Walts on Twitter

Superintendent Steven Walts took to Twitter Monday night in a talk aimed at reassuring students in the wake of Gov. Ralph Northam's announcement that schools would be closed for the rest of the year.

Prince William County Schools Superintendent Steven Walts took to Twitter Monday night in an effort to reassure students in the wake of Gov. Ralph Northam’s announcement that schools would be closed for the rest of the school year.

In a video, Walts asked to students to “remain as calm as possible."

He also said he empathizes with students' feelings of disappointment and sadness about not being able to return to school.

“I know that you are upset, I respect your feelings, and I understand that, especially for seniors, many of you are not feeling very good about what's going on and you're really upset,” Walts said.  

“I accept those feelings, but I want to help you through this time and help you through them.”

Walts said students would be able to contact their teachers starting today through the school app “Student View” and that parents would be able to contact teachers through "Parent View."

Walts also said the third quarter would be extended and there would be opportunities for students to improve their current grades by working with their teachers.

Walts further told students they would not have to repeat their current grades, and that Virginia officials are working to ensure that high school seniors can graduate “based on the time they have in school so far” this year. 

All graduations and proms have been canceled, according to updated information on the school division's website. The school division is working on alternative, "safe ways" to celebrate the Class of 2020, because "they've earned it!" the announcement says.

"Many of you have asked me if you're going to have to repeat this grade again, and that is not part of the plan," he said. "We're anticipating that we will move forward."

The school division is expecting more guidance from the Virginia Department of Education on Tuesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam, blaming an ongoing coronavirus outbreak that could last for months,  took the unprecedented step Monday of shutting down all Virginia public and private schools for the remainder of the school year.

The announcement came just as Virginia Health Department officials reported 254 confirmed cases and six deaths linked to the coronavirus outbreak, which officially began in Virginia only two weeks ago.

The first Virginia resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was an unidentified Marine stationed at Quantico who became ill after returning home from an official trip to Ethiopia. His tests results were announced Saturday, March 7.

Over the next 16 days, the number of confirmed cases would rise exponentially. By Monday, March 23, there were a total of 658 cases in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

Virginia was reporting community transmission in “defined areas,” while Maryland, which had 288 cases as of March 23, reported “widespread” community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads and protect the capacity of our health care system,” Northam said during his Monday press conference.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said there had not been an announcement on graduation. Graduations have been canceled according to the school division website.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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