Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announces schools must reopen with some form of in-person learning by March 15

Many Northern Virginia students haven’t been inside the classroom for close to a year, but that’s about to change.

The largest district in the Commonwealth has now finalized plans to return, and not only that, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new plan Friday for the whole state to fall in line.

Northam stressed the need for students to be back in school, adding that it’s possible to return safely.

He announced he expects all districts to have some in-person learning options by March 15.

Northam also made a plea for in-person instruction over the summer, although the summer school would not be required.

The governor says COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Virginia are beginning to trend down.

"It's time to find a path forward to in-person learning," Northam said.

READ MORE: Thousands of Fairfax County teachers to work from home despite district's plan to send students back

Meanwhile, Fairfax County students will return to in-person learning in less than two weeks. They’ll come back in phases with the first group arriving on February 16th and the last group one month later, with most kids spending two days a week in-school, two days at home learning virtually, and students will have independent learning on day number five.

Among parents who spoke to FOX 5 about the decision, reactions were mixed.

"I still feel very strongly that until we begin to see those numbers coming down that students should remain at home," said Fikayo Olu-Ayeni.

But Julie Kane, who is the mom of a kindergartener with special needs, felt differently.

"I would take anything at this point," she explained, "because I really feel like the potential for these kids is being wasted, and they’re lonely at home."

READ MORE: Virginia students struggling academically amid the pandemic, according to new data

Thursday in Arlington, parents FOX 5's Ayesha Khan spoke with say they need more information on how Northam's possible plan will help their child make up for lost time since they’ve been at home for the past 11 months.

"This gap is 11 months long. It’s gonna take more than extending school into the summer and extending school in the summer means what?" said Arlington Public Schools parent Paul Brickley.

Meanwhile, other parents say there's no need for summer school – give kids a break.

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"I think all of the kids need a break from all of the screen time, I think, whether kids are going to school in the brick and mortar building or doing school virtually," said Jessica McDonald. "I think summer is a time they need a break."

In Arlington, the public school system hasn’t made any announcements yet about when most kids can return to school.

So far, students with disabilities who require in-person learning returned on November 4 and have been back in classrooms four days a week since that time. Pre-K through 2nd grade will be the next students to return.

More parents Ayesha spoke with say they can’t understand how the school system is so behind with its reopening plans when other districts like Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William have already announced theirs. 

"What is your explanation for why you think you’re doing it better than what all the other experts are saying? Why is Arlington special? Why do we think that we are able to reinvent the wheel in a way that the CDC says doesn’t need to happen?" said Miranda Turner. 

While Arlington Public Schools hasn’t announced a date for return to school —those who signed for the hybrid model should know on February 18.