Thursday, September 28, 2023

Here it is: WJCC presents Return to Learn plans for the fall

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)


That’s the number of Return to Learn possible plans presented Tuesday by the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools — the plans range from from entirely remote instruction to entirely in-person classes in the fall.

The district will also implement certain safety and cleaning procedures with all four options, said Stephanie Bourgeois, senior director of student services. This means staff and families will be expected to perform a daily symptom check before coming to school and face coverings will be recommended.

The custodial teams will also be cleaning the school buildings multiple times each day and paying particular attention to high-touch areas, such as handles and tables. There will also be more frequent preventative maintenance of the HVAC systems and changes will be addressed as needed.

Extra cleaning will also be done if any student or staff member reports being sick.

Transportation will be provided if in-person classes resume on any level. However, students will be expected to wear face masks and social distance. 

Even with those general policies, the district’s four potential plans also lay out even greater restrictions and procedures based on instruction.

Four paths

The first is remote learning for all students.

That means school buildings and offices will be closed to the public and all instruction will take place at home. The district will issue tablets and laptops to students based on grade level. Path 1 also means attendance, participation and assignments will be graded and monitored.

Path 2 includes limited blended learning and remote learning based on age groups. Students in fourth through 12th grade will continue with remote learning while students in pre-kindergarten through third grade will have blended learning, meaning some students will be remote while others will be on-site. 

In Path 2, students who will take part in on-site instruction will be divided into two groups based on last name. Students at the beginning of the alphabet will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while students at the end of the alphabet will attend school on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Students will be expected to participate in remote instruction during the alternate days. Fridays will be remote instruction for all students. Common areas, such as cafeterias, will be closed in this option.

Path 2 also requires staff to wear face masks in common areas and in the classrooms. 

Extra curricular activities could possibly return on a limited basis and athletic activities could resume to include conditioning and drills, based on guidance from the Virginia High School League.

In Path 3, all students will take part in the blended learning experience. Similar to Path 2, students will alternate in-person and remote instruction days based on their last name. Extra curricular activities will resume based on the number of participants and the ability to social distance. 

There will be free grab-and-go meals available to students and will be sent home based on their in-person instruction days.

Path 4 involves a totally in-person instruction plan for all grade levels. Students will participate in on-site instruction, extra curricular activities will resume and athletics will follow guidance from the Virginia High School League. 

Social distancing will be implemented and hand-washing reminders will be posted throughout the building. Grab-and-go meal services will be discontinued.

If the district were to choose Path 4, teachers will continue to use electronic platforms to supplement instruction so students can be prepared for a potential shift to remote learning.

“It’s important because it is possible for schools to move between the paths at any time during the year based on the number of reported COVID-19 cases,” said Sean Walker, assistant superintendent, School Leadership, Elementary Schools. “So we continue to use electronic or online platforms throughout the school year to support instruction and easing the transition between learning paths.”

Individual option

With all four paths the district is also giving families the option to do remote learning regardless of the district’s Return to Learn plan. This means the family commits the student for at least one semester of online learning, with virtual courses provided by the district. The courses will involve hours of activities and instruction, but will also follow appropriate screen-time guidance based on age.

If families want to choose this option they have to do so by registering with the district by July 24. Walker said families should take an online self-assessment provided by the school to gauge their virtual readiness before making the decision.

Preparing for unexpected

Walker said an official announcement on what path the district will take is expected by Aug. 5.

He also warned that plans could change between August and the start of the school year, depending on the community’s current positive cases.

“I think it’s extremely unpredictable and so I don’t want to say it will be one way or another,” said WJCC Superintendent Olwen Herron. “But the whole purpose is to continue learning regardless of what’s going on and so that continuity of learning is what we’re trying to build in and even remote learning is very different from what parents and families and students would’ve experienced in the fall.”

For more information, visit WJCC online.


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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