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Portsmouth Public Schools stays virtual until 2021; we asked the decision-makers about the choice

Several public school divisions in Hampton Roads have some students back for class, but Portsmouth Public Schools is waiting until the new calendar year begins.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Several public school divisions across Hampton Roads have already brought back some students for in-person learning. Yet, Portsmouth Public Schools decided to keep its students with virtual learning, until 2021.

De’Andre Barnes is one of nine Portsmouth Public School board-members who made the decision.

Barnes said it was “a very tough decision. I have three children who go to Portsmouth Public Schools.”  He added, “You know, everybody wants their kids to be back in school, for a lot of different reasons.”

He continued to tell us that “safety was the top priority for us (the school division)." He said as a parent, he knows how important it is for students to learn face-to-face.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic, Barnes said that’s something that needs to wait until after December 18, which is the last day of class before winter break.

When students return on January 4, only pre-K through third-grade students will begin a hybrid in-person and virtual learning schedule. Fourth through 12th-grade students will continue learning completely online.

Barnes said he’s heard mixed reactions from people in Portsmouth about delaying in-person instruction.

“We know that our children need it, but you know at the end of the day, the risk was greater than those things,” said Barnes.

Dorothy Coltrane said she has a grandchild in Portsmouth Public Schools. “Right now I think they shouldn’t go back to school,” said Coltrane.

She said she’s grateful for the decision to keep children learning virtually until 2021. Coltrane said, “Keep our kids safe because I want to be safe myself.”

Coltrane said she knows the school division may expand the hybrid schedule as the year goes on, but for now, she feels Portsmouth Public School leaders are helping prevent more COVID related deaths, and loss, in the community.

“You can’t take that back,” said Coltrane.