The halls of Occoquan Elementary School were quiet Tuesday, but not for lack of children. About 20% to 30% percent of the students returned, navigating the new world of school in a pandemic.

Traditional desks were placed far apart, while some classrooms had circular desks with plexiglass dividers to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the cafeteria, 12-foot tables sat mostly empty, with just two pupils sitting at opposite ends of each to eat lunch.

Across Prince William County, masked up and colorful backpacks in place, about 6,000 of the youngest students are heading back into classrooms this week for the first time since March.

Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students are the first to return under a 50/50 hybrid model approved by the School Board last month, with about 3,000 each attending on assigned days. First-graders are expected to follow, as long as coronavirus numbers allow it, on Dec. 1, with the remaining grades on staggered return schedules through early February.

Students are attending two alternating days a week. Parents can still opt to keep their children home, learning remotely, and about 40% plan to do so.

The decision to bring children back to in-person learning is based on health metrics for Prince William, which remains in a moderate to high risk for the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in schools, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Staggering students’ return is based on state guidance that students with disabilities, English learners, and pre-kindergarten through third-grade students should be prioritized for in-person learning.

The school system’s newest students are learning more than reading and writing. Under the current plan, students attending in person must do a daily home screening for COVID-19 symptoms and cannot go to school if symptoms are present. The in-person model is based on a minimum 3 feet of social distance for most classrooms, which will be required and monitored at all times. Face coverings will be required for students and staff most of the time when less than 6 feet of social distance is possible, including on school buses.

“We are happy that, for the most part, students have accepted mask-wearing through the school day,” Occoquan Elementary Principal Buddy Lint said Tuesday, adding that there is an occasional reminder to a student to pull the mask up over his or her nose.

While routines and classrooms were much different, parents and school officials called Tuesday a success.

“Mine said he had a good day and liked school, that makes me so happy!” Sara Coolbaugh-Mercado wrote on InsideNoVa’s Facebook page.

“My little girl was so happy to be back,” Maria Rico wrote.

“What an awesome day with kindergarteners in the building at Bristow Run Elementary School,” school officials wrote on Twitter. “Our staff has worked so hard to prepare for today. We all left happy!” 

Parents listed a variety of reasons for sending their children back to in-person learning, from work logistics to worries about too much screen time. But for the most part, they said they felt their children’s education was suffering with virtual-only learning.

“I want my child to get the best education possible, and I know he will get a better education in a school and not in my living room,” Michael McLean wrote on Facebook. “I know that does not make me a selfish person. I know that science says that children his age have statistically no to little chance of having complications due to COVID-19.”

At the Nov. 4 School Board meeting, Superintendent Steve Walts cautioned that plans to bring back more students are dependent on health metrics and staffing.

“We continue to monitor local health metrics, and the trends are not positive, as COVID cases grow locally, regionally, and nationally,” Walts said.


(9) comments


Your right your family is more important than mine. [happybirthday]


Mommy is calling, basement ninjas unite [batman][ninja][pirate]. Last time I checked America is everyman for himself. Good luck with your daydreams.


Princeton University dropped this study that finds children key to spread, evidence of superspreaders:

For the actual study:


Sounds like they are creating trauma instead of teaching the kids. The schools should be open if parents are worried keep them in the basement. If teachers are worried stay in the basement. God says don't live in fear for I am the light. Tyrants are trying to control our freedoms to cast fear and darkness. How many more years before we are all living in the streets and can longer support our children. Biden, Trump, Northam are not the answer.


I can never stop laughing at your name and how oxymoronic it is. Kids are returning to school safe with social distancing screens and masks, this way they get the benefits of in person instruction while not harming Grandma or Grandpa.


Actual scripture says:

"Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare … He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp."

Leviticus 13 v 45 and 46

“Lepers” were commanded to live separately from the rest of the people. The Biblical term “leprosy” includes a whole group of infectious diseases. The modern practice of isolating those suffering from infectious diseases was derived directly from the Jews.

"…the priest shall isolate the one who has the sore seven days. And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day; and indeed if the sore appears to be as it was, and the sore has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall isolate him another seven days. Then the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day"

Leviticus 13 v 4 to 6

The law of Moses also recommended what we know as “quarantine”, which involves isolation and re-examination to confirm the diagnosis in doubtful cases.

It's just a shame that desert Bedouins from over 2000 years ago had the sense to listen to authority (in this case the priest) and people, with the knowledge of the known universe at their fingertips, cannot understand germ theory.


Stop, That basement campaign worked and it worked safety. Trump did nothing but super spreader events and we all see how that is not working out well. Ask the Secret Service mew and women who have caught this virus how they are doing. Mike Pence is the head of the task force, but is no were to be found nor is Trump. They haven't addressed the nation in a very long time and are responsible for the deaths of all of these folks. My mother is currently in the hospital with the virus after going in for routine back surgery and that is where she caught it. Wake up deplorable anti-American!


Let me guess you don't think Cuomo or other governors are responsible for anything? The same people who say trump is some nazi dictator want him to control their lives more. Well good news looks like grandpa Joe's brown shirts will be locking you in for the good of society. I hear kids are super spreaders too. Good thing we have tax payer funded abortion/organ harvesting to reduce the population or we would be in big trouble. On top of that you can blame trump for future covid deaths too! It's so easy being a leftist. A Biden aide who I believe is back with Joe said H1N1 would have been a mass casualty event... It came down to luck. But we have fauci now... Wait he was there then too..


I would expect that everyone holds their elected officials feet to the fire during times of crisis. Accountability is to be expected, and deflection of responsibilities is a non-starter. Which is why a lot of people are pissed off at the president, as he didnt lead, he injected false information, and undermined the scientific community. Now, the ND governor is instituting a mask mandate as there are roughly 118 free beds in hospitals across the state. So idiots, by not using common sense, end up killing others either by spreading the virus or denying people from accessing ICUs since they are over capacity.

But it's all good. Rural areas don't matter. The virus isn't there. No need to wear a mask there.

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