Home Education Breaking: At 2 pm Press Conference Today, Gov. Ralph Northam to Announce...

Breaking: At 2 pm Press Conference Today, Gov. Ralph Northam to Announce Plans for Reopening Virginia Schools

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See below for video of Gov. Northam’s 2 pm press conference, at which he is going to announce plans for reopening Virginia’s K-12 schools this fall.

  • Acknowledges the funeral of George Floyd, which is happening as we speak, and asks everyone to join in a brief moment of silence to honor him.
  • Overall, COVID numbers “looking good.” Will speak more about that in a few minutes. Excited about getting kids back into the classroom, that’s because Virginians have listened to guidelines and cooperated. “All of you have been part of the solution…thank you!” “We’re working towards the ‘new normal’…continue…masks…social distancing…hygiene.”
  • Meeting with police chiefs association earlier today. Frank discussion about the pain so many Americans feeling, protests over policing in communities of color, what steps need to be taken…”very good conversation,” knows “how hard everyone is working right now,” everyone shares goal of “rebuilding trust within our communities.” Intendes to meet with other stakeholders, activists, etc. This is an opportunity for serious reform, and “we have to be serious about how we do it.” Involves “listening and learning from wise and thoughtful people.”
  • Thanks state Supreme Court Chief Justice for temporary hold on evictions.
  • Northam announces new appointments – Curtis Brown as state coordinator for Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management; Jehmal Hudson to fill vacancy at State Corporation Commission. Also making three new appointments to Virginia Crime Commission – Chief Boone of the Norfolk PD, Dr. Larry Terry of UVA, Lori Haas of CSGV.
  • COVID-19 health metrics looking positive. % of positive tests trending downwards. Hospitals are in good shape. Continuing to increase testing capacity. Continuing to hire contact tracers. Overall, numbers look good. Most of VA just entered Phase 2 on Friday. NoVA and Richmond also look positive, and they can move into Phase 2 this Friday.
  • K-12 schools: on March 23, closed schools for rest of academic year; helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 over the past few months. Schools have risen to the occasion, continued serving meals, moved to remote learning, etc. This school year is over, seniors have graduated. What to expect this summer and fall? All Virginia schools will open for students this fall, but the school experience will look very different. We’ll start with small groups, allow each school division flexibility. These provide options for consideration, not mandates, for summer school.
  • In Phase 2, which most schools can enter right now, schools can offer in-person instruction for preschool through third graders and English language learners, as well as in-person instruction for students with disabilities. School-based summer camps can operate with some restrictions. Phase 3 will allow schools to shift  to in-person for all students, but they will need to put physical distancing measures in place, such as staggered schedules, 6 feet between desks and work stations, stagger the use of communal spaces, remote learning and telework options for high-risk students and staff, daily health screenings, encourage students to wear face coverings. Schools must submit plans to Dept. of Education outlining how they’ll comply with these guidelines before entering Phase 2 or 3. Protects and prioritizes health and social/emotional/physical well being of students and staff.
  • State Superintendent Lane – We must eliminate achievement and opportunity gaps, must eradicate racism from schools and communities. Walks through particulars of reopening plan. Focuses on the health, social, emotional well-being of our students and staff. Prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable learners. Equity focused. Repeats some of what Gov. Northam already went over. Allows flexibility to school divisions put in more stringent measures. VA Dept. of Education’s “Recover, Redesign, Restart” will come out today; 126-page guide going to school divisions, will be posted online, comprehensive document, schools should use it in their planning. Also, PowerPoint will be posted today with all the details of everything Superintendent Lane talked about and more.
  • Chief of Staff Clark Mercer on sports – apply commonsense, incidental contact vs. intentional contact; need to minimize and prohibit shared equipment.  In baseball, you have your own bat and helmet. QBs can throw to receivers. Weight training without shared equipment is ok. There are ways to train and structure soccer practice without having intentional contact. In soccer, don’t have to have people picking up the ball and throwing it in; can restart from the ground. Going to be less capacity on fields – 30% for an indoor field or 50 people per field. Outdoors – 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. No limit for youth sports, we need parents/guardians to come and drop their kids off and watch. Social distancing between spectators.
  • Today is last day to request absentee ballot for June 23 primaries.
  • Governor’s counsel Rita Davis on status of Robert E. Lee statue. Looking to litigate successfully. Let’s be clear, the purpose of this monument was to recast Virginia history, to recast a devastating evil perpetrated on African Americans. We look forward to defending removal of statue in court.
  • I had a dentist’s appointment, so the rest of this summary will be from reporter Cam Thompson: “Dr. Norm Oliver speaking: 487 new cases, total at 51,738. 19 deaths, total 1,496. Oliver: We have a large lab in Central Virginia that has not done electronic reporting. We’ve been working with them to report electronically, so there will be a big jump in the number of tests reported.”
  • “Legal counsel Rita Davis speaking: We expected an injunction. We prepared and we look forward to successfully litigating that action. Davis: We were not notified of the injunction hearing.”
  • “Q: Any anticipated timelines for the phases, similar to the general reopening of Virginia? Or based on each school system? Northam: Phases for schools will be consistent with the statewide phases.”
  • “Second Q on help for poorer schools. Northam: We’re looking to see if we can distribute CARES Act funding to schools.”
  • “Northam: No date set for recalling the legislature, but looking at early August. Will be doing a reforecast of our budget in the next few weeks.”
  • “Northam: CLARIFICATION — deadline for absentee ballot for the upcoming primary is NEXT Tuesday, not today at 5PM.”
  • “Q on school buses. Lane: Six foot social distancing on buses per VDH guidelines.”
  • “Q: This particular injunction for the statue, were you caught off guard by that? Northam: We’ve been preparing for this for a year. We’re on legal solid ground to have it taken down. Rita Davis, legal counsel: The process that’s begun in Circuit Court is the first of many steps on this issue. Davis: We’re not aware of any other actions filed against the Governor’s decision.”