FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Fredericksburg schools were supposed to reopen their doors on Aug. 10. But administrators voted Friday morning to give teachers extra time to prepare before kids return. Schools are now set to open a week later, on Aug. 17.
Administrators are still finalizing plans for the upcoming school year, but officials say it will look and feel very different. Fredericksburg City Schools Chief of Operations, Micheal George, said their plan has been months in the making.
“We’re taking every precaution that we can to keep everyone safe," George said.
Goerge said kids will have their temperature checked at the start of each day. Older kids must wear masks. Students won’t be allowed to congregate and will have to keep 6 feet apart.
“Our buildings will be at 50% capacity," George said. "There will be more space in the buildings. We will have the air vents opened up, so fresh air is always entering the building.”
Elementary students will be divided into small groups and spend two days in school and three days online. Wednesdays will be reserved for a deep clean.
High school students will be in school for nine days, then online for two weeks, to give teachers more instructional time with students.
Students with special needs will be able to attend school on an 80% in-person basis.
“It’s all going to be a challenge," George said. "If anyone says that this is easy then they’re mistaken.”
Students and staff can opt out of in-person classes entirely, according to George. And those with underlying conditions, or those who have vulnerable family members at home, are urged to do that.
Fredericksburg parent Preeti Sastry said she’s worried, but leaning toward letting her 7-year-old go back to school.
“You’ve got to weigh the risks," Sastry said.
Sastry is concerned her son is missing out in other ways, not just academics.
“What happens to everything else," Sastry questioned. "What happens to their social development, their emotional growth and just being able to run and play freely."
George said in order to support online learning, all students will be issued laptops or pads. Mobile hotspots are also being installed in more densely populated areas of towns.
Fredericksburg City Schools said they've even applied to the FCC to become a temporary internet service provider to ensure access for all.
“We wanted to be able to broadcast internet directly to the student’s homes," George said.
George said they’re still waiting to hear back from the FCC.
As for school food, breakfast and lunches will be provided free to all students for "grab and go." George said they are working to ensure students at home will continue to have access to food through the school year.
Fredericksburg’s back to school plan is still being finalized, and that's expected to happen by July 24. You can see the full plan here.