IW schools, academy to remain closed

Published 11:21 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Monday that all schools will stay closed for the remainder of the school year in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Virginia.

Isle of Wight County Schools, according to division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, will continue its meal distribution plan for the remainder of the school year. But as for other issues like graduation, it’s too early to say.

“We are working with the Virginia Department of Education to determine how to address this change, and will be providing our families with additional information as soon as that guidance is available,” Briggs said in a press release sent to families following the governor’s announcement.

Division staff plans to brief Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and to provide additional details by Wednesday evening, March 25. By Wednesday, the division expects to be able to provide more specifics on how the closures will affect standard and verified credits needed for graduation, GPAs, grades and the continuity of instruction for all students for the remainder of the school year.

“As a parent of a senior, I know there are a lot of questions,” Briggs said, speaking to the paper about graduation.

The governor’s order — officially known as Executive Order No. 53 — also bans public gatherings of more than 10 people and mandates the closure of certain non-essential businesses. The order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. tonight and remain in place through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

Student-athletes hoping to play at the college level next fall are particularly affected. Briggs confirmed that as of Monday, Windsor High School’s scheduled signing day — where seniors sign letters of intent to play sports at their college of choice — was still planned for April 8, though she was uncertain as to whether this would still be done in-person or virtually, given the governor’s prohibition on groups of more than 10 people.

“At this time, we have a couple young men that are planning to play college baseball and at least one football player pursuing a college opportunity,” Briggs said. “Being that we are not playing games right now, it limits the opportunities for our athletes to be seen by college coaches.”

Asked for his reaction to Northam’s announcement, Isle of Wight Academy Headmaster Mark Munford said late Monday afternoon that he was “a little surprised, but not really. We’re still working on options [for how to continue education.]” This week was the scheduled spring break for the school, and that gives Munford and other administrators some breathing room to make plans.

He said that IWA is guided by the Virginia Council for Private Education, and added, “We will try to maintain standards of education.”

The closing will affect not only the possibility of prom for the older students, but also large fundraisers. Then there’s also the question of graduation, which comes at the end of May.

The headmaster also acknowledged that the decision will be a challenge for parents whose careers come under the essential category — first responders, physicians and nurses, for example — and how’ll they be able to handle both work and educating their children, especially the younger ones, at home.

“We have a good parental base and a great teacher base,” Munford continued. “We’ll figure it out.”