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Newport News Public Schools postpones return to in-person instruction

The superintendent announced he was suspending the timeline for the transition to in-person, hybrid instruction, which was scheduled to begin on January 11.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Plans for students to return to the classroom in Newport News are being put on hold following rises in cases of coronavirus, the school district announced.

Superintendent Dr. George Parker III made the announcement on Tuesday.

"Given these metrics, and in accordance with our Return to Learn Plan, I have decided to suspend our Phase II timeline for the transition to in-person, hybrid instruction scheduled to begin on January 11," Parker said in a letter to families. "This will position the school division to ensure a cautious and safe return to in-person instruction."

Some Newport News parents hoped for a different outcome.

“I wanted mine [children] to do that hybrid model," said parent Noel Snow. "Obviously, for a 4-year-old, it’s difficult to get them to sit in a Zoom meeting. I sit with him and all I hear is from the teacher telling the kids sit down, pay attention... it’s hard, even in a classroom. But it’s harder for a 4-year-old to that on the computer." 

One parent said there was a lack of communication when the school district made their decision. 

"I think the worst part is just the lack of communication. To just find out that they're not going back just a few days they weren’t supposed to. It’s just not fair for parents and families that need to do planning," said parent Aime Clinkenbeard. 

13NewsNow reached out to NNPS Superintendent Dr. Parker, who sent out a statement about the school district's quick decision:

"As educators, our top priority is providing a quality education for all of our students in healthy and safe environments. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been faced with many important decisions related to this mission. We are all hopeful that students may soon return to learn at school; however, our top concern must be health and safety of our school community. The decision to postpone our phased-in approach to in-person instruction was not made lightly. After watching COVID-19 cases continue to increase across our region after the winter holidays, my staff and I made the decision this week to postpone our return to school timeline out of an abundance of caution. The announcement was made after careful thought and consideration. We are living through uncertain, evolving circumstances, but Newport News Public School remains steadfast in its commitment to serve our students and their families," said Parker. 

Newport News' "Return to Learn" plan and the latest metrics can be found on the school district's COVID-19 dashboard website.

The superintendent said that school officials expect additional guidance and information later this week from Governor Ralph Northam, the Virginia Department of Health, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Parker said they will continue monitoring COVID-19 cases and transmission rates "while following all protocols outlined by the state and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention."

While Newport News is putting the brakes on a return to in-person learning, at least one other school district is considering going back in the classroom. Virginia Beach's superintendent on Tuesday proposed a phased-in return to begin later this month.