WINCHESTER — Winchester Public Schools may start the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 17, with students attending classes twice a week.

On Wednesday night, the School Board agreed to put the Aug. 17 start date on the consent agenda for its July 20 meeting. Board member Elyus Wallace said he preferred an Aug. 24 start date.

If information regarding the coronavirus changes, the board could move the start date.

Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum said he will move forward with a tentative plan that permits students to attend in-person classes twice a week. Though no board action was taken, the general consensus among board members was that they support the plan.

The coronavirus pandemic brought in-person classroom instruction to a halt in mid-March across Virginia to prevent the spread of the virus. Virginia is now in the third phase of its reopening plan, which permits students to return to school under certain guidelines. How and when classes resume is ultimately up to each School Board.

Starting today, Winchester Public Schools will launch a two-week summer program for about 200 students across grade levels. This will aid students who are most in need in additional classroom support. The summer program will also help the school division plan for reopening on a larger scale in August, Van Heukelum said.

"We don't take this lightly," he said.

Frederick County and Clarke County school divisions are currently developing their reopening plans.

Reopening plans must be approved at the state level.

Winchester Public Schools has been exploring three options on how classes will be held.

Under the twice a week, in-person option, students would attend classes on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesdays, time would be dedicated for teachers to continue synchronous, live online learning and professional development. There would be staggered start and end times to the school day, as well as an option for students to take in-person classes in the evening. Saturday sessions for students who need extra support would be offered under this model.

Another model would allow all students to attend in-person classes Monday to Friday, but only for a half-day. This would split the day into two different shifts of students — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

The other option would be to alternate days that students attend in-person classes on A or B schedules.

All three models would offer students the option to participate in 100% online learning. Van Heukelum said he wouldn't be surprised if 200 to 400 students choose this option. The school division has about 4,400 students.

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 once in-person instruction resumes, anyone who has had contact with the known case will have to quarantine for 14 days. Contact is defined by the division as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days prior to when the person became ill.

Those under quarantine will still be expected to participate in classes online, unless they are sick, Van Heukelum said. "We don't want to just stop their learning for two weeks."

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

(3) comments

brendaeb

Wow! What a scramble for daycare this decision will cause! Poor elementary students ...they will bear the brunt of this decision in their foundational years of learning

BenWeber

Very surprised that no one have commented on this article. Not a good sign IMO.

Shkurbon01

I’ll add a reply. What a bunch of sheep everyone is to follow such a ridiculous suggestion. This virus is not as dangerous as the government wants you to think. It’s based on liberal fear monger. We now have heard immunity and hardly anyone is dying. The numbers are inflated to scare all of you into complying and doing exactly what the government wants you to do.

How are our educators this FOOLISH? You think actually only being in school for 3 hours is going to make a difference? Get all the kids back and go back to normal life. The government (liberals) are pushing this new world order-Agenda, to see how far they can go. They want you to comply. So when they demand you sheep take the mark of the beast, you will all fall right in line. This is a plandemic. It was done on purpose to change the way the world works. It was bio- chemical warfare. It’s ridiculously out of control. It’s also unconstitutional how it’s all being handled.

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