said.

He said they had about 17,000 students learning in-person four days a week with shortened days during the last school year.

“The opportunity for children to be again with peers and the opportunity for children to learn from an adult standing in front of them, I think, outweighs any concerns that we may have about the changes we had to make,” Kizner said.

He attended several open houses last week and said the teachers and students couldn’t wait to get back into classrooms and start in-person learning again.

“We’re getting closer to the point where we could just call it a school day,” Kizner said.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein’s reported from Stafford County.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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