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Governor Northam announces ‘Virginia is for Learners’ Education Initiative

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today launched Virginia is for Learners, an initiative to engage students, parents, educators, and employers with the Commonwealth’s efforts to better prepare Virginia students for success in the 21st-century workforce and adapt to a changing world. The initiative includes a public information campaign and a coordinated set of future-focused strategies to accompany recent major changes the Commonwealth has made to public education.

“Over the past few years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has worked to transform the way we deliver public education, aligning our approach with the needs of a modern economy,” said Governor Northam. “The goal of this initiative is to provide Virginians with information on each of these changes, why we are making them, and what we hope those changes will achieve. Virginia is for Learners represents our commitment to do everything we can to offer every student, no matter where they live, the world-class educational experience they need to build successful lives as adults, and an opportunity to learn in ways that are relevant to their lives, their communities, and their future aspirations.”

Each of the pillars of the initiative supports the goal of modernizing curriculum, instruction, and testing to ensure that students master important content while also developing the real-world skills that are more important to employers than ever. The future of work is changing—and this initiative is designed to change the future of learning in Virginia to meet the need of students and suit the needs of modern employers.

The Virginia is for Learners initiative includes the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Board of Education, and partner organizations including Jobs for the Future, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, and several schools of education, including those at William & Mary and George Mason University. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided initial support for policy and practice activities that made the launch of this initiative possible.

The key components of Virginia is for Learners include:

• A Stronger Focus on Deeper Learning: Students in every grade are experiencing an approach to instruction that deepens the focus on key skills for success in a modern world—critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills. This approach ensure students develop the content knowledge and the skills they need to succeed after graduation.

• New High School Graduation Requirements and Career Pathways: Virginia high school graduation requirements have been revised to incorporate the “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” which ensures graduates have the knowledge, skills, and experiences identified by employers and educators as most critical for life after high school. For the first time, all Virginia graduates will leave high school with life changing work-based learning experiences that put them on the path for career and economic advancement. This Profile went into effect for this year’s freshman class.

• Modernizing the Virginia Standards of Learning: Over the past several years Virginia has reduced the number of high-stakes tests. The Commonwealth is also updating testing to better track not only what a student knows, but how ready they are to apply their knowledge and skills in the real world. Parents will begin to see these new testing approaches—such as performance assessments—in their kids’ schools as students are asked to demonstrate their true understanding of concepts through short essays, projects and other vehicles.

• An Increased Emphasis on Early Childhood Education: The Virginia Department of Education helps prepare all children to become lifelong learners, which is critical in the modern economy, and recognizes the need to build that foundation in a child’s earliest years. The Commonwealth supports birth to five programming, including the Virginia Preschool Initiative and Early Childhood Special Education. Virginia is for Learners promotes key classroom practices, such as using of high-quality curriculum and assessment, supporting positive teacher-child interactions and ongoing family engagement. A goal of this initiative is to ensure every student enters kindergarten ready to learn and prepare for a successful life after graduation.

• New Standards of Accreditation for Virginia Schools: Standards of Accreditation for school performance place new emphasis on cultivating real-world skills, eliminating achievement gaps and incentivizing continuous school quality improvement. Virginia’s new accreditation system measures what matters, gives credit for student growth, and focuses on equity outcomes. These new standards use the latest research and technology to advance Virginia’s position as a national leader in school accountability. The Virginia Department of Education remains focused on excellence and accountability while ensuring that Virginia is a place where every student is has the opportunity to succeed.

• Maximizing the Potential of All Students: Education is our most effective tool to reduce poverty, address racism, and sustain economic advancement for all Virginians. The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that students and families in Virginia, regardless of their race, economic status, or the languages they speak at home, feel welcomed in their schools. The Virginia Department of Education will continue to focus on the changing needs of its diverse student population, recognizing that significant achievement gaps currently exist. Our commitment is to ensure that the Commonwealth’s public education system is positioned to achieve equitable academic outcomes for all students.

“Taken together, these policy changes transform the way Virginia prepares our students for successful careers and lives after graduation,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Virginia is for Learners is our vehicle for communicating and engaging with the public about the changes happening in their schools and promoting future reforms to build on our momentum. If we work together we can prepare every student for a successful career in the economy of the future.”

“Virginia has always led the way on thoughtful and modern innovations to connect students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive after graduation,” stated Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “Virginia is for Learners is about recognizing our responsibility to adapt to a changing economy and make sure that every student has the knowledge, skills, and experience to build a successful life after graduation.”

“On behalf of the Virginia Board of Education, I am proud of the on-going work that state, local and private partners have undertaken to better ensure our education system prepares students from every corner of our state for success in the modern workforce,” said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “Virginia is for Learners is a strong platform to highlight the important revisions the Board made to the Standards of Accreditation that focus on continuous improvement for all students and the persistent equity work of the Board, the Department and our public schools across the Commonwealth.”

Stephanie Malia Krauss, Senior Director for Special Projects at Jobs for the Future added, “The jobs of the future require students to be lifelong learners who can pair strong content knowledge with real-world skills. Virginia is for Learners is a national model for how states can modernize their educational approach to ensure every student who earns a high school diploma is ready to thrive in a rapidly changing world. This initiative is a true collaborative effort of state and local education leaders in partnership with a number of strong national partners, all working together on behalf of Virginia students.”

Donna Colombo, President of the Virginia PTA added, “Virginia is for Learners is the culmination of years of work by public and private partners to transform how Virginia prepares students for future success. We are proud to support this important effort to inform Virginia parents and students about the changes happening in their schools and how they will lead to better outcomes for children in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

For more information on the Virginia is for Learners initiative visit www.virginiaisforlearners.virginia.gov.

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Governor Northam authorizes City of Hampton to implement temporary curfew

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Governor Ralph Northam today, June 3, 2020, granted a request from local leaders in the City of Hampton to implement a temporary curfew due to civil unrest. This follows an emergency declaration signed by the Governor on May 31 to assist localities in responding to escalating violence across the Commonwealth. Earlier this week, the Governor granted authorization to officials in the cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach to extend curfews.

The City of Hampton is authorized to implement a curfew between the hours of 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM from Wednesday, June 3, 2020, through Saturday, June 6, 2020. While the curfew is in effect, people must remain in their homes and may only leave to seek emergency services or travel to and from home, work, or places of worship.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Four can be found here.

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Governor Northam announces Phase Two guidelines to further ease public health restrictions

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Governor Ralph Northam on June 2, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Five and presented the second phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue safely and gradually easing public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Governor also amended Executive Order Sixty-One directing Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond to remain in Phase One.

Most of Virginia is expected to enter Phase Two on Friday, June 5, as key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continue to trend downward as testing increases. The Governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the indicators laid out in April.

“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” said Governor Northam. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

Executive Order Sixty-Five modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Sixty-One and Sixty-Two and establishes guidelines for Phase Two. Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond entered Phase One on Friday, May 29, and will remain in Phase One to allow for additional monitoring of health data. Accomack County delayed reopening due to outbreaks in poultry plants, which have largely been controlled through rigorous testing. Accomack County will move to Phase Two with the rest of the Commonwealth, on Friday, June 5.

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Phase One guidelines sectors are available here.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Five and Order of Public Health Emergency Six is available here.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-One can be found here.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – June 2, 2020; addresses protest, Phase 2 starts Friday

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

The Governor began the June 2 briefing by discussing the protests across Virginia. His message to protesters is “I hear you,” and that he pledges to stand with them. Several spoke with the Governor including 70th District Del. Delores McQuinn, Shirley Ginwright with the Virginia African American Advisory Board, and Jim Bibbs, chief human resources officer for the Virginia Port Authority.

The Governor announced most of the state can move into Phase Two of reopening the state this Friday, June 5. He said Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Accomack County will stay in Phase One.

Here are some changes under Phase Two:

  • Restaurants can have indoor seating at 50 percent capacity
  • Gyms can have indoor classes/ workouts at 30 percent capacity
  • Pools can open with some restrictions
  • Museums/zoos can open with restrictions
  • Recreational sports allowed but there can be no shared equipment
  • Gatherings limited to 50 people rather than 10
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Governor Northam declares State of Emergency and authorizes assistance to localities; curfew in the City of Richmond

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Governor Ralph Northam today, May 31, 2020, declared a state of emergency and authorized assistance to localities in response to escalating violence across the Commonwealth. The Governor granted a request from Mayor Levar Stoney to extend a curfew in the City of Richmond.

“This emergency declaration will provide the necessary support to localities as they work to keep our communities safe, said Governor Northam. “There are many voices speaking out for justice and healing across the United States and in our Commonwealth, but others are exploiting this pain and inciting violence.”

A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and preposition people and equipment to assist localities in their efforts to deescalate violent protests and protect public safety.

The declaration allocates $350,000 for state and local governments and state response and recovery operations authorized and coordinated through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

The order extends a curfew in the City of Richmond between the hours of 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM from Sunday, May 31, 2020, through Wednesday, June 3, 2020. While the curfew is in effect, people must remain in their homes and may only leave to seek emergency services or travel to and from home, work, or places of worship.

The full text of the emergency declaration can be found here.

Governor Ralph Northam also issued the following statement about protests in the City of Richmond.

“I acknowledge each of the voices crying out for justice and healing across the United States and in our Commonwealth. I affirm the deep concerns from the black community.

“I hear you. I know your pain is real. We have all seen too many people harassed, abused, and killed by law enforcement officers, in too many places, for too long—just for being black. I also know that others are exploiting this pain and are now causing violence.

“I spoke with Mayor Levar Stoney throughout the night; pursuant to the Mayor’s requests, I have authorized a curfew in Richmond and placed the Virginia National Guard on alert. They stand ready to assist in protecting our residents, businesses, especially small and black-owned businesses, and the capital city.

“As Governor of Virginia, I call on all Virginians to join together and build a renewed commitment to working for justice and fair treatment.”

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 28, 2020; Phase 2 could start June 5th

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

The Governor said that earliest the state could enter Phase Two would be Friday, June 5. Phase Two would look like this: stay at home for vulnerable populations, no social gatherings of more than 50 individuals, continued social distancing, continued teleworking, face coverings in public, and further easing business limitations.

He also mentioned the requirement to wear face masks starting Friday, May 29, people will be required to wear masks inside retail shops, restaurants, personal care, and grooming establishments, places people congregate, government buildings, and public transportation.

Exceptions will be allowed, including while eating or drinking, exercising, those with trouble breathing or health issues, and children under age 10. The governor stated enforcement would be done through the Virginia Department of Health, not by local Sheriff or Police.

Here’s the latest briefing:

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Governor Northam announces Microsoft Corp. to create 1,500 new jobs in Fairfax County

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~ Company will invest $64 million to establish software development and R&D regional hub ~

Governor Ralph Northam today, May 27, 2020,  announced that Microsoft Corp. will invest $64 million to establish a new software development and R&D regional hub, which will create 1,500 new jobs. The company will occupy 400,000 square feet in the Reston Town Center in Fairfax County for its new location, anticipated to be ready for employees in summer 2021. The plans include a new retail space for engaging directly with customers. Governor Northam met with Microsoft on an economic development mission at its headquarters in Washington in 2019.

“Virginia, like the rest of the nation, is facing unprecedented job loss due to COVID-19, so this announcement couldn’t come at a better time,” said Governor Northam. “Microsoft Corp. and Virginia share a strong history, and we are proud that this major operation in Fairfax County will add to the company’s significant job count across our Commonwealth. Virginia is a leader in the information technology industry, and Microsoft’s continued investment here is a testament to our top-ranked business climate, infrastructure, and world-class workforce.”

Microsoft has had a presence in Virginia since 2002, with corporate locations in Reston and the Richmond area as well as an enterprise data center in Mecklenburg County.

“Microsoft is a valued corporate partner, and we are excited to see the company expanding its footprint at its new software and R&D regional hub in Fairfax County,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The creation of 1,500 new, well-paid jobs is obviously very welcome news during these economically challenging times. The demand for cloud services is steadily increasing, and Microsoft’s newest operation will serve its growing customer base while developing cutting-edge software and creating 21st-century tech jobs.”

Established in 1975 and headquartered in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft is a publicly held corporation with revenues surpassing $125 billion and nearly 156,000 employees worldwide. The company enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge.

“One of Microsoft’s core principles is actively listening to our customers, so we can build and improve our technology based on their feedback. Being close to our customer base is extremely important to our ongoing collaborations,” said Terrell Cox, general manager at Microsoft. “We’ve had a presence in Reston for many years now, and this expansion will allow Microsoft to deliver even more solutions from a region known for its innovation and passion for technology.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and the General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Project Approval Commission to secure the project for Virginia. Microsoft will be eligible to receive a MEI custom performance grant of $22.5 million, to be paid post-performance, subject to approval by the Virginia General Assembly. Microsoft plans to utilize the custom performance grant to fund partnerships with local colleges and universities to develop the tech talent pipeline for cloud computing and related degrees to support its local expansion.

“Microsoft can choose from any number of technology hubs for its operations, and we are so pleased that the company chose to expand its operations in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia,” said Victor Hoskins, President, and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “Because of our wealth of technology talent and the tech ecosystem here, this area is a great match for the company’s talent needs as well as its business goals.”

“Reston is proud to welcome Microsoft’s expansion in our Town Center,” said Senator Janet Howell. “Microsoft Corp. has been an important corporate citizen for many years. The decision to grow here is yet more proof that our region is a major technology hub.”

“I am thrilled that Microsoft has chosen to locate this significant operation and create 1,500 new jobs in Fairfax County,” said Delegate Kenneth Plum. “The Commonwealth and the County have a longstanding relationship with Microsoft, and this operation will only strengthen it. We look forward to welcoming the software development and R&D regional hub to the Reston Town Center.”

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