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Virginia Beach City Public Schools looks to begin the year with virtual learning

Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said he recommends for the school division open 100% virtually in the fall.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach's school superintendent wants classes to be 100% virtual learning in the fall.

Dr. Aaron Spence said Thursday that he recommends beginning the school year virtually.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools had been considering three scenarios:

Option 1: Schools reopen close to normal with some safety changes.

Option 2: Smaller groups of students alternate days attending with a mixture of in-person instruction and virtual learning. 

Option 3: 100 percent virtual.

In the end, Spence wants the school district will be going with Option 3. He said the goal will be to eventually reintroduce face-to-face learning, but that it will be based on health data.

He acknowledged that the plan "will not make everyone happy," but "given the ever-shifting nature of this health pandemic and the absolute need to both teach our students and keep them and our staff safe, I believe that we have put together the best possible strategy for doing all of that."

The superintendent said that families will be allowed two options: go back to face-to-face learning when it’s safe to do so, or stay only virtual for at least the first semester of class.

Schedules will look different in the fall. Middle school and high school students will only have a few classes each semester.

Dr. Spence said fewer classes will limit the amount of time students are passing each other in the halls when they do go back to school. It will also help students focus.

“It's easier we know for students working in a virtual learning environment to not have to juggle eight classes,” Dr. Spence said.

He said all students have access to devices needed for virtual learning and they are confident most have access to the internet.

"Attendance is going to be required and we are going to be monitoring that so we will know very quickly which of our students aren't showing up,” Dr. Spence said. “We will be able to get our social workers out there, find out what is going on. If it is an access issue, we are going to connect them with the resources they need to have to have access."

Dr. Spence serves on the Virginia High School League committee. As far as sports go, he said there is a lot of support regionally to delay the season.

"To push it back towards December and then shorten the seasons for each of the fall, winter and spring sports seasons,” Dr. Spence said.

The measure would still need to be approved by the Virginia Beach School Board, which will meet on Tuesday.

Division leaders are holding a community information session on the plan Monday at 6 p.m. They said community members can submit questions on this website.

This comes a day after the City of Norfolk also announced it would be going online-only to start the school year.

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