back in the classroom this fall. Reopening our schools during this pandemic will require safeguards to ensure the health and safety of our children, teachers, and other support staff.
I understand that there were many difficulties with the way the spring classes were conducted, and that while some of those issues are hopefully improved upon this fall, many families are considering home, private or virtual schools for the fall, which are great options for many families.
In June, Governor Northam unveiled his mandated guidance to local school divisions and his proposal was quickly rejected by local school divisions -- and myself -- as unrealistic. Under the Governor's COVID-19 Phase III rules, in-person instruction is allowed, but only with extensive social distancing measures such as staggered class schedules and limited bus capacity.
I see two clear top priorities:
Come up with a workable plan for those who are healthy and ready for a 5-day-in-person school week
Make expansion of high speed affordable internet to under-served areas the highest priority at all levels
The Governor needs to go back to the drawing board and give local divisions the ability to safely offer five-day classroom instruction.
My Republican colleagues and I are prepared to introduce legislative changes in the upcoming Special Session if the Governor fails to rework his school reopening plan. Virginia currently has the resources necessary to ensure students and teachers can return to the classroom safely and ensure further education isn’t lost. More information on our proposals is here.
Governor Northam’s lack of leadership has caused confusion and fear for our local divisions as they work to bring our students back to the classroom. His ‘guidance’ has caused confusion on how to comply with his mandates, as well as fear of being sued for not properly implementing them. I worry that the lasting impacts of a disrupted school will be felt for years to come.
What we’ve seen from the Governor is an unworkable plan that takes into account only one aspect of closed schools and fails to recognize what happens to students who aren’t in the classroom. Many students in the Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick County school districts don’t have access to high speed internet and computers -- they rely on in-classroom instruction to further their education.
I'm pushing to use all the possible CARES Act and other funding in furtherance of my efforts to remove barriers, buy-down costs, and accelerate broadband deployment in the 33rd District, but projects will not be in place before students need to be back in school.
While some districts have the ability to provide these services to their students, I worry that under this current reopening plan, many students will be further left behind in their educational pursuits. Additionally, our youth need social interaction. Developing social skills through interactions with other students is equally as important as studying mathematics and sciences.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released guidance for reopening schools in the fall. The AAP stated that their guidance “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” They went on to say that “schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.” The science and data show that all students should be back in the classroom on a regular basis this fall. It’s evident that children rarely transmit COVID-19 between themselves and adults.
On Tuesday, July 7, the White House hosted a half-day Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools focusing on reopening America’s schools in safe ways that respect the holistic health and learning needs of America’s students. The Summit included state and local leaders, health professionals, teachers, administrators, parents, and higher education institution leaders from across the Nation. In addition to the Summit, the Vice President led a discussion with the chief executives of approximately 50 States, territories, and the city of Washington, DC, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss best practices on safely reopening America’s schools.
Full Summit (Here)
Remarks from Second Lady Pence (Here)
Remarks from White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (Here)
Panel Discussion – ABCs of Reopening Schools Safely (Here)
Panel Discussion – Implementing Safe School Reopenings (Here)
Roundtable with the President, First Lady, Vice President, & Second Lady (Here)
Transcript from the Roundtable with the President (Here)
I want to hear your thoughts about how Virginia should proceed for the upcoming school year; contact info is below. Thanks in advance, and have a great summer!