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Norfolk approves plan to return students to in-person learning

In-person instruction will resume only when health indicators from the CDC fall in the lower or lowest risk of transmission of COVID-19.

NORFOLK, Va. — The City of Norfolk School Board has approved a plan for students to return to the classroom once certain health indicators are met.

The school board approved the plan at their meeting on Wednesday. 

In-person instruction will resume only when health indicators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fall in the lower or lowest risk of transmission of COVID-19. 

These core and secondary indicators, which can be found on the CDC’s website, are labeled in dark green and light green.

A phased-in approach will begin once these indicators are in the green zones for 14 consecutive days, going forward in the following phases:

  • Phase One – Equity and Opportunity students, specifically students with disabilities (K-12 students in self-contained classrooms) and English learners (K-12 students in levels 1, 2, and some 3). The students with disabilities in this phase will attend school four days per week. The possibility of English learners attending school four days per week will be reviewed by the administration.
  • Phase Two – Kindergarten through grade 3 (hybrid model)
  • Phase Three – Grades 4 and 5 (hybrid model); the possibility of returning prekindergarten students will be reviewed
  • Phase Four – Grades 6 through 8 (hybrid model)
  • Phase Five – Grades 9 through 12 (hybrid model)

There will be a three-week transition between the phases, pending positive health metrics. 

School Board Chair Doctor Adale Martin explained, "We decided to go with the phased in process again keeping safety as the top priority... instead of coming up with an arbitrary date, and to then phase students in even when the health metrics are showing spikes.” 

Students in Phases two through five will attend school using a hybrid model, in which they will attend school in-person two days a week and receive virtual instruction two days a week.

Wednesdays will remain an asynchronous learning day for all students.

According to the school board's plan, students will remain in their virtual learning format until they are phased in, pending positive health metrics. Parents/guardians have the option to keep their students in the current virtual learning format.

So, with no exact date in mind, some parents said they felt like they were left in limbo, with no ability to make plans.

Dreason Ruckett said he has two kids in Norfolk Public Schools.

“I would love for my kids to be able to go to school so that daycare portion would be taken care of,” Ruckett said.

In addition, he said he knows that many parents are struggling to balance having children learning from home and work. 

“A lot of us have been fortunate enough to telework but that's going away too,” said Ruckett.

Yet, he understands health safety comes first, like grandmother Sharon James told us. 

"It's a process," she said. "Norfolk Public Schools is doing the best it can."

James takes care of two grandchildren who attend Norfolk Public Schools.

"I would mask up every day to match their uniform if I have to, just get them in there," said James.

But she’ll have to wait for that, at least a little longer.

The school board said it has also asked the superintendent to continue to explore the best learning models for in-person instruction, including a non-hybrid model.