School officials react to the unprecedented closure of classrooms statewide in wake of coronavirus

Students across Virginia will not be going back to school this academic year.

Gov. Ralph Northam today announced schools would not reopen due to the spread of coronavirus around the state, which has killed six people and infected 254 in the state as of today. Across the U.S., a total of 33,404 people have been infected and 400 have died.

Prince William County Public Schools issued a statement:

By order of the Governor of Virginia, all Prince William County Public Schools will remain closed to students through the end of the 2019-2020 school year (June 2020), due to the health concerns caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The state will waive the days missed and will not require the days missed be made up.

Guidance is expected to come from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) later this week regarding graduation requirements, credits, and the impact of this decision on learning, including special education.

Students have been out of schools since March 13, when Northam initially announced schools would be closed until at least March 27. They joined students from across the U.S. that are currently out of the classroom due to coronavirus.

Lateef

Now, local school leaders are worried that the feds could cut funding for student meal programs which are used to provide meals for economically disadvantaged children and families. More guidance on meal program funding could be provided to school divisions later this week.

“I would have rather stayed in school,” said Prince William County School Board Chairman At-large Babur Lateef. “I thought they would have extended the deadline up to eight weeks, into May.”

The last day of school in Prince William County was slated for June 12. Questions remain as to how the division will handle graduation ceremonies, or if students in their current grade level will be promoted to the next.

“This is going to create a lot of work for all school divisions in the state, in order to wrap up the school year, and to have continuous learning opportunities, providing essential learning opportunities to our students,” added Lateef.

Hollerback

While officials figure out how to do that, Norfolk public TV station WHRO is offering free access to 25 online high school courses in topics ranging from Algebra to world history.

In Stafford County where the last day of school had been scheduled for May 29, officials tell us they expect to try to organize some sort of formalized ending to the school year. But, also tell us today’s decision came as a devastating blow.

“[I’m] heartbroken for the kids, especially our seniors that won’t get a traditional senior year with prom and parties and other memory-making activities,” said Aquia District School Board representative Irene Hollerback.

Warner

Overall, school leaders we spoke today praised the governor’s decision.

“Closing schools and businesses means we’re are slowing the spread of COVID 19. It means we may prevent overwhelming our healthcare system. It means we will save lives. We are working hard to ensure our students and families are receiving the support and resources they need in this unprecedented situation,” said Griffis-Widewater District School Board representative Dr. Elizabeth Brandon Warner.

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