By Cory L. Higgs and Brandon Martin
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that all Virginia schools, both public and private, will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
Other announcements included state mandated closers of non-essential businesses and those who could not adhere to state mandated social distancing protocols.
Schools are ending their academic year and will determine how to instruct. The state Department of Education is seeking to waive testing requirements.
Patrick County Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert said that since Northam ordered schools closed, “we will not have to make up this time. We will be getting further guidance from the Department of Education on the graduation requirements.”
He also noted that Northam has only ordered gatherings be halted for the next 30 days, “so I hope that we can have graduation as scheduled. However, there are some items I will need to discuss with the school board before I comment. I know this is somewhat vague, but this situation is always changing.” The DOE also is seeking a waiver for testing this year, “but the Board of Education has to vote on
the waiver,” Gilbert said. “As far as how this impacts students going to college next year, that will be up to the colleges.”
In the meantime, Gilbert said the division plans to continue the school meal program “until something
changes at the state level.
Monica Hatchett, director of communications & organizational learning for the Henry County School division, said “at this time, we are under state orders for no gatherings larger than 10. We will be working to find creative ways to support our students academically and socially, but we certainly have a lot of planning and re-planning to do over the coming weeks.“
The state superintendent has advised the division “that we will receive information on how this will work later this week,” Hatchett said. Officials likely also will know the answers to other questions, including whether the hourly requirement for accreditation will be waived.
School officials “will be working on this week as we receive guidance and information from the department of education. We are working with our counselors to plan for guidance of all types for our students,” Hatchett said.
The meal program and deliveries is expected to continue in Henry County “until the end of our school year (in May) and then shift to our traditional summer meals program,” Hatchett said.
Northam also asked all the public and private day cares to rally to solve the problem of caring for the children of essential employees.
Also Monday, he ordered recreational and entertainment businesses to close.
Restaurants can remain open only in a takeout/carry out capacity. Retail establishments can remain open, but must maintain 10 people or less and doesn’t account for staff.
The changes are slated to take effect at midnight on Tuesday, March 24.