The Newport News Public Schools (NNPS) superintendent George Parker announced Tuesday that he was postponing the plan that would have brought students back to the classroom for the first time since March.
The delay comes after the Newport News School Board voted 5-2 during its meeting last week to allow for a phased return to in-person instruction for K-12 students.
“Today, with the support of our School Board and division leadership, I made the important decision to suspend the implementation timeline for the transition to a hybrid, in-person instructional schedule, and extend our planning phase to the end of the first quarter,” Parker said in a message posted online.
The decision by the school board was met with some pushback from local educator groups, primarily the Newport News Educators United who called for teachers and staff to have more say in choosing whether or not in-person classes resume, and for questions about safety protocols, mitigation strategies, reporting positive COVID-19 cases and other concerns to be answered, according to a press release about a Wednesday rally on the group’s Facebook page.
“While progress has been made thus far, our most recent input from key stakeholders has led to a decision that we simply need more time to plan for the safe arrival of students,” Parker said.
The now delayed plan includes five phases for a return to in-person classes using a hybrid schedule where the majority of students would come to school for two-days a week and then learn virtually from home for the other three days.
Phase one would have brought back special needs students and English language learners who are level one or who are new to the country on Monday. Separate from the rest of the students, these groups would have four days of in-person instruction per week under the plan.
For phase two, K-2 students would have begun learning under the hybrid schedule on October 26.
Phase three would have seen students from third grade to sixth-grade return to school on November 5, while phase four was for students in grades seven and eight starting on November 16.
The fifth and final phase of the plan relating to high school students was set for some time in December and is still to be determined because of the availability of bus transportation.
Parker’s message did not offer a new timeline for students’ return to the classroom.
Another part of the process to resume in-person classes is an online intent form parents must fill out, choosing whether they want to keep their child in a fully virtual schedule, which can happen for the rest of the school year, or if they want their child to learn in the hybrid model.
Preliminary results from the intent form showed it was nearly a 50-50 split, Michelle Price, NNPS director of public information, told The Virginia Star.
Price also said the timeline was revised by Parker to allow for more planning and to get some additional input from stakeholders – Teaching and support staff, parents and students. Additionally, Price offered details on when an adjusted plan will be shown to the school board again.
“[Superintendent Parker’s] goal is to present a proposed plan to the school board during their board meeting on November 17,” Price said in an interview with The Star. “His timeline now is to take the next few weeks to work out a lot more of the details so he can prepare for a safe return for all students.”
– – –
Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Dr. George Parker, III” by New Port News Public Schools.