Henrico, Va. July 23, 2020 — The Henrico School Board voted unanimously at its Thursday meeting to adopt a full virtual format to start the 2020-21 school year. Superintendent Amy Cashwell had recommended using the virtual model for at least the first nine weeks. Members of the Board cited the health and safety of students and staff members, as well as the amount of synchronous instruction that a virtual school day will allow.
“In making the decision to begin the year with a fully virtual school day, we asked and were asked a thousand important questions,” said Amy Cashwell, superintendent, in messages to families and staff members. “However, in the end, we had to focus on just one: Right now, based on the information we have today, our expertise and our best efforts, can we assure our staff members and families that returning to school in person will be safe and healthy? Until we can answer that question with confidence, your School Board and I believe that a fully virtual school day is the most feasible way to engage our students while prioritizing student, staff and community safety.”
The in-person meeting took place at the New Bridge Learning Center in eastern Henrico, where masks, health screenings, social distancing and other safety protocols were in effect. Members of the public signed up in advance to share their views at the meeting.
The 2020-21 school year begins Sept. 8. While HCPS had already decided to make fully virtual attendance one option for the year, the school division also considered starting the year with pathways that included in-person attendance. A hybrid model would combine some rotating in-person attendance with virtual learning. The school division also looked at the feasibility of allowing students to attend school in person five days a week.
The Board and superintendent expressed a goal of bringing some students and staff back to school as soon as safely possible. The school division will begin limited, in-person instruction in phases for certain student groups, as conditions allow. Any in-person instruction will include social distancing and rigorous safety protocols as recommended by health experts.
Other points that emerged from the meeting:
- None of Henrico Schools’ employees will be furloughed. HCPS will keep employees at work, although in some cases roles may be slightly adjusted to best meet students’ needs.
- Teachers will have the option to teach virtual lessons from their school classrooms.
- Virtual learning does not mean students and teachers have to be in front of their screens all day, every day. Teaching material can take on different forms, such as independent work and projects.
- Whether instruction is fully virtual or in person, the school division will continue to have high expectations for all students.
Henrico County Public Schools will continue to work with health experts to evaluate pandemic conditions in Virginia and the Richmond region, and regularly assess the feasibility of incorporating in-person attendance for students and staff members.
Visit the school division’s “HCPS 2020-21: Mission Forward” return-to-school page at https://henricoschools.us/returntoschool/ for the latest information. More information about virtual learning will be made available on an ongoing basis.