Charlottesville City Schools announced Wednesday evening that it’s seeking approval from the School Board to begin the first nine weeks of the school year virtually, with a start date of Sept. 8. The School Board plans to vote on the decision at its meeting on Thursday.

“With cases rising in our nation and area, with a higher-than-recommended positivity rate in our area, and with many unanswered questions about how best to protect our staff and students, we have decided to put our efforts into online learning,” Rosa Atkins, superintendent of the city schools, wrote in an email. “So we can make this first nine weeks rewarding and productive.” 

The city schools based its recommendation to the School Board based on teachers and the community, staff planning and consultation with health experts, Atkins said. 

In light of the recommendation, the city schools said it has begun conversations about childcare during working hours, better online learning delivery than this past spring, social emotional learning, community building, peer-to-peer engagement and enhancing meals and tech support. 

“We recommend that we revisit this decision midway through the first quarter to see if we can confidently resume face-to-face learning,” she said. “We know that if the Board approves this recommendation to move online for the first quarter, it will raise concerns for many of you.” 

Moving forward, Atkins said she will monitor national and international school reopenings in an effort to modify her plans for school safety protocols as well as gain insight on how to contain the virus, advocate for tools that would help the division to decide when to reopen or close and more.  

“We are proud to be a diverse community,” Atkins said. “We see that diversity in terms of race or ethnicity or life experiences. Today, we see that diversity in terms of our varying perspectives about how to best teach our children.” 

Thursday’s meeting will be livestreamed on the Charlottesville City Schools’ Facebook page starting at 5 p.m.