Virginia considers year-round schooling for next school year

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said year-round schooling is one of the options on the table to help students who have fallen behind with at-home learning.

Northam said discussions are already underway, and if the year-round school is approved, it may start next year. He said state education officials are also looking at the possibility of adding school days to the summer.

“Our children have suffered from COVID-19 as have our families,” Northam said Wednesday.

As vaccines become more available, giving many hope that the end of the pandemic is coming soon, schools are trying to prepare for the return of students to physical classrooms. One of the concerns educators have is how to help students that struggled during the at-home learning phase.

While no set ideas have been decided, Northam said the need for all schools to welcome students back led to the state’s decision to put its 285,000 teachers and child care workers as part of the next phase of Virginians eligible for vaccines.

“Teachers are critical to getting schools back open, and that’s critical to people getting back to work and literally getting back to normal,” Northam said.

In its current phase, health care personnel and staff and residents at long term care facilities can receive vaccines.

While opening schools does not depend on teachers getting vaccinated, Northam said he believes it makes things easier.

“We want to get our children back in school, we want to do it safely and responsibly,” Northam said.

The idea of shifting to year-round schooling didn’t sit well with one Fairfax County family.

“It would be absolutely terrible, almost like punishment,” said Jennie Koss, whose daughter Noelle attends Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke.

Koss continued by saying she knows that some students have struggled during the nearly 10 months of virtual instruction.

That’s why she thinks the students who’ve been particularly disadvantaged should be the focus of any kind of government assistance, and not “some one-size-fits-all approach that’s going to make everybody miserable.”

As for her 15-year-old daughter Noelle’s thoughts on the idea of year-round schooling: “If they just get rid of summer break, then I think my brain would explode.”

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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