Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Northam orders all K-12 schools closed for a minimum of 2 weeks

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)(WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the continued spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Schools will close from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27, at a minimum. Localities will maintain authority over specific staffing decisions to ensure students maintain continuity of services or learning, while protecting the public health of teachers and staff.

Virginia Department of Education officials are working closely with school divisions and the Department of Social Services to ensure students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs are able to access those programs while schools are closed. The Department of Education will issue guidance and memos to superintendents across the state to provide specifics about the continuity of education, school nutrition, and updated public health guidelines.

School officials are also working to minimize disruptions to instructional time.

“The Department of Education is working closely with divisions to minimize disruptions to our students’ academic development by encouraging schools to provide students and families with educational resources throughout this time,” said James Lane, state superintendent of Public Instruction. “We are committed to help divisions address all the implications of these closures and will seek to provide each division with maximum flexibility to address local needs as they arise, especially as it relates to make-up days.”

On Thursday, Northam declared a state of emergency for Virginia, which will provide increased flexibility to ease regulatory requirements and procurement rules, continue federal and multi-state coordination, and ensure continued access to critical services for the most vulnerable Virginians.

Justice-involved populations

  • The Department of Corrections (DOC) has canceled offender visitation at all facilities until further notice. Off-site video visitation is still available.
  • A dedicated COVID-19 public information line with an updated, recorded message is operational. The phone number is 804-887-8484.
  • DOC has implemented a screening protocol for offenders coming into state facilities from local jails.
  • Virginia provided detailed guidance to correctional facilities and other work locations regarding approved hand washing, sanitizing, and disinfectant products, and instructions for the proper use of those products to provide protection from COVID-19.

State workforce

  • The Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) has directed all state agencies to update their emergency operations and paid leave policies, and Virginia will begin implementing a phased transition to teleworking for state employees.
  • Virginia is setting an example by activating paid Public Health Emergency Leave for state employees who have recently traveled to high-risk areas.
  • All official travel outside of Virginia by state employees has been halted, with increased flexibility for inter-state commuters and essential personnel. State employees have been advised to limit in-person meetings and non-essential work-related gatherings. Specific guidance will be released to agency heads and state employees, and Virginia will revisit these guidelines after 30 days.

Vulnerable populations

  • The Department of Medical Assistance Services and the Department of Social Services are preparing options to ensure the most vulnerable populations have continued access to critical services, including the potential for in-home care and food support.
  • In the event of extended school closures, the Department of Social Services is working with local partners, such as food pantries, to ensure no one goes hungry.

Transportation

  • The Department of Rail and Public Transportation is coordinating with Metro, Amtrak, Virginia Rail Express, and transit agencies across Virginia to adjust cleaning schedules according to CDC protocol.
  • Washington Dulles International Airport is one of 11 airports designated by the federal government to receive flights from China. The CDC is conducting screenings of passengers at Dulles who have been in China or Iran during the past 14 days.
  • Virginia is also working with transportation partners to help reduce the potential spread of disease.

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John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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