How local schools are approaching returning more students to the classroom

How many students come back, priority for certain groups

SALEM, Va. – Getting kids back in the classroom. That’s the push from Gov. Ralph Northam who said last week he wanted at least some in-person offerings in all 133 school divisions by March 15.

10 News was the first to tell you about the plan before he unveiled it last month.

Teachers across Virginia are getting COVID-19 vaccines in the hopes of getting more students back in the classroom. For 11 months now, each school system had a different approach to learning.

“I want everybody back in school too but we want it with the caveat we want them back safe,” said Zebedee Talley Jr., Martinsville City Schools superintendent, who decided to remain all virtual since last March. “I don’t want to be on the fence of waiting and trying to decide who I’ll let get sick. One person sick is too many people sick for me.”

Meanwhile, others like Salem City Schools have a hybrid approach. Salem has operated on the hybrid model since Aug. 31.

“I think we’ve found in Salem we could do in-person learning safely and well. However, Virginia is a wonderfully diverse state. We’ve got beaches, we’ve got mountains, we’ve got everything in between so to try to generalize from urban districts to rural districts to suburban and middle-size districts is very difficult to do,” said Dr. Alan Seibert, Salem City Schools superintendent.

The governor sent a letter to superintendents and school boards Friday, saying more than one-third of school divisions offer no in-person learning options — that’s half a million kids.

“This needs to change, even if the decision is difficult,” Northam said in the letter.

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