WINCHESTER — After Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that all schools in Virginia must stay closed for the remainder of the academic year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, much remains up in the air for local school districts.
In the coming days the Virginia Department of Education is expected to issue guidance on grades, credit verification and graduation.
On Tuesday, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said high school seniors can graduate on time if seniors are currently enrolled in a course they need to graduate. They also can graduate if they have successfully completed a course required for graduation but have not earned an associated verified credit and if they haven’t passed a required student-selected SOL test.
The Virginia General Assembly must still pass legislation that permits seniors to graduate without completing training in emergency first aid. Legislators also must approve graduation for seniors who have not completed a virtual course.
In the meantime, the state is looking into waivers for standardized tests that students take in the spring.
Closing schools until the end of the academic year has been especially hard on seniors.
“I was quite disappointed,” James Wood High School senior Cyle DeHaven said about the decision, noting that he was looking forward to end-of-year FFA events. He is a senior adviser for the group.
He said he should have enough credits to graduate already, so he won’t likely participate in any online classes this semester. He plans to go to Lord Fairfax Community College in the fall to become a conservation officer.
His mother, Leda DeHaven, said she understands the need to close schools, but she wishes more information and guidance were provided when the governor made the announcement on Monday.
She also expressed concerns about the impact the coronavirus has had on the stock market and how that might affect her son’s college fund investments.
Another James Wood senior, Blake Sandy, said he was both excited and disappointed about his senior year ending abruptly.
“I mean we made it through just about four years of high school getting to the fun stuff and then that’s it,” said Blake, who was looking forward to FFA events and the prom.
With high school basically over, Blake is working as a landscaper to save up as much money as he can before he starts college at Utah State in the fall to study mechanical engineering.
Kelly Verna Cummins, of Stephens City, said she lives in a household with eight children and five adults. While she said it’s stressful managing eight children whose school year has been cut short, it’s even more stressful finding food and essentials to take care of 13 people.
“We know the school offers lunches, but we know there are other kids that need it more,” she said, referring to free meals school districts have been offering in the wake of the closure.
Although she is upset for the seniors who are missing out on big events like prom and graduation, Verna Cummins said the situation is just as sad for younger students who are missing being at school.
Her youngest daughter started preschool this year and keeps asking if she will have school the next day.
“She keeps asking, ‘Do I have school tomorrow?’ and telling her no and trying to explain it has been difficult,” Verna Cummins said.