Reopening Schools Plan - State Guidance

Details on the state guidance for reopening schools

State Guidance on Reopening Schools

Governor Northam’s Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools was accompanied by comprehensive guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, Recovery, Redesign, Restart 2020. The state guidance reinforces that Virginia schools are expected to deliver new instruction to all students in the 2020-21 school year, while recognizing that the format for instructional delivery may shift across the year. The state plan articulates that the start of the year is likely to bring a blend of in-person and remote learning across the state. However, it recognizes that divisions in different areas of the state may have differing needs and may be on different timelines with delivery models. All state decisions related to easing health restrictions will continue to be governed by public health status data, as outlined in the Forward Virginia Blueprint.

The governor’s phase guidance provides a gradual scale-up of school operations. Mitigation strategies including physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, health screening protocols, etc., are necessary across all phases to reduce the spread of COVID-19 virus. Based on local health data, divisions are authorized to be more restrictive for in-person services than what is allowed in each phase.

Phase I: In-person services may be provided under strict safety protocols for special education programs, in special cases where all parties agree it is appropriate. Childcare may be offered in schools for working adults under special restrictions. During this phase, instruction is generally remote. No athletics or extracurricular activities are permitted. Social distancing guidelines are defined as: 

  • Maximum 10 people per bus or classroom and 6-foot physical separation, whenever possible; and
  • Limited mixing of students in groups, no communal spaces, such as cafeterias, and no large gatherings.

Phase II: In-person services may additionally be offered for PreK-3 and English learners. Summer camps may be held in school buildings with strict social distancing measures in place. During this phase, instruction remains predominantly remote. Limited access to athletics and extracurricular activities with mitigation strategies. Social distancing guidelines are defined as: 

  • 6-foot physical separation, whenever possible, and physical distance between children on school buses;
  • 50 person limit on large gatherings, assemblies, etc., and limited mixing of students in groups; and
  • Communal spaces remain closed, if possible, or receive intensive disinfection between uses.

Phase III: In-person services are permitted for all students with social distancing measures in place. During this phase, in-person instruction may be offered to all students, but remote instruction will continue to be an option for some learners. Athletics and extracurricular activities may be expanded with continued mitigation strategies. Social distancing guidelines are defined as: 

  • Goal of 6-foot physical separation for all adults and students, with the option of combining 3-foot separation and cloth face coverings as an alternative;
  • Physical distance on school buses; use of face coverings when physical distance cannot be maintained;
  • 10-foot physical distancing for school athletics practice and competitions;
  • Large school gatherings, including athletic events, limited s to the lesser of 250 people or 50 percent of venue; and
  • Considerations to limit mixing of students in groups, including adjusted schedules, transitions, closure or staggered use for communal spaces, etc.

Beyond Phase III: Divisions begin a “new normal” in operations in consultation with public health officials. Some mitigating strategies will remain in place, such as those outlined as applying across all phases. 

Across All Phases: Divisions are expected to follow CDC guidance for schools pertaining to social and physical distancing, health and hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting. These include:

  • Daily health screenings for students and staff;
  • Online instruction and teleworking options for students and staff with elevated risk of severe illness;
  • Cloth face coverings for staff and encouraged for students, as developmentally appropriate, whenever 6-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained; and
  • Encouraging staff and students who feel sick to stay home, with clear policies on when they can return.

Before entering Phase II or Phase III, divisions must submit a plan to the Virginia Department of Education outlining strategies to mitigate public health risk for COVID-19 and address CDC and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommendations. FCPS submitted documentation of its health mitigation plan on June 19, 2020. 

Reopening Schools Plan - Complete Information