School board Chairman Babur Lateef

School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef (at large).

Prince William County students and teachers won't likely face an extended school year or any kind of mandatory summer school, Prince William County School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef said Thursday.

Rather, Lateef said he expects Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday will encourage – but not require – Virginia schools to offer summer school or  a “fifth quarter” to students who are struggling because of remote learning this year. 

“I don’t think any of us have talked about mandating a longer school year. That has not been discussed,” Lateef said in an interview Thursday, Feb. 4. 

But Lateef said the governor could discuss “a more robust” summer school program than is traditionally offered to Virginia students, or perhaps free summer school for students who need the extra support.

Lateef noted that Prince William County schools typically offer summer school every year, but require all but the lowest-income students to pay for it. A lower-cost or free summer school could be possible using federal CARES act money or other extra help from the state, Lateef said.

“I would love to see programs this summer and next summer to address everyone’s concerns about loss of learning,” Lateef said.

Northam is scheduled to hold an press conference at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5, to talk about plans for helping Virginia’s schools and schoolchildren deal with a school year mostly lost to in-person instruction because of the ongoing pandemic.

During an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Northam talked about “extend[ing] classrooms this summer” but gave few other details.

 “We want to extend our classrooms this summer, to allow our children to catch up, so that everybody will be ready in the fall,” Northam said.

Northam is expected to also stress during his press conference the need for students to return to schools for in-person instruction safely and as soon as possible and to call on school divisions still offering only remote instruction to offer in-person opportunities over the summer, according to a WTOP report.

Lateef said he did not know exactly what Northam would discuss but said he expects to hear some “big stuff” from the governor.

“And by big stuff, I mean more money,” Lateef said, as well as more concrete calls for returning students to school buildings.

Prince William County schools is already considering using about $39 million it expects to receive from the latest federal COVID-19 relief  bill to provide extra tutoring and remediation to students during the school year – perhaps on Mondays, when students do not currently have classes, and on Saturdays, Superintendent Steven Walts said during the Wednesday, Feb. 3 school board meeting.

Walts also said the school division is considering using some of the money to hire additional teaching assistants for the lower grades and to purchase additional PPE or personal protective gear for teachers, staff and students.

The superintendent also mentioned using some of the money to fund capital projects that were scuttled last spring to deal with pandemic-related budget cuts.

About 13,500 Prince William County students are currently attending school in person at least two days a week on a hybrid schedule. In-person instruction is available so far to special education students, English language learners and students in pre-K through third grades.

The school division is planning to allow students in fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth grades to return to schools on a hybrid schedule as soon as later this month with the remaining grades possibly coming back in early March.

The school board will revisit that plan on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and may or may not take another vote, Lateef said Thursday.

Clarification: This report has been updated to note that the school board will revisit the school division's return to school plans on Feb. 17 but may or may not take another vote, according to School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef.

Reach Jill Palermo at 

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(1) comment


I really thought that having some MDs in leadership roles during a pandemic would bring some expert insight and strategy. What was I thinking?

Both of these leaders--Northam and Lateef--are completely reactive. Dr. Lateef didn't even think about getting teachers vaccinated until a month after he received his own vaccination. In fact, Fairfax and Loudoun were immediately proactive in vaccinating their teachers and first responders. Dr. Lateef only considered teacher vax when Dr. Walts revealed his plan due to inability to mitigate. Once again, I want to point out our MD leaders' lack of foresight into dealing with this virus, especially in education.

Dr. Lateef consistently compares PWCS to Loudoun and Fairfax, especially when voting to double his stipend ( However, he shied away from comparing us to our neighbors when Loudoun and Fairfax have been working on ventilation to mitigate COVID particles; this ontop of teacher vaccination. Addressing the ventilation in enclosed rooms is the most important mitigation to ridding the room of airborne particulates ( Meanwhile, our chairman and the Board rely on "yes-men" to ignore the failing, mitigation and plow forward with reopening.

Should schools reopen? Absolutely! I am a 17 year teacher in Prince William, and I want to get back in the classroom as much as the next teacher/parent. My wife is in-person right now and argues that the current K-3 teaching is viable. However, as Dr. Walts has pointed out, we will not be able to mitigate past 3rd grade. Why? Because face masks and hand washing aren't enough with 1000 students in close quarters.

If we had the foresight and leadership of Loudoun and Fairfax, we would have all our teachers vaccinated, proper ventilation, and a safe environment for students and staff. Unfortunately, in PWCS, "How soon will we reopen?" was a more important question than "How safely can we reopen?"

In the end, the above article concerns our future measures to help students. Why only now are MD Northam and MD Lateef considering this? We knew this year would be challenging for schools and students? Richmond began discussing this LAST MAY (! Why are we only considering this now? The answer is simple: Both the Governor and Chairman Lateef have not done their job.

In education, teaching and coaching, we work with what is called "Backwards Planning". We have an end goal. We make plans on how we will reach that goal, and then we take steps, making adjustments along the way. Even in today's virtual setting, teachers and administrators throughout our county have done an incredible job. Maybe our MDs and School Board would benefit from taking some professional development in "Backwards Planning".

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