Manassas approves plan to send special ed students back to class

Nearly 80 special education students will return to in-person learning in Manassas.

The city School Board approved a plan to send back 76 “school-dependent learners,” and about 43 teachers on November 4. It will make the first time that anyone students or teachers have been back to class since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The students range between ages two and 22 and will attend in-person classes Tuesday through Friday. The students will stay home on Mondays and attend class virtually.

Here’s the breakdown of who’s going back and where:

  • Baldwin Elementary: 10 students and six staff members
  • Jeannie Dean Elementary: 14 students ane nine staff members
  • Round Elementary: Six students and five staff members
  • Weems Elementary: Three students and two staff members
  • Mayfield Intermediate School: 11 students and six staff members
  • Metz Middle School: Nine students and six staff members
  • Osbourn High School: 11 students and six staff members

During a virtual meeting with 100% of School Board members and school administration attending remotely, The Manassas City School Board voted unanimously for the plan,

Over summer, about 65% of parents surveyed told the school division they wanted their children to return to the classroom for in-person learning when school started August 31, said School Board Vice-Chair Kristen Keifer.

“I am extremely concerned about this,” said School Board member Tim Demeria. “School-dependent learners need to be back in the school budging, desperately. Where do we find the balance for kids who need this desperately, and where does that override the fear of the virus?”

“I was one of the ones that believed we should have not started the school year 100% virtual. I was wrong,” said School Board member Steven Albrecht. “This virus is incredible and it’s a real risk for many people. 100 children need to return to school, and this is our start down a path to a return to school.”

The school division is still working out the details on a plan to return the rest of the students to class. When a plan is finalized, possibly in late November, the division will return students to class in phases by grade level, over the course of three months.

Parents should expect to receive a survey via the school division’s online “parent portal” asking them whether or not they want their child to return to class or continue learning virtually from home. School officials don’t know when the survey will be sent out, however, when it is, parents will be given an “appropriate amount of time” to respond, said Dr. Melissa Saunders, a school division official.

For parents that do not respond to the survey, the school division will plan for their students to return to school for in-person learning.

The school division, like most of the state this week, is considered to be a high transmission risk for the virus, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health and metrics outlined by the CDC. There have been 113 new cases of coronavirus reported in the region in the past 14 days.

Neighboring Prince William County returned its special education students’ class at the start of the school year on September 8.

Kindergarten students will return to in-person learning in a hybrid model on November 10, with half of the school division’s kindergartners coming on alternating days. Second and third-grade students will return to school buildings in January, and the remainder of the students phased back in early February.

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