The 2019-2020 academic year came to an abrupt halt Monday with Gov. Ralph Northam’s announcement that all Virginia public schools would remain closed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order comes less than two weeks after the governor ordered all schools closed for two weeks.
Waynesboro and Augusta County schools, who were scheduled for Spring Break this week, are awaiting further guidance from the Virginia Department of Education and a follow-up conference call with Virginia Superintendent of Instruction Dr. James Lane scheduled for Tuesday.
“This is completely unprecedented and new for us,” said Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell.
According to a conference call with Lane on Monday, Cassell said all high school seniors who are on track to graduate will graduate.
In the meantime, Cassell said his concern is how Waynesboro Schools will provide equitable instruction at home for all students.
The school system’s meal program will continue for students.
Cassell said Waynesboro Schools is, in particular, waiting for guidance for seniors graduating Waynesboro High. Cassell said the school system will wait for further guidance from the Department of Education on planning graduation ceremony for Waynesboro seniors. At the end of May, depending on circumstances with the pandemic then, Cassell said the school system will evaluate plans for a graduation ceremony.
“That would be the only event that would happen,” Cassell said.
Augusta County Schools will also continue its meal program for students.
Augusta County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric W. Bond said Monday afternoon that in the next 24 hours the school system will receive documents from Lane on how to proceed “with continuity of instruction.”
“First and foremost, I support our governor and our state superintendent in this decision,” said Bond.
According to Bond, keeping staff, teachers and students safe is Augusta County Schools No. 1 priority.
The school system has no plans yet regarding graduations for its five high schools.
“Obviously, we would like to celebrate our seniors in a ceremony, but until the restrictions are lifted by the governor — we’re at a wait and see moment,” Bond said.
In a letter to parents, Bond encouraged them to “heed the advice given by our national, state and local health officials regarding this pandemic.”
“It’s with a heavy heart and great sadness to inform you that we received notification this afternoon from the governor’s office that all Virginia schools will be closed for the remainder of the 19-20 school year,” Bond’s letter to parents began.
Both school systems will provide further information as it becomes available.
“I understand and support the decision that was made. I just hate it for our students, especially our seniors,” Bond said Monday, noting these are “some very unprecedented times in our country right now.”