ROANOKE, Va. – About 75 minutes after 10 News published our initial report, we’ve now learned that Gov. Ralph Northam will not address bringing students back to school.
While the Virginia Department of Education told 10 News in a statement that Northam would release updated guidelines on Wednesday, VDOE has since rolled back that statement.
Below is the email that 10 News received from the Virginia Department of Education at 2:17 p.m.:
While we expect to announce updated guidance in the near future on school reopening, the announcement won’t be tomorrow.
VDOE has been involved in numerous conversations on how to ensure a safe learning experience for children in the New Year, including the prioritization of vaccinations for K-12 teachers.
These conversations are ongoing and we expect to issue updated guidance in the near future, but Governor Northam is not planning on announcing any changes to the current guidance tomorrow.Charles Pyle, Director of Media Relations for the Virginia Department of Education
Northam will address Virginians during a coronavirus update at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Many school administrators were stunned by what they heard Tuesday morning during a weekly call with Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane.
Lane was giving them information that schools could be forced to move in a different direction and bring more students back to classrooms for face-to-face instruction, according to a 10 News source who was on the call.
Schools were shut down in March when Virginia as a whole averaged 80 new cases per day. This past week, the Commonwealth has averaged about 4,500 new cases per day.
“We’re being asked to bring kids back with the highest numbers we’ve seen,” said one school administrator.
On the call, Lane said it would be up to each school system to figure out how to bring the most students back; however, questions remain on if schools will be asked to revise both their instruction and health/safety plans they submitted before this school year began.
The message on the call was that there is very little data to support schools being COVID-19 spreaders and students need to be back in the classroom, according to the 10 News Source.
However, as administrators have previously pointed out, staffing has been a big reason why schools have needed to shut down during this school year.
In October, middle school and high school students in Franklin County switched to all-virtual learning because of community spread and difficulties in staffing.
In December, Montgomery County schools also moved grades 7-12 to remote learning until January 21 due to a substitute shortage.
School administrators and local health officials have said previously there is a risk to in-person learning, but there is a large risk of not coming back because of mental health, suicide rates and food insecurity.
In November, Lynchburg Superintendent Dr. Crystal Edwards said that despite COVID-19, they’re trying to make sure students have a normal school experience,“we owe it to ourselves to work together to make sure that this pandemic does not rob our children of childhood.”
Administrators said this is unofficial until the governor speaks about the issue during Wednesday’s COVID-19 update at 2 p.m.
Below is the response we received from the Virginia Department of Education:
Dr. Lane hosted a conference call for division superintendents this morning to let them know that Governor Northam tomorrow will release updated guidance on school reopening. The details of the guidance will be available for you tomorrow following the governor’s announcement.Charles Pyle, Director of Media Relations for the Virginia Department of Education
10 News will air the governor’s update live on-air, on wsls.com, our Facebook page and our mobile app.
You can read the current Virginia Department of Education COVID guidelines here.