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Private Schools Wary Of Order To Submit Reopening Plans

(Photo Credit: Catherine Komp)
(Photo: Catherine Komp/VPM News)

All private schools are required to submit reopening plans to the Virginia Council for Private Education, not the state. But some are worried about state officials intervening in their plans to fully resume in-person instruction.  

“We feel it's extremely important for schools to figure out a way to get back to in-person instruction,” said Dan Zacharias, executive director for the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools. The group represents 31 schools across the Commonwealth, including three in the greater Richmond area: Landmark Christian School, Grove Christian School, and the Commonwealth Christian Academy.

“We believe that most schools should be able to open for five day in-person instruction,” he said. 

The Old Dominion Association of Church Schools recently advised their member schools not to submit reopening plans to the Virginia Department of Education. Zacharias said that’s because the agency doesn’t have legal authority over private schools. 

“If that's all we're being required to do is just submit plans and then there's nothing after that then what is the purpose of submitting plans?” Zacharias said.

Zacharias also advised schools to attach a cover letter to plans they submit to the Virginia Council for Private Education stating VDOE has no legal oversight authority. He worries these plans will end up in the hands of state education officials.  

“I feel like there's still some confusion: will we be, you know, by default, acknowledging new VDOE authority that doesn't currently exist in code if we submit plans?” Zacharias said. “Because our understanding is that VCPE is simply a conduit; in the minds of the state, you are submitting a plan to VDOE through VCPE.”

Grace Creasey, executive director of the Virginia Council for Private Education, clarified that all schools – regardless of accreditation, if they’re public or private – are all required to submit reopening plans either to her group, or VDOE.

“The Virginia Department of Education has requested that VCPE be basically the collector and the reviewer of all the private school plans,” Creasey said. “The order is very clear that regardless of accreditation, the State Health Commissioner expects that all public and private schools submit their reopening plans.” 

Private school and public school plans have to be submitted at least one day before schools reopen. Creasey said that there is no approval process for private school plans, similar to how VDOE plans to handle public school reopening plans. She said the majority of plans she’s received so far are planning for some form of in-person instruction, whether that’s fully in-person or a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction.