Virginia Republicans call for in-person instruction when schools reopen

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia Republicans are calling on Governor Northam to revise state guidelines for reopening schools.

Wednesday, they said Virginia should make it a priority to get students back in the classroom for in-person instruction five days a week.

“We’re just weeks away and I know many families are panicked right now,” said Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier).

Republican lawmakers said they’ve been hearing from parents across the state who don’t know what they will do if their schools don’t offer in-person instruction five days a week.

“We shouldn’t be forcing these parents to choose between their jobs and their children,” said Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), but instead need to be finding positive solutions to help the schools re-open safely.

With reporters during a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon, they said the governor’s guidelines are inconsistent with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And they said a special session of the General Assembly in August could help pave the way for a safe return to the classroom.

“So during the special session, we need to make K through 12 a priority, make five-day opening a priority and get the schools the tools they need,” said Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights).

A spokesperson for the governor said Northam wants nothing more than to have students back in school this fall, but recent surges in other states make it clear Virginia needs to proceed with caution.

Atif Qarni is Virginia’s Secretary of Education.

“If you want to do all in-person, five days a week, it’s hard to accomplish with social distancing requirements in place,” Qarni told WDBJ7 in a phone interview, “whether it’s six feet without masks, or three feet with masks, as the Academy of American Pediatrics is suggesting, It’s a capacity issue.”

We still don’t know when the special session will happen, though we’ve heard mid-August is likely.

COVID-19, the state budget and criminal justice reform are already on the agenda.

Perhaps lawmakers will now add school reopening to the list of urgent issues.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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