As of last week, all of Virginia’s 132 school divisions are now open for full-time, in-person learning, Gov. Ralph Northam said in an announcement that came as First Lady Pamela Northam concluded her annual Back to School Tour, during which she has visited 28 schools, 26 school divisions, and all eight superintendent regions. The Northam administration has prioritized safe in-person instruction for the Commonwealth’s 1.2 million public school students.
“Students learn best when they are in their classroom, and I am proud that all of Virginia’s school divisions are now providing safe, in-person instruction,” said Northam. “The Commonwealth’s teachers and families have worked hard to adjust to virtual and hybrid learning during the pandemic—because of their continued work, Virginia’s children are now safely back in school.”
Since inauguration, First Lady Pamela Northam has covered more than 10,000 miles and visited more than 200 schools, including Patrick and Henry county divisions, to celebrate the start of the school year. During this year’s tour, the First Lady visited 28 schools in all eight superintendent divisions to highlight safe-in person instruction and the Commonwealth’s record investment in early childhood education. Due to her advocacy on behalf of Northam administration, a record 25,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Virginia now have access to early childhood learning.
“After four years on the road at over 200 schools and programs, we have never seen students so excited to be back in the classroom totally engaged in learning with their peers,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “Thanks to superhero educators, Virginia’s children will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever before.”
“I have been traveling across Virginia and welcoming students back to in-person learning since July, when Hopewell Public Schools reopened under their new year-round calendar,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “At every school I visit, I am impressed by the determination of principals, teachers, and support staff to overcome all of the challenges they face and maintain safe, in-person learning for their students.”
Schools are collaborating with local health departments and working diligently to implement recommended mitigation strategies while also navigating quarantine protocols following positive cases among school members. Recently, the Virginia Department of Health issued guidance on “close contacts” for K-12 settings that is expected to result in fewer and shorter disruptions to in-person learning for students and staff.
“Vaccines play a critical role in keeping students and staff safe, and our schools open for in-person learning,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. “Parents and caregivers can play a significant role in keeping our schools open and safe by getting vaccinated and making sure that their children who are 12 and older are vaccinated.”
In alignment with the recommendations of the Virginia Department of Education’s Virginia LEARNS Workgroup, schools across the commonwealth are focused on assessing the impact of the pandemic on student learning, addressing unfinished learning, and supporting students’ physical and mental health.
School divisions are receiving a total of $3.6 billion in federal support for recovery and reopening under three federal pandemic relief acts: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
In addition, school divisions received $205.8 million in state funding this year to mitigate the impact of declines in per-pupil funding due to the pandemic, and $40 million in state funding to address unfinished learning.
School reopening information and resources for parents and school communities are available in the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Health’s online Healthy Back-to-School COVID-19 Safety Guide.