Dear Parents, Teachers and School Leaders,
Yesterday Governor Northam announced Virginia’s Return to School plan to begin resuming in person instructional opportunities for students. Safely returning to school is a challenge that school leaders the world over are struggling with in the face of a continuing public health threat.
Virginia’s plan, which you can learn more about online here, gradually opens up in-person instruction in a safe and equitable way. It provides the maximum allowable options for a division in each phase, and the phases are contingent on public health conditions improving. The plan does not require a particular approach for any one student or school, but rather, it allows local communities to make decisions within those parameters about what works best for them. It also requires all schools to implement public health strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including social and physical distancing, health and wellness policies and procedures, and increased cleaning and disinfecting.
We recognize the announcement may raise new questions, anxieties and concerns for some families about our students and our schools. Please know that our schools are working on reopening plans that prioritize the health and well-being of students and staff; and ensure that high quality instruction can be provided to every student. Additional specifics about what that looks like for each individual school will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
We know that school will look different this year for our kids. We know the adjustment may be challenging for students, teachers and families. We know the year will need to start with tending to the very real social and emotional needs of each other. But we also know that our school communities are resilient and innovative, compassionate and brave. Those are the things that make our schools wonderful places to learn and thrive, and those are the things that will remain unchanged by this pandemic.
I know this continues to be a difficult time for families, schools, and communities across the Commonwealth. But I am incredibly grateful for all of Virginia’s educational leaders, and the tremendous dedication and commitment they have demonstrated in the face of great challenges. Together, despite these circumstances, we can continue to maximize the potential of all of Virginia’s learners.
James F. Lane, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Public Instruction