Northam COVID-19

Richmond Times-Dispatch file

Governor Northam speaks during a news conference earlier this month

ROANOKE — An education work group formed by the state to work on recommendations and policies related to reopening schools and continuing learning will hold more than a dozen forums over the next three weeks to gain input from school employees and families.

Called “strategy sessions,” the 13 virtual forums will “create space for critical perspectives to be heard and to inform policy discussions,” Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said in a letter released Wednesday. In a Facebook post later that same day, Qarni wrote the sessions will be limited in attendance to maximize the group’s ability to dive deep.

Each session is organized by an outside organization. Qarni said in his post interested attendees should reach out to the organizer to request to join or email him at atif.qarni@governor.virginia.gov.

The Virginia Education Association has published a form to be considered for its sessions, which make up a majority of the forums: bit.ly/veasessions.

Eligibility for their sessions is limited to VEA members, the form said.

The state’s COVID-19 Education Work Group was formed last month to come up with a framework to determine how schools can safely reopen. Its 37 members represent early childhood, K-12, secondary and private education; special education advocates; state agencies; various education organizations, nonprofits and museums; advisory boards; and one high school student.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered Virginia’s school’s closed for two weeks March 13 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He extended the closure for the remainder of the school year March 23.

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