Back to school, more or less
“All Virginia schools will be open for students next year,” said Governor Ralph Northam at a press conference last week. “But the school experience will look very different.”
Northam laid out his administration’s guidelines for the reopening of Virginia’s schools, fully detailed in the state’s 135-page “Recover, Redesign, Restart” document.
K-12 schools will go through four phases of reopening. Since Charlottesville and Albemarle are currently in Phase 2 of reopening the economy, that’s where our local schools will begin. Phase 2 allows in-person education for students in third grade or below, special education students, children of working families, and English language learners. In Phase 3, in-classroom instruction for everyone will be back, though with some accommodations. Kids might have to eat in classrooms rather than group gathering spaces like cafeterias, and desks will have to be placed six feet apart. (The distance will present a new challenge for spitball-shooting class clowns across the commonwealth.)
Despite the extensive guidelines, Northam emphasized at the press conference that the plan leaves plenty of room for school districts to create localized reopening plans.
Northam also turned the mic over to his chief of staff, Clark Mercer, to share the plan for youth sports. For parents whose children have been bouncing off the walls for the last three months, the news was good—sports are coming back, but with limitations. Mercer went into some detail: Soccer practice will be allowed, for example, as long as there aren’t any throw-ins, when kids would have to handle the same ball. (It’s almost certainly the first time soccer throw-ins have come up at a Virginia governor’s press conference. What can we say? The world is changing fast.)
Quote of the week
“Someone with substance abuse disorder doesn’t need to enter the criminal justice system—they need treatment. An unhoused person doesn’t need to be policed for not having a home—they need a home.”
—City resident Elizabeth Stark, speaking on police reform at Monday’s city council meeting
Charlottesville Fire Chief Andrew Baxter resigned last week, after five years leading the department. Over the past few months, the CFD had publicly feuded with City Manager Tarron Richardson, who Baxter called a “transactional, unfocused, disengaged, dismissive bully,” according to The Daily Progress. Baxter is the latest in a string of experienced city government employees who have quit since Richardson arrived in May 2019.
After numerous requests, and a years-long battle over transparency, the Charlottesville Police Department last week released its full, line-by-line budget. This document might not satisfy community calls for transparency, though—in 2019 and 2020, the department spent a total of $313,000 on “Operating Costs: Other Supplies.” Watch this space for more information in the coming weeks.
Make some noise
Protests against police brutality continue in Charlottesville. On June 13, hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of the John Paul Jones Arena to make noise and march. The event was peaceful, but observers noted that the Virginia State Police had been called in to supervise. The state police were photographed in Charlottesville Police Department cars, but at the City Council meeting on Monday, Police Chief RaShall Brackney downplayed the collaboration, saying she did not “have any knowledge” of state troopers driving Charlottesville police vehicles.
Rookie of the year
Although the spring season of collegiate athletics was canceled this year, UVA women’s tennis still scored a win. First-year Natasha Subhash was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s National Rookie of the Year in May. Earlier, Subhash won the ITA Singles Atlantic Region Championship, and ended the season with an impressive singles record of 26-6, ranking 10th nationally.