It’s time for children to go back to school as normal
Governor Ralph Northam recently announced his plan to reopen Virginia’s schools. It followed the same pattern as his previous announcements — vague and with little actionable information.
Schools should reopen in phases, but only after getting approval for their plans from the State Department of Education. Schools will be required to follow CDC guidelines, but each system is responsible for coming up with their own plan. Students and staff will be subject to daily health checks, and face coverings will be required.
To meet the social distancing restrictions placed on schools by the phased-in standards of the governor, requires that they either use an all distant learning method or one where they attend school on a staggered schedule, while half are at home with distance education support. Rural areas of the state, such as ours, have very significant restrictions on internet access, this makes the distant learning portion of this equation very challenging to students.
The governor obviously does not understand how these regulations will affect our rural school bus regulations. Meeting his social distancing regulations will require schools to sometimes more than triple the number of trips for each bus route. There is no way our rural school budget can handle these additional costs.
We have been hearing from a number of families that simply cannot make these new regulations work. They do not have the finances or support system to handle the at-home education portion that schools are having to implement based on the governor’s guidelines. There is no way some parents can work and provide these educational requirements at home for their children.
All in all, the guidance provided by the governor gives parents and teachers little to work with. Planning for “the new normal” isn’t possible without dates for when each phase will begin or end or even guidelines for when decisions will be made.
Just like our businesses, Virginia’s parents need consistent, detailed information on how to move forward. The governor’s announcement this week does little but muddy the waters for parents who must plan.
This muddled message is yet another example of the Northam administration’s inability to lead. When Virginians need certainty, the governor never fails to arrive with pages of uncertain, non-actionable information that will likely be contradicted at a later date.
Our children deserve the best education possible and Gov. Northam is holding our local school systems hostage from being able to provide that to our children. I believe it is time to get our students back to school as usual. I have full confidence that our local school divisions can devise a plan to do that safely without being sent down regulations that are not good for students, families or our schools.
I hope you will continue to contact us if there is any way we can be of assistance. You can reach my office at 434.696.3061 or DelTWright@house.virginia.gov