Prince William County students will not be back in the classroom when the school year begins Sept. 8. 

In a vote late Wednesday night, the school board walked back its initial support for a "hybrid" model that would have allowed students to attend school twice a week, with 100% virtual learning as an option. A motion for the hybrid model failed on a 4-4 vote.

A compromise from board Chair Babur Lateef called for only virtual instruction for the first quarter, with plans for the "hybrid" model beginning in the second quarter. That was approved unanimously in a vote taken just before 2 a.m. Thursday. 

The school division will provide some in-person instruction for students with special needs and some English language learners.

Some parents and elected leaders have called on schools to open to students — at times even demanding full-week instruction. But many teachers and staff who have spoken out have noted fears of outbreaks of COVID-19 and the risk of exposure with even limited in-person learning.

The decision from Prince William's school board came following a vote by the Manassas School Board on Tuesday to limit instruction to virtual learning for the start of the school year. Arlington County schools are also planning to begin the year with only online learning.

School board member Lillie Jessie, Occoquan, said offering all virtual instruction at the beginning of the year would give time for staff to prepare for in-person instruction with numerous new health guidelines.

Jessie said the hybrid schedule is a good idea, “but I think we need to take it slow and start with a virtual model.”

Adele Jackson of the Brentsville District, said she doesn’t think the school system's staff is ready to offer partial in-person instruction, noting schools are already underfunded and overcrowded. Jackson was a special education teacher for 14 years. She resigned in June 2019 to run for school board. 

“Based on 14 years in the classroom, in the end I have to make a decision,” Jackson said. “I don't support the 50-50 [hybrid schedule] as of right now, but I support it in the long run.” 

School Board member Loree Williams, Woodbridge, said during the meeting she doesn’t support the hybrid schedule. 

“I’m not comfortable sending my child [to school] for various reasons, so I can’t ask anyone else,” Williams said. 

Several school board members said they received almost-constant emails and feedback on plans for next year before the meeting Wednesday. 

The motion for the hybrid model was supported by Lateef and board members Diane Raulston, Neabsco; Jennifer Wall, Gainesville; and Justin Wilk, Potomac. Voting against the plan was Jackson, Jessie, Williams and board member Lisa Zargarpur, Coles.

Earlier in the meeting, the school board heard from more than 35 people about the reopening plans for the school year. Some parents advocated for five days of in-person instruction that division staff said would not be feasible because of requirements to maintain physical distance. Other speakers, including parents and teachers, expressed concerns about students or staff getting sick with COVID-19. 

Riley O’Casey, president of the Prince William Education Association, told the school board she has heard concerns from the association’s members and supports a fully remote schedule. 

“They love their jobs and students, but they don’t want to lose their lives or their family members,” O’Casey said. “They are updating their wills. This is unacceptable.” 

The plan for the upcoming school year will impact more than 91,500 students and 6,396 teachers in the division, according to the school division. 

Emily Sides covers Prince William County for InsideNoVa. Reach her at esides@insidenova.com.

(39) comments

PWC resident since '69

Idiots...let the furloughs begin!

arrow80

In that case, a portion of my property tax needs to be refunded back to me.

Veteran03

Why?

Veteran03

Abolish the school board. They are political and useless. Kids will be the victims.

PWC resident since '69

Apparently it is o k for kids to go to jobs, interact with strangers and meet up in large groups but well education is not essential. What a joke...

Soily

Great! Now latchkey kids will be roaming the streets, not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask, while their parents try to make a living in our deteriorating Democratic Party run hell-hole of a county. It's okay for workers at Harris Teeter and Home Depot to stay open, but God forbid a teacher have to do her job. But please keep paying her.

tman

My concern with virtual instruction is centered on the quality of the education. Will this be full day virtual instruction? Live or recorded or a mix? This Spring was an emergency situation and understandably not ideal - one hour each day of review is simply not acceptable going forward.

The public is generally split 50/50 on going back vs staying home. Pediatricians for the most part see low risk, though don't confuse that with no risk. Thousands of kids with underlying conditions they are unaware of will die. Caregivers such as elderly grandparents will be exposed. The pandemic isn't just about death figures either - many survivors have permanent lung scarring and other damage.

Childcare issues will be one of the bigger issues for virtual education, mainly for kids between 5 and 12 in homes without older siblings, grandparents or willing neighbors.

Many of the largest districts in the country are following the same plan PWCS just presented, so it seems reasonable for now.

Matt Murdock

After watching this debacle last night, it is clear that Superintendent Walts did not have a viable plan in place. He’s only had since March 13th to figure this out (insert sarcasm). The 50/50 model he proposed made absolutely no sense and only led to more confusion and lack of educational equality for all students. He couldn’t even answer basic questions about PPE and how it would be provided without talking in circles. He is the alleged leader of this mess, it’s time for him to go. PWCS could afford more PPE, cleaning of schools, etc. if they weren’t wasting valuable tax payer dollars on his investigations and potential litigation surrounding him. He’s the decision maker in all of this, not the teachers, don’t blame them for his lack of planning and the wasting of your taxpayer dollars.

fake_journalist

The teaching staff should be reduced by 90% immediately.

tman

How would that work - one teacher per grade across the school system? I expect the virtual instructors to be busier than in class, with a need for better tracking of progress without in-person time. Be realistic.

Matt Murdock

If you look at successful virtual models in other areas on the country, it takes a significant increase teachers to implement these type of plans.

fake_journalist

Here is reality for you, the teacher will wake up send an email to her class as to what videos they need to watch and then go back to bed and finishing watching the Today show. All the multiple choice test grades will automatically show up in the students inbox at the end of the semester telling them if they "passed" or not. Come to think about it, 90% is too low, we only need about two or three teachers for the entire county.

Matt Murdock

The reality is that you missed the point of the comment. This model, done correctly would create significant costs for no reason by having to increase the staff to do it “correctly”. If read my comment above I spoke about how the school board and Walts has no plan after months of doing nothing in regards to moving forward and getting the children and staff safely back into the classroom.

pwcresident1215

I commend PWCS for making the important decision to protect their teachers, staff, and students during this pandemic crisis that is increasing in 39 states due to the incompetence of our administration. COVID-19 has caused over 135,000 deaths as well as people losing their jobs, homes, and health insurance. People should be angry at the incompetence of our federal government rather than the school system for protecting the health and safety of our teachers and children. Glad to see other local school systems also protecting their citizens.

RR_Mikey

The usual array of comments as expected. Complaining about the School Board (who executed the process of decision making in government precisely; they followed the rules that dictate that the majority rules), taxes, “overpaid” teachers and the lack of a clear vision. I’ll focus on the vision thing. If the great orange blob in the White House stepped up and led this country back in late December or early January, we would have had a comprehensive, national policy led by experts in all phases of the pandemic; health, business shutdowns and subsequent reopenings, contingency plans for education, emergency funding to keep the states, businesses and individuals solvent and comprehensive plans to stop the pandemic and return the country to a normal status. Instead we were subjected to the words, whims and total incompetency of a bloviating fool. God help us.

citizen1

You forgot the part where Trump had all those BLM protestors and rioters spread the virus and create a spike. Also don’t forget that Obama and Biden have PHDs in virology and Democrat fairy dust that protects us from disease.

Angel On Earth

Citizen1 You forgot where Trump gassed all the protesters out of his way to do his church photo op without a mask. So, he is still oblivious about the virus. Anyway, let's get the kids back to a clean & safe environment before we put them back in school.

RR_Mikey

But of course citizen1. It’s Obama’s fault and oh yeah, Black and white people protesting the cold blooded murder of a man by the police. You are a true simpleton living in a simple, misinformed world.

larryclyons

You mean like how there is now a massive spike in CV-19 cases in Oklahoma that is directly attributable to the Mango Mussolini's Nuremberg type rally? Or how about his recent attemps to cut the CDC out of data collections.

As for Obama and Biden, at least both of them have university degrees - heck Obama was a Constitutional Law professor.

larryclyons

BTW this is in comparison to tRump who only bought his way to an undergraduate degree. That is after barely surviving less than a single term at Wharton.

Brodyre

I agree 100%.

derek005

Most of these people are the same people that complain no matter what. We know you are Republican and support Trump (cause you tell us), quit complaining by moving out of PWC. You go from board to board everyday because you aren't bright enough to think for yourselves because you listen to Trump. If Trump and his incompetent administration had done something early on, we wouldn't be in this situation. You folks know a lie when you hear one, but let Trump and the GOP lie to you everyday. It's not about party, but getting control of this virus.

Brodyre

Exactly, lost cause.

Che

I see the Trumpsters are out of their holes and doing what they do best...bi#@h & complain.

ILivPWC

That's hilarious - ya'll have been beating your spoons on your high chairs since 2016.

pwcresident1215

How do you defend an incompetent narcissist when he tells Americans the virus will "disappear" this summer! If you are angry about school closings and the huge crisis this country is dealing will, then direct your anger at the administration who botched this whole thing from the beginning. The administration continues to ignore or silence the scientists who are highly educated and have credibility and experience dealing with public health crises. Scientists who truly care about people, not the stock market and their upcoming election like Trump. The current administration is horrendous... every state is essentially on their own so if your government officials are competent and respect science, your numbers will be lower since they are following guidelines and the science. If someone in your family gets seriously ill from COVID, will you still defend Trump? Unbelievable.

Realitycheck

We don't want the Federal Government dictating solutions best decided at state and local levels. I believe the teacher's unions are behind the fear mongering with teachers. Local leaders need to grow a pair and actually stand up for educating children rather than pursuing methods wholly lacking. I expect a big move to private and home schooling for those who can afford it. Those families who need to be able to work and are unable to essentially "home school" need to be heard.

S'ton

FYI, 'Vujjinya' is a 'raht ta wuk' state w/NO teacher "unions".

The decision to start the year online is related to y/our health. In case you haven't noticed, trump & the GOP deny science at every opportunity--that's why we're stuck w/ Corona virus when other nations are doing many times better at curtailing or defeating it.

ILivPWC

This is so sad. Once again, kids take the backseat. Extending the paid vacation for PWC Schools employees. Data shows that kids do not learn on line, but hey, teachers can rent an RV and travel! This is a great justification for school vouchers! I'd gladly accept a tax refund or school voucher.

ILivPWC

This is yet another reason people pay more for Fairfax and Loudon county real estate...schools.

S'ton

Online classes to start the year in Arlington & Montgomery Cos., too.

Realitycheck

Teachers should be in the classroom doing what they are trained and expected to do as professionals. Health care workers didn't shy away from the risk. The science shows little to no transmission by children. The children are not the risk here but those adults with underlying conditions. What happens to the employment of school staff like food service managers and school nurses in a completely virtual school? I think teachers will find themselves out of jobs if virtual education for children works, which I am not optimistic. If children can complete online requirements in two days why do we have children in public schools all week anyway. We need to stop living in fear. Precautions can and should be taken to protect adults from transmitting the virus among themselves, but quit using the children as the reason for not being in the classroom. It is a good thing other working adults are willing to show up and do their jobs in a myriad of occupations or we would be living in the dark ages. There are risks with any job. Add this latest virus to the list. Use best practices, and let's get on with educating and working. If this is uncomfortable, find another profession. This won't be the last pandemic.

pwcresident1215

Reality check,

Yes, it is unfortunate that food service mgrs and school nurses cannot work and earn pay when schools close during a pandemic health crisis that has killed over 138,000+ people in our country. However, I disagree with your statement, "science shows little to no transmission by children". Recent data shows that 31 percent of children tested in Florida are positive for COVID-19. This recent finding contradicts your statement. Please educate yourself and avoid posting inaccurate information that is harmful to the public. This recent finding has significant long-term health consequences for both children who develop symptoms and adults if asymptomatic children spread the virus. Also, comparing teachers to healthcare workers is strange. People decide to pursue a career in education to teach children while health care workers understand the risks of caring for sick patients. I agree that all jobs have risks, but I can assure you that educators are unprepared to cope with a serious virus especially when schools lack appropriate equipment, funding, and support recommended by the CDC. Since this won't be the last pandemic, let's elect a President who doesn't tell the country that this virus will "disappear" when the weather gets warmer. We need a leader who lives in the world of reality and provides factual information in order to effectively deal with this crisis so our country can recover, children can return back to school, and our economy can improve.

S'ton

Better to start online 'til we get intelligent nat'l leadership that respects science.

The question is are all teachers trained in tek requirements & will online attendance be supervised?

ps: most 'similar' nations took the killer COVID-19 seriously--admit it or not, trump & the GOP didn't. Now we're all paying for their science denial.

Kathy10

The latest science seems to indicate Tcell memory against the common cold, also a coronavirus, is protective against Covid 19. By keeping kids out of places where they encounter the common cold and mount an immune response we may be setting them up problems later on.. Especially since many will be missing a year or two of education. Kind of like getting the chicken pox as a kid is pretty safe but avoiding it and getting it later in life can have more complications.

Add in kids who are depressed, abused or malnourished and from a health standpoint kids on average would likely be safer in school. Then add in the cohort mixing that will occur as kids bounce around to various childcare options. Since we are talking science and all, appears that there is a decent body of science that says putting kids back in school in small cohorts five days a week would be safest overall.

Citizen52

Some posters on here sound very similar, getting their news from social media. I think some of you are even posting under different monikers. Blaming national leadership for the spread of Covid is just silly, given the documented pushback of democratic leadership, e.g. Pelosi, Schumer, Deblasio, etc. when the president tried to enact the travel ban. The WHO officials did not claim it an alarm in January, either. I’m no Trump lover but I’m also no Dem leadership lover in this instance they got it wrong.

timt

Wrong. This situation is totally the fault of the Trump administration. The travel ban was too little too late, and then they shoved all the responsibility for dealing with the virus onto the individual states, which guaranteed disaster. Without a coordinated national effort at testing and enforced guidelines for shutting down and properly opening back up, we were doomed from the start. And Trump now continues to ignore the impending disaster and is actually making it worse by encouraging things like opening schools recklessly while the majority of parents are against it. You can bitch about Northam if you want cause his response hasn’t been perfect, but he’s at least trying to look out for the best interests of all Virginia residents. Trump doesn’t give a damn about any of us. All he cares about is the stock market, getting his ego stroked at rallies, and his golf game.

Kathy10

The executive branch doesn’t have that much power, nor should they. What Bath, Maine needs is very different than Los Angles. Trump should not be able to tell the people of Ohio what they must do to “stop the spread.” At this point Trump’s focus should be the economy. The state and local health departments are far better equipped to deal with the local response. Keeping the US economy afloat so that we can remain a wold power is far more critical if we want to maintain our liberty and way of life.

PWCPSRetiree

Furlough school staff to the bare minimum. Issue a 57% rebate to all property taxpayers. Kids will be back.

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