As a first step toward reopening its schools this fall, the Culpeper County School Board has approved a 2020-21 class schedule that factors in the COVID-19 pandemic.

School will begin on Monday, Aug. 24, two weeks later than normal. That’s the biggest difference between the school division’s Covid Response Calendar approved when the board met virtually Monday night.

The change was necessary because the Virginia Department of Education is requiring that school systems submit a reopening plan for its review 15 business days before the start of their school year.

The difference provides an extra two weeks of planning time for Culpeper’s school leaders and staff, who still have a great deal of work ahead to address the many challenges of restarting classes while the novel coronavirus remains a threat.

The calendar does not address Culpeper’s method for reopening its schools.

Briefing the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors early this month, Superintendent Tony Brads said he thought a normal return to school is unlikely because of COVID-19 safeguards.

Guidelines from the state and the federal Centers for Disease Control will affect the size of classes, classroom capacity, social-distancing rules, the use of common areas, and how students will be transported aboard school buses.

The change in start date will give the school division’s new Reopening School Task Force adequate time to meet, confer and recommend how school should be organized when classes resume. The task force, which hasn’t held its first meeting yet, will be composed of 45 individuals from community organizations, businesses, the health-care profession, parents, school leadership and staff.

The board’s vote was nearly unanimous, with six members voting to approve the calendar. Because of connectivity issues, School Board member Marshall Keene’s link to the virtual meeting dropped and he was unable to cast his vote.

Though the new calendar changed the school year’s normal start date, senior staff members and the School Board took care not to alter Thanksgiving, winter break and spring break as student holidays. Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day remain the same, and Election Day--a new state holiday in Virginia this year--was added as a day off.

June 3 is the earliest that classes could end for students. There are no make-up days in the calendar.

Eastern View High School will hold graduation on Friday, May 28. Culpeper County High School will graduate its seniors on Saturday, May 29.

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