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Start dates, mask rules and virtual options | What you need to know as students return to Hampton Roads schools

Start dates for school divisions vary this year. Although some students returned in August, others begin classes on September 7, 8, or 9.

NORFOLK, Va. — Hampton Roads students are back in class this week as COVID-19 cases are still surging.

For some, it’s the first time they’ve been physically in a classroom in a year.

For others, the virtual options feel all too familiar.

Here's what you need to know before your student dons their mask and boards their bus.

First, masks are required in all K-12 schools, both public and private, regardless of vaccination status.

RELATED: Masks mandatory for K-12 students across Virginia

Second, all Virginia schools are required to offer in-person instruction five days a week.

However, all schools in Hampton Roads are also offering a virtual option, either through their own school system or through Virtual Virginia.

RELATED: Expert, parent explain ways to prepare students for in-person from virtual learning

If you’re in Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Isle of Wight or Hampton City Schools, you’re some of the first schools to go back on Sept. 7.

Norfolk and Newport News open their doors on Sept. 8, and Virginia Beach goes back last on Sept. 9.

   

Every school in Hampton Roads is doing things like contact tracing, keeping kids at least 3 feet apart when they can and increasing ventilation.

RELATED: Newport News Public Schools celebrates more than 600 students vaccinated against COVID-19, with plans for another clinic

Many of those same schools are also battling bus driver shortages, which might mean delays for kids getting to class.

"We are trying to do all we can do to get the kids to school on time, but that will be a challenge," Chesapeake's Transportation Director, David Benson, told 13News Now. 

   

In Chesapeake, buses have assigned seats and classes are encouraged to take “mask breaks” during the day.

Throughout September, they’re also holding vaccine clinics every Wednesday at 4 p.m.

In Portsmouth, they are returning to pre-pandemic schedules, while Norfolk is temporarily operating on a staggered start time.

RELATED: 'Most important school year ever' | Virginia Beach Superintendent talks back-to-school, masks

Over in Virginia Beach, Superintendent Aaron Spence said both CDC guidance and local data will drive decisions from here on, as many eyes will be watching each school division’s COVID-19 dashboard.

"I think it's going to set the stage for recovery, and if we get it right, we're going to put our kids back on a terrific trajectory for success, and if we don't get it right, we're going to be years working to recover from this," he said.

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