If Halifax County remains in Phase Two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia Blueprint when Halifax County Public Schools open in the fall, schools would operate under phase two of newly released school guidance, “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020.”
Phase Two allows schools to begin providing in-person instruction for students in pre-K through third grade, English Language Learners, and summer camps can be held in school buildings.
The phases in “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020,” which is a guiding document for Virginia schools that was released Tuesday afternoon by Northam and Virginia Department of Education, align with the governor’s blueprint.
All Virginia schools, public and private, must now use these restrictions in “Recover, Redesign and Restart 2020” to create a guide for the next school year and submit it to the Virginia Department of Education.
It must be submitted to VDOE at least one business day before a school system begins providing in-person instruction, according to Northam’s press office.
“We’re going to create the best format under the restrictions presented,” said Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg.
Work on the upcoming school year began prior to this week for the school system, and work will continue throughout the summer. They plan to hold a meeting with staff next week to brainstorm plans.
Lineburg also said much of the safety strategies have been put in place.
Maintenance Director Steve Brumfield has been working with his staff to clean HVAC and train custodians on the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing and they’ve begun working towards those.
The superintendent said instruction and transportation will be two key factors in moving forward, and where those plans go will depend heavily on a survey distributed to families.
The superintendent said a draft of the survey should be completed by Wednesday. He hopes to distribute that survey by the end of June.
Once they have the completed surveys, he said work would be built around those.
Families will have the chance to let the school system know if they prefer in-person learning or virtual learning and what mode of transportation they plan to use — car rider or bus.
What a school is allowed to do also will depend on phases, according to Northam and the Virginia Department of Education. Information on the phases created follows.
In Phase Two, social gatherings, including offices, classrooms, ceremonies and more are capped at 50 people if other social distancing measures are in place. Individuals are asked to remain six foot apart.
Buses do not have a limit on capacity in Phase Two. However, students are to remain six-foot apart.
Recess in Phase Two allows for groups of 50 or less, socially distanced and with minimal mixing of groups.
Limited athletics and extracurricular activities with social distancing are allowed in Phase Two.
Phase One would allow childcare programs, programs for special education students, and students must have a maximum class size, and capacity of bus, office space, cafeteria, auditorium, graduation and other ceremonies of 10.
Buses also must have a six-foot separation between students in Phase One.
In Phase One, a six-foot separation must remain between desks, tables and workstations and between students and staff to the greatest extent possible.
Recess in Phase One will consist of groups of 10 or less, socially distanced.
Athletics, extracurriculars and field trips are prohibited in Phase One.
Phase Three allows for in-person instruction for all students, however, social distancing measures should be implemented. A gathering limit for schools has currently not been set for Phase Three.
Individuals also are asked to remain six foot apart in Phase Three.
Recess will remain to groups of 50 or less, socially distanced and with minimal mixing of groups in Phase Three.
Athletics, extracurriculars and field trip access in Phase Three is to be determined.
Daily health screenings for symptoms and history of exposure for students and staff plan to be held during each phase.
Staff should wear cloth face coverings when at least six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained, in all three phases. Students are encouraged to use face coverings in each phase, as developmentally appropriate when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The guidance from Northam and the VDOE says students attend physically on alternating days or weeks. It states students are split into two groups by address, grade level or other to reduce load on busses and support social distancing to be decided by the school system.
Three scenarios are presented in the guidance.
The first scenario calls for staggering attendance by week, alternating days such as group one attends Monday, Wednesday and Friday and group two attends Tuesday and Thursday.
Then students switch for week two.
The second scenario presented has group one attending Monday and Wednesday while group two attends Tuesday and Thursday.
Scenario two, which seemed similar to plans Halifax County Public School staff presented to Halifax County School Board Monday, allows for Fridays to be used for professional development, meetings or other office hours.
The last scenario provided has group one attending school Monday – Thursday during week one and works remotely during week two. It would be opposite for group two.
The document also states school should consider using remote learning for older students while giving younger students priority to in-person instruction.
Before any final decision is made, Lineburg said communication would be made to all families in the form of newsletters, town hall meetings, videos and public service announcements.
“Communication will be a big part of what we do,” he concluded.