Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler has suspended the directive for educators involved in the hybrid learning program return to school buildings on Tuesday.
The decision comes as the School Board considers new ways to assess the threats of COVID-19 to students and staff and to determine when in-person learning can resume. The hybrid program—which offers two days of in-person classes to students who requested it—was suspended just before the winter break began last month in the wake of increasing coronavirus cases in the community.
Educators had been instructed to return to schools starting Jan. 12 to prepare for the resumption of classes and as well as the planned expansion of the hybrid program to middle and high school students as early as the start of the second semester Jan. 21.
Ziegler paused that plan, notifying the staff in a letter Tuesday.
“Based on the adopted metrics and current data, I am suspending that directive and will provide additional information on the return-to-school date after the School Board meets on January 12. To be clear, instructional staff members may, but are not required to, report to their assigned work location on January 12,” he wrote.
In the letter, Ziegler, who officially took over for Superintendent Eric Williams today, acknowledges the challenges faced by the staff over the past year as they worked to create new online learning programs while also trying to meet the social-emotional and mental health needs of their students and families.
“I would like nothing more than to present to you a long-term plan that lays out the next six months and the start of the next school year. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so. The changing dynamics of COVID make that impossible. For now, we need to continue embracing flexibility, and make peace with the not-yet-known,” he wrote.
The School Board meets tonight for the presentation of Ziegler’s recommended FY 2022 operational budget. That meeting also includes plans to adopt a resolution requesting the state government put educators on the next list to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that would be the case, putting K-12 teachers into the 1B group for shots. That group is expected to begin receiving vaccinations later this month.
The board will meet Jan. 12 to consider new metrics to determine when in-person learning can resume and under what circumstances schools, clusters of schools or the entire division should retreat to 100% distance learning. About half of the division’s 81,000 students have requested in-person classes.