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Could Virginia's schools reopen in August? Gov. Ralph Northam weighs in

Northam said if the commonwealth continues to make the same progress it's making now fighting the coronavirus, its schools could reopen in August.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Could Virginia's schools reopen to students in August? Virginia's governor announced what he would like to see for that to become a reality.

Gov. Ralph Northam spoke to the public about the state of commonwealth's schools during his daily press conference Friday.

Northam said it is possible they could reopen their doors to students toward the end of the summer if Virginia continues to see the same rate of progress as it does now in its fight against the coronavirus.

"Part of your question was will we have our children back in schools in late August or early September," Northam said. "If we keep doing what we're doing, I'm confident that we will be there."

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The coronavirus interrupted the school year for thousands of Virginia students, like the daughter of Fairfax County mother Erica Parker.

However, she said she is not so sure kids should return to school in August.

"I would rather hold off at least until the fall, especially if they're predicting that this may come back," Parker said.

The Fairfax County Council PTA recently posted the results of a survey exploring that issue to its website.

More than 80% of the 8,200 parents surveyed agreed students should not return to school for classroom instruction this fall unless it is deemed safe by state and county public health officials.

When asked if the school district should consider implementing alternative approaches to in-person instruction next fall, like reducing class sizes or staggering start times, more than 70% agreed.

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Parker said she would like to see the capabilities of her school district's virtual learning system improve.

"I think that, being a Fairfax County resident, they should focus more their attention on stabilizing their online learning platform," she said.

WUSA9 reached out to 13 school districts in Northern Virginia to ask them what they are doing to possibly prepare to reopen their schools in August. Three school districts replied as of Friday night:

Fairfax County Schools - Lucy H. Caldwell, Spokesperson
"We do have a committee that is looking at these issues and planning for them. They will make a preliminary presentation on May 11 at the school board meeting."

Loudoun County Public Schools - Wayde B. Byard, Spokesperson
"Loudoun County Public Schools has begun a planning process to consider several scenarios for the 2020-2021 academic year, taking into account different degrees of physical distancing and other considerations. Until the situation becomes clearer, it is too early to speculate about which approach will be the safest and best for learning."

Manassas City Public Schools - Al Radford, Spokesperson
"Now that we feel pretty comfortable with the distance learning plan we have been doing for the remainder of the 19-20 school year, we have turned our focus to our plan A and B for 2020-2021. Plan A, of course, is to start on-time in August just as scheduled.  Plan B would be a delayed start to the school year with the continuation of distance learning. Since we are at the start of May, you are correct, it's a little too early to tell, but our staff is definitely having discussions about preparations for either scenario."

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