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Workgroup to guide school reopening, recovery

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced a workgroup of educators, school administrators, mental health professionals, parents and leaders of community organizations were formed to assess the needs of students and support Virginia school divisions as they implement Governor Ralph Northam’s directive to provide in-person instruction options for students by March 15.

Using the Virginia Department of Education’s Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020 guidance document as its starting point, the Virginia LEARNS (Leading, Engaging, Assessing, Recovering, Nurturing and Succeeding) workgroup will develop recommendations and identify resources and best practices related to equity, curricula — especially in literacy and mathematics — remediation and intervention strategies, assessments, data analysis, and technology to support instruction.

Lane also charged the workgroup with creating and identifying resources and best practices to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health and social-emotional well-being of students, families and school employees.

“I want to thank the members of the Virginia LEARNS workgroup for accepting the challenge of helping the commonwealth’s public schools navigate these extraordinary circumstances and meet the needs of students, especially those who have fallen behind while their schools have been unable to provide in-person instruction and support services,” Lane said. “The workgroup will assist school divisions — regardless of their current status — chart a course for the remainder of the current school year, this summer and into 2021-2022.”

Charlottesville Superintendent Rosa Atkins will serve as chair of the Virginia LEARNS workgroup. Smyth County Superintendent Dennis Carter, Franklin County Superintendent Bernice Cobbs, Chesapeake Superintendent Jared Cotton and Newport News Public Schools Chief of Staff Rashard Wright will also serve in leadership roles. Several other school districts also are represented.

“The workgroup members bring a diverse set of perspectives and experiences to the table,” Lane said. “All regions of the commonwealth are represented. There are members from urban, rural and suburban divisions. And there are representatives of school divisions that have safely provided in-person instruction during most or all of the current school year while overcoming the challenges of COVID-19.”

VDOE staff will support the Virginia LEARNS workgroup as it carries out its mission. The panel will conduct its first virtual meeting on Wednesday, February 17. The workgroup will then solicit input from various education stakeholder groups before producing a final report in late April.

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