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Educators, parents rally following decision to to postpone in-person learning in Newport News

Superintendent Dr. George Parker announced Tuesday that the school district will postpone returning students to the classroom and continue planning.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News' school superintendent is putting the brakes on plans to return students to the classroom.

Superintendent Dr. George Parker announced Tuesday that the school district will postpone returning students to the classroom and continue planning.

Last week, the Newport News School Board approved a phased timeline to return some students to in-person instruction, which was originally set to begin next Monday, October 19.

Dr. Parker said he’s delaying the implementation because the school division’s "most recent input from key stakeholders has led to a decision that we simply need more time to plan for the safe arrival of students."

The School Board vote gave the Superintendent the authority to delay the return to in-person instruction, if warranted.

"It is my expectation, that in collaboration with you [the parents], we will complete the necessary planning during the month of November," Dr. Parker said. "While we feel we can work out the details, we wanted the time to do that and communicate and involve as many people as possible."

On Wednesday, teachers, parents, and members of Newport News Educators United rallied outside the school administration building.

They're happy the superintendent made the decision to postpone in-person learning, but now want to make sure division leaders make the best decision moving forward. They advocated for a safe, cautious, and data-driven eventual school reopening.

Rally organizers said they still need a transparent plan that addresses safety protocols and mitigation strategies, the reporting and communication of COVID-19 cases, hybrid classroom logistics, and more. 

There's mixed reaction to the decision.

Natasha Howe has six children. Three of them have learning disabilities. She said time is of the essence.

"I feel helpless at this point," Howe said. "My children have to go back to school."

She added, "They're frustrated. My child with autism was crying and said mom, I'm failing, and my other high schoolers are failing too."

Rhonda Day applauds the superintendent's decision.

"I want safety for the kids," Day said. 

Day's daughter is a freshman at Warwick High School, who also wants to continue with virtual learning until COVID-19 is under control.

"I was happy that the school took the teachers' and kids' health into consideration," Day said.

Additional communication will be provided this week to the parents of self-contained special education students and Level 1 English Language Learners.