VDH releases new guidance on reopening schools PreK-12 schools

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 5:34 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Health has released new guidance for divisions to follow when reopening PreK-12 schools.

When the pandemic first began, many schools around the country, including here in Virginia, closed down as a mitigation effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since not much was known about the virus.

“We will get back to in-person learning everywhere. The question is when will we have completed the actions to make in-person learning safe?” Virginia Education Association president James Fedderman said. “We need to get all of our educators vaccinated and put in the necessary process for social distancing, PPE, reporting of cases, and so on.”

A letter from the Virginia State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver says since then, data has shown that reopening schools are unlikely to contribute significantly to community transmission when community transmission rates are low and mitigation procedures are put in place at schools. However, there appears to be a connection between increased community spread and cases within the schools.

“While we must remain vigilant regarding the prevention and spread of SARS CoV-2, we need to balance this important objective with the shared goal of providing in-person education instruction to children of Virginia,” the letter said.

As school and health officials evaluate reopening plans, “they must carefully balance the risks associated with operating during a pandemic and the long-term effects of students not attending school in person.”

Health officials say each division’s ability to successfully implement mitigation procedures and local community disease data should be factored into operating plans.

During an afternoon press conference, Governor Ralph Northam said that the new guidelines will put more emphasis on schools remaining open safely rather than being closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The guidance will lay out a pathway including how to use mitigation measures in school buildings and how to prioritize students, for example, students with disabilities or students for whom English is a second language,” Northam said. “Every school division will have to decide what is best for it while working with the local health department.”

“We know that the guidance that’s being shared is what is best for the safety and health of all of our families,” Parent-Teacher Association President Donna Colombo said.

You can read the full reopening guidelines below:

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