Prince William County school bus generic

At the Prince William County School Board’s first meeting of the year Wednesday night, Superintendent Steve Walts announced a new return-to-classrooms plan that would bring second- and third-graders back as expected next week, but delay the return of older students until after spring break.

More than eight hours into the meeting, at 2:15 a.m. Thursday, school board members decided to call a special meeting to discuss Walts’ proposal, with the aim to bring older students back sooner. The special meeting will be Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Under Walts' new plan, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth grades would start to return April 20. Grades seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th would return April 27.

Previously, the county’s plan called for older students to return in late January and early February. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students returned in November, and first-graders in early December. All students returning are doing so on a hybrid basis, with online learning continuing two days a week, and parents are able to opt-in to virtual-only classes for their children.

As of Wednesday, the Prince William County Health District’s average seven-day positivity rate of PCR diagnostic tests was 21%, representing a continued rise from the district’s low of 5.4% on Oct. 20. Across Northern Virginia, the seven-day average of new cases was 1,097, only slightly less than the Dec. 12 record of 1124.4. The Prince William health district, which includes the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, has surpassed 30,000 total reported cases of COVID-19 and 300 deaths caused by the virus.

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

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