York County to have all grades back March 8 as Peninsula schools eye early-March return

Matt Jones, The Daily Press
·2 min read

All grades in York County will have the option of in-person learning by March 8, the district announced Tuesday.

A message to families Tuesday evening said 11th grade is scheduled to return next Monday, 7th and 9th graders on March 1 and 8th and 10th graders on March 8. The timeline brings the county in line with many of its neighbors, which are pushing to have more students in schools by early March.

“Our staff and students have clearly demonstrated that adhering to the protocols we have in place makes our schools safe in the midst of this pandemic,” Tuesday’s message said. “As such, we have confidence in resuming our plan to bring all grade levels into the Hybrid Model.”

York has had students in buildings two days a week as part of their hybrid model since Jan. 11. The district brought back 12th grade on Jan. 19.

But other grades have been on pause for weeks as the district wrestled with staffing shortages.

The district closed two schools temporarily due to shortages at different points since winter break. According to a presentation to the School Board at a work session last week, seven classroom cohorts, five classrooms and one grade level had also gone temporarily online at times.

District officials said they’ve struggled with a shortage of substitute teachers throughout the school year, and as case numbers spiked around the holidays, more and more teachers were having to quarantine.

Monday’s message said that as case numbers have declined, the district has seen its staffing levels improve.

The district also cited new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says middle and high schools should stay virtual-only unless they can strictly implement mitigation strategies like masking and physical distance and have few cases. York schools have reported 243 positive cases this school year and 145 since Jan. 1.

Tuesday’s message said the district believes the new guidelines align with the district’s approach and they meet the CDC criteria for bringing middle and high school back.

The plan will put the district well ahead of Gov. Ralph Northam’s March 15 deadline for all districts to start some kind of in-person instruction. Most neighboring districts also plan to have all grades back by early March.

Williamsburg-James City County plans to have all grades back by the week of March 1. Newport News plans to start bringing back some younger students next Monday followed by remaining grades on March 8, the first in-person learning for the district this school year. Poquoson has offered in-person learning for all since January.

Hampton is set to give an update about its plans this week. Pre-K and kindergarten students in the city are scheduled to return next Monday.

Matt Jones, 757-247-4729, mjones@dailypress.com