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Virginia Superintendent issues guidance for safely reopening Virginia’s schools

RICHMOND, Va. (WVVA) - Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane issued guidance today to assist Virginia’s 132 school divisions as they implement the phased approach to reopening schools announced yesterday by Governor Ralph Northam.

The guidance document, “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020,” includes recommendations to protect the health and well-being of students, and respond to the impact of COVID-19 on learning, during each of the three phases of the governor’s reopening plan.

The recommendations in the guidance document address challenges school divisions will face as they move toward resuming formal instruction and reopening schools, which have been closed to students and teachers since March 16. “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020” includes best practices and strategies in the following areas:

  • School operations, including COVID-19 mitigation strategies; health screenings for students and staff; and social distancing policies;
  • Supports for students and staff, including assessing and addressing the social, emotional and mental health needs of all learners;
  • Instruction, including equitable supports for all students; digital learning; and assessing and meeting the instructional needs of all students, including students with disabilities and English learners; and
  • Communication with parents and families, including resources accessible to all families on health, instruction, social distancing and local reopening plans.

“Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020” also includes sample alternative schedules for the gradual return to in-person instruction for students as schools progress through the three phases of the governor’s reopening plan. Under the sample scenarios, groups of students attend classes in their school buildings on alternating days or weeks, allowing schools to adhere to social distancing requirements and capacity limits — for both buildings and school buses — during each phase.

“Our goal was to provide recommendations and reopening scenarios that reflect the diverse needs and circumstances of our rural, suburban and urban school divisions,” Lane said. “The guidance in ‘Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020’ is also flexible because we can’t predict with absolute certainty how the threat of the coronavirus will evolve over the summer and early fall.”

The guidance combines the recommendations of four advisory committees convened by the Virginia Department of Education. Hundreds of classroom teachers, instructional specialists, parents, school counselors, special educators, division superintendents, and school division operations and facilities managers from across the commonwealth supported the work of the committees, which met virtually in April and May.

The focus and leadership of the advisory committees are as follows:

  • VDOE Continuity for Learning Task Force
    • Donna Dalton, retired, Chesterfield County Public Schools (co-chairwoman)
    • Tina Manglicmot, director, Office of STEM and Innovation, VDOE (co-chairwoman)
    • Beth Teigen, chief of staff, Henrico County Public Schools (co-chairwoman)
  • VDOE Recovery Task Force
    • Scott Kizner, superintendent, Stafford County Public Schools (co-chairman)
    • Rodney Robinson, Richmond Public Schools, 2019 National Teacher of the Year (co-chairman)
    • Jeffery Smith, superintendent, Hampton Public Schools (co-chairman)
  • VDOE Return to School Advisory Panel
    • Aaron Spence, superintendent, Virginia Beach Public Schools (chairman)
    • Eric Williams, superintendent, Loudoun County Public Schools (vice chairman)
  • VDOE Accreditation Task Force
  • Rosa Atkins, superintendent, Charlottesville Public Schools (co-chairwoman)
  • Scott Brabrand, superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools (co-chairman)
  • Alan Seibert, superintendent, Salem Public Schools (co-chairman)

“The leaders and members of these task forces and advisory panels recognized that even in the midst of the immediate challenges posed by the shutdown — such as keeping children connected with learning and school-based meals — it was essential to look over the horizon and begin planning for the eventual reopening of schools,” Lane said. “I extend my deepest gratitude to all of these dedicated educators — and all of those who contributed — for their vision and commitment to the well-being of Virginia students.” 

Bailey Pace

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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