Virginia’s Interim Guidance for Reopening Prek-12 Schools (January 2021)
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January 14, 2021
On January 14, 2021 Dr. James Lane, State Superintendent for Public Instruction, and Dr. Norman Oliver, State Health Commissioner, released Interim Guidance for Re-opening PreK-12-This is a PDF document. in a letter to Superintendents and Local Health Directors-This is a PDF document.. This new document incorporates and replaces the Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools (last updated July 2020) and the Interim VDH Guidance for Mitigation Measures in K-12 Settings (last updated October 2020) previously issued by the Commonwealth.
VDH and VDOE recommend that schools use the CDC Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making framework together with the VDH/VDOE Interim Guidance to assess the risk of introduction and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools, to help inform decisions about school operations, and to implement necessary mitigation strategies.
Key updates to the guidance include:
- Consideration of the “Level of School Impact,” for schools that previously have been open for in-person instruction. This includes a description of how schools can assess the level of COVID-19 impact to a particular school.
- A decision matrix to help decision makers understand how to consider multiple factors in decision making.
- A step-by-step guide to thinking through school program decisions and the factors to consider
A school division’s capacity to successfully implement mitigation strategies AND local community disease data should be factored into school operations plans. The three CDC core indicators serve as a starting point to make determinations on what to do in a school or division but should not solely dictate the decisions that school divisions make to best serve their communities. As local school and health leaders evaluate and adjust instructional offerings in 2021, they must carefully balance the risks associated with operating during a pandemic and the long-term effects of students not attending school in person.
Even when a school carefully plans and prepares, during a pandemic, cases of COVID-19 still may occur. It is not possible to eliminate all risk of disease in community settings, such as schools. Students and staff most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 should continue to have remote learning and working options.
But the risks of not opening schools need to be carefully considered and given proper weight. Long-term school closures as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19 transmission may cause inadvertent harm to children; for example, children who do not have in-person instruction may suffer learning loss with long-term effects, mental health issues, or a potential regression in social skills.
The updated Interim Guidance-This is a PDF document. provides divisions with new decision matrices and essential questions and considerations to be used as they plan for reopening schools in 2021.
- VDH Pandemic Dashboard – Including Application of CDC Indicators to the Virginia Context
- CDC Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making
- Other VDH K-12 Resources
- Other CDC Resources for Schools
- Interim VDH Guidance for Mitigation Measures in K12 Settings-This is a PDF document.
- Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools (Updated June 6, 2020)-This is a PDF document.
- Recover, Redesign, Restart – A Comprehensive Guide for School Leaders-This is a PDF document.
Notifying VDOE of Substantive Division-Level Operational Changes throughout the 2020-2021 School Year
Per an order of the Public Health Commissioner-This is a PDF document., before entering Phase II or III, every public and private school in Virginia was required to submit to the VDOE a plan outlining their strategies for mitigating public health risk of COVID-19 and complying with CDC and VDH recommendations. Additionally, every public school division was required to submit a plan for providing new instruction to all students in the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of its operational status. These instructional plans are required to be posted on division’s website.
Now that Divisions have submitted the requisite health and instructional plans for reopening during the 2020-2021 school year, the Department of Education is streamlining the process by which updates can be made if/when public school divisions change modality.
School divisions are asked to notify the VDOE of substantive changes to their operations and instructional modalities throughout the 2020-2021 school year via a simple online form. A PDF version-This is a PDF document. of the form is also available.
Notification should be submitted when the Division plans to effectuate changes in instructional modality for one or more grade levels or student groups for more than 4 weeks. Divisions will be asked to upload revised health and instructional plans as part of this submission.
This form should not be used to notify the VDOE of temporary closures related to known or suspected COVID-19 cases.