The Stafford County School Board has followed other area school divisions in approving a virtual start to the 2020–21 school year for all students.
The board on Tuesday approved Superintendent Scott Kizner’s recommendation that all students receive virtual instruction instead of having the choice of a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction.
Exceptions will be made for early English language learners, special education students, students with weak or limited internet connectivity and “other students as determined by building principals,” according to Kizner’s plan.
For high school and middle school students, the hybrid option will not be available until after winter break, at least, according to the motion approved by the board.
Staff will evaluate health and academic data before winter break to determine whether a return to in-school instruction is feasible for the remainder of the academic year.
Extracurricular activities that cannot be conducted virtually will not be permitted “at this time and until further notice,” according to the adopted plan.
Elementary school students will also start the year virtually, but an analysis will occur towards the end of September to determine if a hybrid model can be offered prior to winter break.
The School Board requested that staff conduct a pilot program of the hybrid model, made up of volunteer students and staff, to see how it would work before offering the option to all students.
The pilot program could begin as soon as Oct. 6.
Elementary students will attend in-person orientations to virtual learning during the weeks of Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, as scheduled by building principals.
Out of concerns that the number of students in exempted categories receiving in-person learning will grow too large, the board asked Kizner to provide an update on these categories Sept. 8.
The board appeared to be unanimous in favoring a virtual start to the school year. Aquia District Representative Irene Hollerback voted against the motion to approve distance learning for middle and high school students, but stated during the meeting that she had been prepared to support Kizner's plan for distance learning. She voted against the motion because it made several changes to his plan.
Kizner's plan, presented last week, proposed that a hybrid option could begin on Nov. 11 if health trends would support it.
The plan approved by the board does not offer the hybrid option until after winter break.
Kizner said that since June 15, 50 total employees of Stafford County Public Schools have resigned from their positions or requested a leave of absence. Thirty-nine were teachers, he said.
There have been 15 resignations in the past two weeks, Kizner said, and five new teachers have rescinded their acceptances.
All school divisions in the Fredericksburg region will now open virtually for all students, with the exception of Caroline County Public Schools.
The Caroline School Board is still considering both a virtual and a hybrid model and will vote on a return to school plan on Thursday.