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Virginia schools may soon be required to have in-person option

Classroom in Albemarle County (NBC29 File Photo)
Classroom in Albemarle County (NBC29 File Photo)(NBC29)
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 10:53 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia House Education Committee is debating legislation aimed at getting students back to school. A subcommittee unanimously advanced the bill on Monday, February 15, but there are still hurdles to cross before it becomes law.

The Senate already passed legislation earlier this month that requires Virginia’s schools to provide both an in-person and virtual option. Now, the House is considering similar expectations, but that would provide parents and schools more flexibility.

“It’s all about providing a framework to ensure that our kids can return to school as quickly as possible, and do so safely,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said.

The bill making its way through the House would empower school systems to shut down individual schools if there is a COVID-19 outbreak and would give families a choice.

“Schools will be required to provide a virtual option for any families who choose to keep their kids at home up until August 1, 2022,” Filler-Corn said.

A subcommittee advanced Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg’s (D-72nd) bill by an 8-0 vote Monday. It now heads to a full committee discussion and if it passes there it heads to the House floor. All of that is expected to happen by Friday.

“A certain level of power and control needs to be at the local school board level, as well, and we’re looking at CDC guidance, but it has to be done in relation to each district because each district is so different,” the speaker said.

Albemarle County is moving into phase 4 of its back-to-school plan on Monday, March 15. Prekindergarten-through-3rd grade will receive four days of face-to-face instruction per week, and kids in 4th through 12th will receive two.

“If we see that an individual building has had conditions move to the point where we need to do a building closure for a period of time then we’ll move forward and do that,” Albemarle Co. Schools Chief of Strategic Planning Patrick McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin says most teachers who want to get vaccinated have either already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or are scheduled to.

“We do have about ten percent of our staff who are returning in stage three or four who want, desire vaccination but have not had the chance to schedule one yet. We are currently working diligently with the health departments to get them available spots,” he said.

This law targets the 2021-2022 school year but schools may need to have a plan earlier as Governor Ralph Northam has expressed in an interest in schools returning by March 15.

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