‘We don’t care about grades’, Radford schools focusing on families first during closures

Radford teachers are not expected to come up with days or weeks of lesson plans to send home

RADFORD, Va. – We’ve been telling you a lot about what school districts are doing while kids are out of school. Radford City Schools put all their hourly school staff on salary to make sure they’re paid for the rest of the school year, but that’s not the only thing that different.

There is a tub of food and school supplies outside Belle Heath Elementary for families. The school district is asking people to take what they need, but be considerate of others too. Radford is one of the fifth poorest areas in Virginia.

“I think it’s the school’s responsibility, the school division’s responsibility to be here for our families and to really protect them in this time,” said Rob Graham, Radford school superintendent, who is on the front lines working to make sure students and families have everything they need.

Staff members pack food every day for bus stop deliveries and books for all ages.

“It is very difficult and challenging, but it’s also one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my job as superintendent. I’ve been in education almost 30 years now. I’ve been about every level. I’ve never had to deal with something like this and it is new territory,” said Graham.

“There’s just a lot of worry and concern during this time,” said Jenny Zienius, a Belle Heath fifth grade teacher.

Teachers are calling every family, touching base about the plan and asking what they need.

“I think what’s so different is it’s so unknown. When you have a snow day or a snow week, you know it’s going to clear up and you’re going to get back in. Right now, we’re just so unsure of what is going to happen,” said Zienius.

Right now, Graham says they’re not focusing on grades or expecting teachers to come up with days or weeks of lesson plans to send home.

“We want to focus on the health and well-being of our families and make sure they have everything they need first the food, shelter, love, and care. Those types of things are more important and you have to have them before you have learning. We’re starting there and hopefully build on that,” said Graham.

“I’m still a little bit anxious but I feel better when I see all the positive things and preventive things that are in place for our kids and our community,” said Zienius.

Graham said there are so many things schools have had to think about. They held a medicine pick up day for families to get those earlier in the week. He’s worried about what this will do to their community long term and expects the needs will increase the longer school is out.

To see what other schools are doing click here.

About the Author: