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Virginia looks to extend school into summer allowing 'children to catch up'

Posted at 2:04 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:29:34-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- An already unconventional school year, due to COVID-19 closures and safety protocol, may extend into an unconventional summer.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam indicated Thursday the state is looking to extend school into the summer months to help students catch up on educational opportunities missed while learning from home.

He made those comments in an interview with The Washington Post Live. Here is a transcript of his comments:

Q: You know, you made a career as a doctor treating children and families, what do you think has been lost? And what is now you know, almost a year of schools and education being disrupted? Are these kids ever going to be able to make this up?

A: I certainly hope so. But our children definitely learn better, when they're in the classroom, the social interaction is important. You know, we've seen higher rates of depression, certainly suicide, which is so unfortunate, we just had a discussion a little while ago with my staff that we're doing everything that we can to, to get our children back into the classroom safely and responsibly.

As you know, we've put teachers very high up and the priority of one day to get vaccinated.

One of the things that I think is very important that we'll be announcing tomorrow is that we want to extend our classrooms this summer, to allow our children to catch up so that everybody will be ready in the fall.

So we're working with our teachers, our school boards, or superintendents, it has to be a top priority for all of us to get our children back into the classroom.

Q: Doing that in the summer, also, I would assume gives you some flexibility on social distancing. And, you know, presumably, even some of this could be done outside.

A: Exactly. And, again, we want our children back in school, we need to continue to follow the measures of wearing face masks, and the kids have been great kids are so resilient, and are able to adapt to that, to continue the distance and as you said, will be important.

But to really, you know, I think it's twofold.

Karen and I, I speak, I was a child at one point, obviously, but also as a parent, our kids need to be back in school, our parents need a break too, you know, we've asked a lot for the past year from our children and their families.

And now it's time for us to, to help them and I think to help them out to give them some extra time this summer to get them prepared will be in everybody's best interest.

The Governor is expected to address the summer school issue during a news conference on Friday.

"Tomorrow the Governor will stress the need for students to be back in school, and that, as Dr. Fauci and the President have made clear, it's possible to do so safely. He will call on localities who have no in-person options to move quickly to make safe in-person education available for those who choose," an administration official said.

"He will also be calling on localities to offer in-person instructional opportunities over the summer. This will *not* be statewide mandatory summer school,” officials added.

CBS 6 will carry the news conference live on-air and online. It is scheduled for 11 a.m., rather than the usual time of 2 p.m.

Ahead of the official news conference, the Virginia Education Association expressed support of a summer school plan.

"Schools have traditionally offered summer instruction for learning reinforcement and enrichment, and an expanded program of classwork, staffed by educators who choose and are paid for those assignments, will be extremely helpful for students needing those opportunities," Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman said in a statement.

In addition, Richmond School Board member Jonathan Young said he was grateful that the governor wanted to extend the school year.

"Students have lost so much time. It is unsatisfactory to retain a business as usual school schedule," Young said.

Anecdotally, a majority of the comments left on the CBS 6 Facebook page do not support the idea of extending the school year.