The Manassas City School Board is mulling a plan to get most students back to some level of in-person learning, but so far no dates have been set and some board members are expressing skepticism as COVID-19 cases rise across the region.
On Monday, a survey regarding in-person learning went out to the division’s parents, asking whether they would be comfortable with their children returning to physical classrooms.
Melissa Saunders, the executive director of student achievement, said responses will be collected at the student level until the end of the month. She told InsideNoVa that the division needs specific information on each student’s plans for busing and other logistics. But the division staff will build in room to adjust if things change.
“We recognize that situations change, circumstances change, and by the time that we do actually get to an in-person experience for their child, there will likely be parents whose minds change,” Saunders added.
About 76 of the division’s “school-dependent learners,” which includes English-learners and special education students, are already receiving some level of in-person instruction. But at last week’s board meeting, Saunders presented a rough outline for the process of getting the rest of the system’s students into classrooms, without any proposed start date.
“I spoke with [Superintendent Kevin] Newman and I thought it was best that we see what the phases would look like without the dates,” Board Chair Sanford Williams said. “Because as soon as a date is thrown out there, I think that folks would look at the date and it would overwhelm everything else.”
First to return to classrooms would be students in pre-kindergarten through first grade, for whom Mondays would remain virtual learning days, followed by in-person instruction from Tuesdays to Fridays. Some career and technical education programs would begin in-person again along with those youngest students in what staff is calling “Phase 2.”
Two to three weeks after Phase 2 begins, Phase 3 would bring second- through fourth-graders back for the same Tuesday-Friday in-person schedule. Two weeks after the start of Phase 2, middle and high school staff would return four days per week. One week later, grades five, seven and nine would return. And after another two weeks, the rest of the grades would be back.
Saunders said the idea is to allow students who are in whole new buildings some time to adjust, similar to what would have been an orientation schedule.
“When we started to look at our secondary students … we realized that we wanted to get [those students] in first, because they’ve never actually been in their building… some haven’t experienced changing classes,” Saunders said.
From start to finish, according to the division’s plan, grades six, eight, 10, 11 and 12 would be back in classrooms seven to eight weeks after the youngest children return.