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Surry schools staying virtual until 2021

Most Surry County public school students will continue virtual learning until 2021.

On a recommendation from Superintendent Sebrenia Sims, the school board decided that virtual instruction will continue until Feb. 21, 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, students who participate in Surry’s self-contained special education classes and English language learners will be allowed to return to in-person instruction on Nov. 9, school officials said in a statement published Oct. 14 on the school division’s website and social media pages.

“The decision to remain virtual was made based on feedback from parents, employees and students,” officials said. “The decision was also guided by COVID-19 cases in Surry and surrounding counties. It was not an easy decision, however, we feel that it’s best for all involved at this time.”

As of Oct. 15, Surry had 134 cases of COVID-19, 10 hospitalizations and four deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Surry is part of the Crater Health District, which includes seven jurisdictions besides Surry: Sussex, Prince George, Dinwiddie and Greensville counties, and the cities of Petersburg, Hopewell and Emporia. Overall, the health district’s population is approximately 152,000.

The decision to stay virtual longer affects about 750 students and 200 full-time contracted staff who work at or support three schools — Surry Elementary, Luther Porter Jackson Middle and Surry High.

“Over the past few months, Surry County Public Schools has experienced and addressed multiple challenges as we continue to educate our students during a pandemic,” officials said in their announcement. “This has included maintaining the safety of our students and staff members while rising to multiple challenges that would have been unimaginable at this time last year.”

Public and private schools across the region and statewide have taken a varied approach to reopening. Some, like Isle of Wight County, are allowing students in all grade levels to return to classrooms this month on staggered, spaced-out schedules, while continuing to offer virtual learning as an option.