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Many private schools in Hampton Roads plan to return to in-person instruction this fall

According to the Virginia Council for Private Education, many private schools want to have students back in class this fall.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Public schools in Virginia are following state guidance when it comes to putting together their plans for in-person classes in the fall.

However, private schools don’t have to follow that same guidance. They’re able to decide what they want to do without the state signing off on their plans.

The Virginia Council for Private Education represents almost 500 accredited schools in the state. Grace Creasey is the VCPE Executive Director.

“Our private schools are making their own decisions about how they want to proceed with reopening," Creasey said.

Creasy said most private schools don’t have to provide transportation the way public schools do and “it is quite a bit more flexibility, that we can have our parents and families bring their students to school.”

So, Creasey said a majority of private schools plan to reopen in August, with students in their buildings.

“Our private schools across the Commonwealth really do work to be that community center for our students and their families,” said Creasey.

RELATED: Amid virus concerns, administrators face daunting task of figuring out how to open schools

Strelitz International Academy is one of the private schools planning to provide classes in-person, five days a week, starting on August 24.

The Head of School Heather Moore said they do have plans in case the coronavirus outbreak gets worse and they can't do that.

“We are basically opening with a tiered system next year,” said Moore.

However, while Governor Ralph Northam has the state in Phase 3 of reopening, the school will add new health safety procedures for nearly 250 students that they teach, in the age groups of infants through 5th graders.

“Distance learning can be very difficult at such young ages because they still really need a lot of support,” said Moore.

Moore said when people return to the building, they will find changes that include health screenings and social distancing measures. No visitors will be allowed in, and that includes parents.

RELATED: Hampton Roads teachers voice concerns about returning to classrooms in fall

At Norfolk Academy, one of Virginia’s oldest private schools, the headmaster Dennis Manning said they intend to open their doors for in-person instruction as well.

In a statement, Manning said:

“Our overwhelming desire is to open on schedule on August 26, with students, faculty, and staff on campus every day of the school week. We believe – even more firmly after spending the last several months in a remote-learning environment – that daily interaction among students, their peers, and teachers is central to our children’s education. Furthermore, based on information gleaned from pediatricians, we also believe that children need the psychological, emotional, and social benefits of being in school with peers.

Our Reopening Task Force is designing the policies, procedures, and physical space necessary for the safety of our 1,200 students, 200 staff, and all campus visitors.”

As a parent, Kim Mingee said her daughters will be back in class at Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Hampton.

“Honestly I feel really good about it,” said Mingee. She continued on and said, “The school has always been very conscientious about cleanliness, about how the children interact with one another. And I think at this point my girls are really ready to have some interaction with their classmates."

RELATED: Virginia Department of Education releases new guidance for returning to classes this fall

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