Fredericksburg Board Adopts Virtual Learning For Start Of School

Mark Hand

FREDERICKSBURG, VA — The Fredericksburg School Board voted unanimously Thursday to offer 100-percent distance learning for the first nine weeks of school. The school board accepted staff's recommendation to delay in-person learning until at least Oct. 19 due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Fredericksburg City Public Schools were considering offering a hybrid of in-person and virtual education. But the staff later recommended the school board delay in-person learning. The new school year is scheduled to start on Aug. 17.

Fredericksburg has approximately 3,600 students at its two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in the city.

Elsewhere in the Fredericksburg area, Spotsylvania County’s School Board approved 100-precent virtual learning to begin the school year. Similar to the plan adopted by the Fredericksburg School Board, Spotsylvania will conduct virtual learning for at least the first nine weeks of classes, which are scheduled to start Aug. 17.

On Tuesday, Stafford County's School Board is expected to approve an amended return-to-school plan that moves to all online classes due to concerns about the safety of students, teachers and families.

At Thursday's meeting, Fredericksburg School Board member Malvina Kaye thanked Fredericksburg City Schools Superintendent Marci Catlett and her staff "for being brave enough to come forward and say, ‘Hey, we need to step back.'"

"We are talking about our future when we talk about our students, and there is no cure for this disease," said Kaye, who added, "I’m going to rest better knowing that we are taking our time in doing this process."

School board member Katie Pomeroy echoed Kaye's comments. "I’m really glad that we are putting the safety of our students and our teachers and our staff as the top priority,” Pomeroy said at Thursday night's meeting.

"I know that this plan and this situation in general is not a perfect plan for a lot of people," Pomeroy said. "There isn’t a perfect plan. But I’m confident that we are, as a school division, doing the best that we can to serve all of our students."

In its "Recover, Redesign and Recover: 2020-2021" document, dated July 20, Fredericksburg City Schools outlined how city schools would operate if the school board adopted a hybrid plan and how a 100-percent plan would work.

Under a distance-learning plan, underserved students will be assigned a laptop, tablet, or iPad depending on the grade to do their work remotely. Priority will be given to students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, do not have a device at-home or have specific needs that require a school-owned device.

This article originally appeared on the Fredericksburg Patch