Prince William, Manassas school boards to meet next week, discuss fall reopenings

The wait is nearly over for those seeking an answer regarding the reopening of schools in Prince William County and Manassas.

On July 7 and 8, both school boards will hold separate meetings to hear community input on the reopening of their school divisions, review survey data collected from their staff and school communities, and discuss the matter, according to press releases from both school divisions. Manassas is set to vote on their reopening plans on July 14, and Prince William is set to do the same on July 15.

“There is no doubt that we are experiencing an unprecedented situation with the global pandemic, understandably our teachers and staff members, students and families, have concerns about returning to school next fall. The Prince William County School Board is working collaboratively with the school division to develop a plan that offers equitable education for all students,” said Prince William County School Board Chairman At-large Babur Lateef.

“I realize that there is not one perfect scenario that will meet each family’s needs or desires in our school community, but please know that as a division, our goal is to prioritize student and staff safety,” stated a press release from Manassas City Schools Superintendant Dr. Kevin Newman.

To aid in their decision making, each school division has created a task force to address safe ways to return to learning. Prince William’s task force, comprised of 90 members representing staff, parents, and central leadership has not yet released a comprehensive plan detailing what a return to learning may look like, but “principals at every level were asked to conduct classroom-by-classroom assessments utilizing six-feet of distancing measurements to determine furniture placement and the maximum number of students who can be in every space while maintaining the social distancing,” according to a press release from the school division. Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Walts, also suggested that alternating schedules and telework may be a possibility.

“We will have to implement some variation of distance learning, alternating schedules, and telework. Despite these challenges, we are working hard to prepare for the fall. We have a number of plans that have been taking shape over the past few weeks,” stated Superintendant Walts in a press release from the school division.

“[Prince William County Public Schools] must consider the multitude of requirements from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia High School League (VHSL), and other organizations overseeing all school divisions’ plans for returning to learning. PWCS leaders are also collaborating with the Prince William School Board to ensure this plan is comprehensive and thoughtful,” stated a press release from the school division.

Manassas’ task force, on the other hand, has given the school division three possible models for school next year that ‘include a combination of in-person learning and distance learning to adhere to federal, state, and local guidance,’ stated a press release from Superintendant Newman.

The options are as follows:

  • 25% Return Option – Students will receive one in-person day and four virtual days. Mondays will serve as a teacher planning day.
  • 50% Return Option – Students will receive two in-person days and three virtual days. Mondays will serve as a teacher planning day.
  • 100% Distance Learning Option – Students will complete all instruction virtually.

If the Manassas City School Board does decide on a hybrid learning model (both online and in-person), parents will have the option to keep their children at home and practice only online learning. Special population students may also receive additional days of in-person instruction to supplement their additional needs.

“We understand that we will not be able to meet every family’s desires, however, we, like other districts, hope to provide options that will somehow allow students to continue progressing in their academic achievement,” stated a press release from Superintendant Newman.

If the school board sees the need to, however, the final plans that they are expected to make on July 14 may change.

“Please keep in mind that the best-made plans can be changed based on the fact that many areas are still experiencing the pandemic’s impact,” stated a press release from Superintendant Newman.

According to Governor Ralph Northam’s plans and regulations for school reopenings across Virginia, schools must adhere to strict social distancing measures for in-person education, maintain physical distance between children on school buses, limiting large gatherings, conducting daily health screenings, and more.

“Our students and staff need to have a safe environment conducive to learning that provides an opportunity to move the needle positively for maximized student achievement,” stated a press release from Manassas Superintendent Newman.

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