Virginia’s Phase Guidance for Reopening Prek-12 Schools
Updated September 28, 2020
In June 2020, Virginia released Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools-This is a PDF document. for consideration by school leaders as they planned to resume instruction for all students in the fall of 2020. The Phase Guidance recommends school leaders consider gradually reopening K-12 schools, permitting in-person instruction to resume under certain public health conditions, while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff. In order to minimize the disparate impacts closures have had on students, this approach prioritizes the needs of students who have been most impacted by school building closures, and for whom in-person instruction is most beneficial. It simultaneously recognizes the disruption closures have had on all students and seeks to bring them back to the classroom as soon as is safe and practicable.
Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, Virginia divisions will be monitoring local public health conditions and evaluating instructional options reflective of those conditions. In September 2020, the CDC issued guidance on Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making; which the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has incorporated into its public-facing pandemic metrics dashboard. CDC recommends the core measures of incidence and RT-PCR test positivity be assessed for the surrounding community (e.g., county) and not for the schools or school divisions themselves. It is important to note that in addition to public health metrics, the CDC emphasizes that transmission risk in any given school is also dependent on the successful implementation of school and community mitigation strategies.
The VDH recommends this CDC model be considered by schools and divisions to assess transmission risks and inform decisions about school operations and mitigation strategies. These data should be interpreted within the context of the local jurisdiction. VDH recommends that decisions to alter K-12 school programming, including decisions about in-person instruction, school dismissals or closures be handled at the most local level possible, considering both regional and local epidemiology, community characteristics, and local capacity.
The VDH Data and the CDC framework is best used together with the Interim VDH Guidance for Mitigation Measures in K12 Settings-This is a PDF document.. To the extent possible, the CDC Indicators have been aligned to the Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools-This is a PDF document. previously issued by the Commonwealth to further inform local approaches. As per the CDC framework, local data and capacity to successfully implement mitigation strategies should be carefully considered.
Below is a summary of how these pieces of state and federal guidance on school reopening plans may be considered by local school leaders.
- Risk Guidance for Virginia Schools – A Summary-This is a PDF document.
- VDH Pandemic Dashboard – Including Application of CDC Indicators to the Virginia Context
- 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.
- Governor Northam’s June 9, 2020 News Release on the Phase Guidance
- Recover, Redesign, Restart – A Comprehensive Guide for School Leaders-This is a PDF document.
- CDC Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making
- Other VDH K-12 Resources
- Other CDC Resources for Schools
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.