Northam news conference

Gov. Ralph Northam talks about plans for school systems in the fall during a news conference in Richmond on June 9, 2020. 

Northern Virginia will enter Phase Two of business reopenings on Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday, as he also outlined plans for a phased reopening of schools in the fall. 

The move into Phase Two of easing restrictions designed to stem the spread of COVID-19 means restaurants may begin offering indoor dining at 50% capacity, gyms may reopen at 30% capacity, and gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.  Other areas of Virginia except the city of Richmond moved into Phase Two last Friday. 

In announcing the plan for Virginia public and private schools, Northam emphasized that schools will reopen in some form this fall and will be required to provide instruction on new content.  The phases for reopening schools will align with the overall phases of the state's reopening.

"All Virginia schools will open for students next year, but the school experience will look very different," Northam said. 

For areas of the state that are in Phase Two, which will include Northern Virginia as of this Friday, once approved by the state, schools may have in-person summer camp activities in their buildings and may provide in-person instruction for pupils in pre-kindergarten through third grade, students with disabilities and English-language learners.  Physical distancing guidelines still must be followed.

When an area of the state enters Phase Three, schools in that area may offer in-person instruction for all students, but physical distancing requirements must be enforced. Dr. James F. Lane, the state's superintendent of instruction, said that means desks and workstations must be at least 6 feet apart, which will probably require schools to adopt staggered schedules and to provide a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

School buses must also provide physical distancing of 6 feet between students, with an exception for siblings, although Lane said school systems can develop other mitigation measures.  

In addition, staff members must wear face coverings when physical distancing can't be maintained, and students, especially older students, will also be encouraged to wear masks. All staff members and students will be subject to daily health screenings, and mixing groups of students will be discouraged. 

Remote learning and work-at-home options must be available for any students and staff members who have health concerns. 

All public school systems and private schools must submit detailed plans to the Virginia Department of Education before entering Phase Two or Phase Three of the reopenings.  The plans must include specifics on how the school systems will meet Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines for cleaning and infection control. The state Department of Education has prepared a 126-page guide for school systems, which will also be available on its website.

The plans plan must also include strategies to address learning lost due to spring 2020 school closures and plans for fully remote instruction should public health conditions require it, the education department said. 

Virginia schools were closed for the academic year on March 23. Many local school systems offered new content during the remainder of the year through virtual learning, but generally students' work was not graded or grades were not included when calculating final grades for the year.  

Northam did not provide a timeline for when areas of the state would move into Phase Three of reopenings but said it would be at least two weeks after entering Phase Two.  When he originally announced the phased reopenings in early May, Northam said that in order to move into Phase Three a region must see no rebound in cases of coronavirus for a sustained period of time. 

The state education department said additional guidance will be provided for a "new normal" beyond Phase Three. 

Northam and Lane emphasized that school systems are not required to move into the different phases and can reopen more slowly. 

 "The phases provide maximum flexibility at any given time," Lane said. 

Lane said school systems may have to think creatively about issues such as how to use space and how to accommodate teachers who have young children who may not not be in school all day or every day. 

Also during the news conference, Northam's chief of staff, Clark Mercer, provided guidelines on how youth sports can be conducted in Phase Two. Essentially, training activities and games can be held if participants are subject only to "incidental" or "accidental" contact.  Activities that involve "intentional" contact, such as tackle football or a karate match, are not allowed. 

Mercer noted the guidelines mean teams and athletes can resume some training, such as individual drills, or a football quarterback throwing passes to a receiver, and events like baseball games can be held.  Athletes should not share equipment, however, and both indoor venues and outdoor fields are subject to capacity restrictions of 30% indoors and 50% outdoors, or 50 people, whichever is smaller. 

Mercer said it is too early to tell whether high school football will be allowed this fall. 

Northam emphasized that the continued easing of restrictions is possible only because the state's metrics around coronavirus have improved. "We’re able to do what we’re doing because of you as Virginians who have listened to our guidelines, who have cooperated. While I know you have made sacrifices, together all of you have been part of he solution.”

(8) comments

fed11

School w/ social distancing is stupid on so many levels. This is beyond absurd at this point

BennieB

Please share your suggestion for school. Thanks.

Cultured2014

he would look idiotic any other way..he supports protesting he better open up

PWC resident since '69

What a clown, people protest, riot, parade and even loot without regard to health but he expects law abiders to cheer and thank his racist tail...resign!

how_you_doing

I've seen kids cough with there tongues. Nobody is safe.

Arlingtonian2

Northern Virginia is not ready to enter Phase 2. There are not enough available test kits or resources available to conduct contact tracings to satisfy the CDC guidelines to enter Phase 2 in that area of Virginia. In addition, the recent mass demonstrations in D.C and Northern Virginia may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases within the next two weeks.

It is therefore time for each Northern Virginia jurisdiction to exercise its own independent authority to manage the COVID-19 emergency. The first sentence of section 44-146.21.C (Declaration of Local Emergency) of the Code of Virginia states:

"C. Whenever a local emergency has been declared, the director of emergency management of each political subdivision or any member of the governing body in the absence of the director, if so authorized by the governing body, may control, restrict, allocate or regulate the use, sale, production and distribution of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods, services and resource systems which fall only within the boundaries of that jurisdiction and which do not impact systems affecting adjoining or other political subdivisions, ...." ( see https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title44/chapter3.2/section44-146.21/)

That sentence in the Code releases each local jurisdiction that has issued a declaration of local emergency from all supervision and control by the Governor when issuing local emergency orders. Each city, town and county in Northern Virginia therefore urgently needs to implement section 44-146.21.C within its own jurisdiction , rather to continue to roll over to the Governor’s state-wide political decisions that are endangering the health and economies of most or all of those jurisdictions.

InsideNOVA needs to ask the leaders of each local jurisdiction in Northern Virginia if they are aware of the independent authority that section 44-146.21.C. grants to them. Most, if not all of these leaders appear to be unaware of this authority.

Cultured2014

oh pipe down..if you can riot you can go to school if you can loot...you can go to school. if you can tear down the christopher columbus statue in Richmond..you can go to school. it is not time for each jurisdiction to manage their own issues..we've been shut down for over 100 days now, the time is long since past.

PWC resident since '69

So keep law abiders and small businesses shut ? We saw that those who don’t care will congregate en masse anyway...open it up now!

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