'We need to tackle this’: Alleghany County schools cancel class to prepare for possible coronavirus spread

ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – Some schools are shutting down across Southwest Virginia as districts make plans for the possibility of the coronavirus spreading.

Alleghany County Public Schools is one of the systems taking precautionary action, shutting down on Wednesday so teachers can prepare.

"We just don't know what we don't know," said Kelly Huff, director of secondary instruction for Alleghany County Public Schools. "I thought, 'Well, you know what, we need to tackle this.'"

Huff and her team came up with the plan a couple weeks ago. Cancel school for the day to give the staff time to prepare for the worst.

“You know, a day here for snow, that’s one thing, but if you’re talking about five to 10 days, we need to make sure we’re providing our students with an education if we need to do that,” Huff said.

“Being proactive rather than reactive to the entire situation," said Alex Brigham, secondary mathematics teacher at Alleghany High School.

Teachers like Brigham are taking their lessons from the classroom to the computer, preparing 10 days of lesson plans using online programs that students are already familiar with.

“I have just a PowerPoint that they can click on, day by day, instruction, okay check out this, do these assignments on each day,” Brigham said.

All students in 4th through 12th grade already take home Chromebooks.

"There is a challenge to the virtual component to it but I think we as educators we've got to look at what's best for our children nowadays," Brigham said.

Slightly more than 10% of students, 130 of the nearly 1,200 in the school system, don’t have internet access at home.

Huff said there’s a plan for that too. Buses will be going out in the community, taking those students to places that do have internet access, like libraries, the YMCA, or even McDonald’s, to make sure no student skips a beat.

The preparations go beyond education. The teacher workday doubled as a deep cleaning day, so Alleghany schools are ready for anything.

"We're just not going to sit back and do nothing. We might have to get creative in some of our solutions and what that looks like, but we will get creative with it and we will find a way to make sure we're getting these kids educated," Brigham said.

Pulaski County Schools has a similar plan, closing Friday for teachers to prepare.

There are no plans at this time for Roanoke County Public Schools to close for coronavirus preparations. However, a spokesperson told 10 News they have a previously scheduled closing on Friday for a teacher workday. They are working on online options for elementary and secondary schools. RCPS has launched this website to address questions.

Lynchburg City Schools announced Wednesday that it will temporarily cancel all out-of-town field trips. The district will work with families to refund any costs or reschedule trips for a later date. High school competition-based travel will continue on a case-by-case basis. The school districtis keeping families updated using this website.

For Roanoke City Schools, staff members are meeting several times a day to discuss coronavirus. A spokesperson said the district has a plan to continue education if schedules are altered, which includes feeding children.

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