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Newport News Public Schools presses on under cloud of COVID-19 uncertainty

The head of the school division said it was pushing to provide for students despite the mandatory school closures that came because of coronavirus.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The first thing Newport News Superintendent Dr. George Parker likes to talk about is the school district's successes since Governor Ralph Northam issued a state directive for all public schools to close for two weeks.

Recently, the system expanded its meals-to-go sites and pick-up hours for families needing assistance providing food for their children. 

"We were able to send out meals to three thousand students and we hope to see those numbers grow if we're in an extended closure," said Parker.

RELATED: Schools in Hampton Roads, North Carolina offer meals to students during COVID-19 closures

But the reality is, it's anyone's guess when schools will actually reopen and administrators must grapple with growing questions and anxiety.

Credit: Michelle Price
Newport News Schools hand out free meal to thousands of kids

"We'll have to look at things like, will we have a spring sports season? Will we have opportunities for prom and ring dance? And all those activities that students really enjoy at the latter part of the year. What will graduation look like?"  

Parker says no one has the answers to those questions right now as we wade through uncharted territory. 

In the meantime, teachers have posted instructional packets on their websites for students to continue learning. They're also keeping office hours for students to be able to virtually communicate with them.

RELATED: Hampton Roads teachers adjusting to a new normal

"Our primary focus is reading, writing and math on the elementary levels and on the secondary levels, content-specific teachers are providing packets and information directly for their students."

But a digital divide might be too wide to fill for some students. Already, the district has given out 650 Chromebooks and handed out 60 WiFi hot spots; it's a start but not enough for successful online learning.  

Parker says they are doing the best they can with what they have and he's proud of how parents and teachers have stepped up to the plate. He maintains optimism when asked if it's possible the spring semester will be thrown out.

"Well, I'm an educator so you know the answer to that question is that we will always support student learning and we want our kids to grow, so we will do our best to provide learning opportunities for our students."

For more information on Newport News Schools' resources during the Coronavirus pandemic, click here