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Isle of Wight Academy to fully reopen

Despite rising COVID-19 diagnoses in the region, Isle of Wight Academy plans to fully reopen this fall, meaning all students in grades K-12 will be on campus five days per week starting Aug. 17.

According to Headmaster Mark Munford, class sizes in grades K-7 will be limited to 18 students in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but classes for grades 8-12 may exceed this limit due to schedule demands.

“With some creative use of space, we will be able to follow all social distancing guidelines,” Munford said in a June 25 letter to parents.

He added that the school has created a COVID-19 committee to work through mitigation plans, which were sent on June 23 to the Virginia Council of Private Education.

“We are constantly updating plans as the situation changes,” Munford said.

Transportation and lunches, however, will require some “out of the box” thinking, the headmaster said. When asked for specifics, he indicated the school was not yet ready to release its transportation plan and was still working on plans for reopening its cafeteria.

“While it is true we are a private school, we cannot ignore mandates and executive orders from the Virginia Department of Health or Gov. [Ralph] Northam,” Munford said. “Ultimately we must meet expectations to remain accredited and keep our students and staff safe.”

The Virginia Department of Education’s “Recover, Redesign, Restart” plan for reopening public schools calls for seating one student every other row and/or staggered aisle and window seats on school buses, with exceptions for siblings living together.

Whether masks are required of students and/or teachers will depend “on the situation and place,” he said.

IWA’s field trips and athletic competitions are postponed, but fall sports practice will resume. Football practice is scheduled to begin on Aug. 3.

According to guidelines adopted by the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, of which Isle of Wight Academy is a member, all VISAA schools should monitor student-athletes daily before practice, to include taking temperatures and giving each student a COVID-19 pre-screen questionnaire. Any student-athlete with a temperature above 100.4 degrees should not be allowed to participate and should be sent home immediately. All students and coaching staff should wear masks upon entering and exiting facilities, as well as when not participating in exercises.

On July 15, the Virginia High School League — the equivalent athletic association for public schools — proposed three options for resuming high school sports, none of which include football in the fall. In the first option, only golf and cross country would be allowed to resume this fall. In the second option, fall and spring sports would switch seasons. In the third option, seasons would be condensed to Dec. 14 through Feb. 20 for winter sports, Feb. 15 through May 1 for sports traditionally played in the fall and April 12 through June 26 for sports traditionally played in the spring. The VHSL Executive Committee is expected to make a final decision on the matter on July 27..

Munford hopes to release detailed reopening plans to parents by the end of July.