Education

Virginia schools delay in-person classes amid COVID-19 spike

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — After the coronavirus pandemic pressured months of online-only studying, some Virginia college districts had excessive hopes for bringing college students again to high school for some in-person courses earlier than the top of the 12 months. However with COVID-19 instances surging throughout the nation — together with in Virginia — the state’s largest college programs have hit the brakes on reopening plans.

Faculty officers in Virginia Seashore, Henrico County and Fairfax County introduced Monday they’re pausing their plans for in-person courses, citing elevated virus unfold of their communities.

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The selections got here three days after Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam introduced new statewide coronavirus restrictions, together with limiting gatherings to 25 individuals and prohibiting alcohol gross sales at eating and consuming institutions after 10 p.m.

The variety of new virus instances in Virginia has steadily elevated over the previous month. As of Tuesday, the state well being division has reported greater than 206,000 instances for the reason that pandemic started, with no less than 3,835 deaths.

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Virginia Seashore college officers had a phased return to in-person courses for many of their 67,000 college students and began to deliver again the ultimate 5 grades final week. However on Monday, college officers notified mother and father that in-person courses might be suspended and college students will return to all-virtual education for no less than two weeks. The announcement got here after the area’s new coronavirus instances hit a seven-day common of about 280 instances, a quantity college officers mentioned put the area in a “purple zone” that prompted them to maneuver all courses on-line.

Superintendent Aaron Spence mentioned the choice is disappointing as a result of mitigation efforts — together with obligatory face masks for college kids and lecturers — appeared efficient for the youthful college students who’d slowly been returning to in-person courses since September.

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“It was working, however we additionally should be conscious that the upper the neighborhood transmission, the higher the danger to our workers and our college students,” he mentioned.

In Henrico County, a district with about 49,000 college students, the varsity board voted final month to deliver college students again in phases after beginning the varsity 12 months predominantly online-only. College students in prekindergarten by means of second grade had been scheduled to return Nov. 30 for in-person courses. However Superintendent Amy Cashwell introduced Monday the plan might be delayed till January.

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“I remorse the inconvenience and problem this modification in plans might pose to our households,” Cashwell mentioned in an e mail. “Given the data we’ve got right this moment concerning the unfold of COVID-19 in central Virginia, I consider that this adjustment is probably the most prudent course to guard the well being and security of our workers, college students and neighborhood.”

Like different college districts throughout the state, Henrico has given mother and father the choice of continuous all-virtual studying if they do not really feel comfy sending their kids again.

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Earlier than Monday’s announcement, Stephanie McAnally had already determined to maintain her third-grader, Milo, at residence for digital studying.

“I felt that the numbers had been trending upward, and I do know the winter is coming and the vacations,” McAnally mentioned. “It does not matter how secure you’re at residence along with your baby if any kids going again are usually not doing issues advisable by the CDC. Then they are going onto a faculty bus and each different baby is uncovered to no matter they have been uncovered to.”

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Fairfax County — the state’s largest college district, with 180,000 college students — had introduced again small teams of scholars and deliberate to deliver again extra Tuesday, together with prekindergarten, kindergarten and a few particular training college students. However on Monday, Superintendent Scott Brabrand mentioned that plan might be placed on “pause” for no less than one other two weeks, though the restricted variety of college students who’ve been attending in-person courses might be allowed to proceed.

“The present well being metrics for COVID-19 instances in our neighborhood now exceed the brink to develop our in-person studying,” Brabrand mentioned in a letter to folks and workers.

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In Chesterfield County, college students have returned in phases since September for in-person courses two days per week. Sonia Smith, a highschool English and African American literature trainer who can also be president of the Chesterfield Schooling Affiliation, mentioned she’d hoped the varsity district would’ve pressed the pause button earlier than the newest group of scholars returned final week.

“As a result of we’re nonetheless in the course of a worldwide pandemic, in what’s being referred to as the third wave, it simply appears to defy logic with the regular improve in numbers,” she mentioned.

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Spence, the Virginia Seashore superintendent, mentioned he hopes college students can return to in-person courses quickly, however mentioned that can rely on the neighborhood’s willingness to observe well being suggestions and the state’s masks mandate.

“If individuals need children at school, we have to take this extra severely,” Spence mentioned. “Folks wish to be indignant with the superintendent, however I’d say, let’s work on this collectively.

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“This isn’t a faculties subject; it is a neighborhood subject. If we are able to scale back the extent of transmission in our communities, we are able to open our faculties.”

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Observe AP protection of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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