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Roanoke City School Board hosts emergency video meeting in light of school closures

Board discussed student learning, staff pay and more

ROANOKE, Va. – On Tuesday, the Roanoke City School Board held an emergency meeting to decide how the rest of the year will go in light of Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement that the remaining nine weeks of classes are canceled to help slow the spread of COVID-19. And they did it in a unique way.

“This is a first for all of us, so we ask everyone to please bear with us as we conduct this meeting electronically,” board chair Mark Cathey said.

The board hosted the meeting via video conference to comply with social distancing. One of the first topics discussed was staff pay.

“We want to keep those people with us; we want to keep them happy; we want to keep them productive, and one of the things that keeps them happy and productive is their pay and benefits," Cathey said.

Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop said teachers will continue to be paid. Hourly workers who want to work will be assigned appropriate work. Nearly all staff will be asked to work from home and the schools will operate on limited staffing and on limited hours.

Most classes were finishing up with lessons and heading into test and review prep. The board said despite many tests being canceled, that work will still continue with students online. But not every family is online.

“We have the laptops and the tablets to provide them with the equipment, if we can get them connected,” Bishop said.

Some city families don’t have home internet, so the school board recommends they use Cox’s free two-month special, available to those with children who qualify for free and reduced lunch. It’s $10 a month after the first two months.

Seniors who were on track to graduate by March 13 will still graduate, and students on track for promotion will still be promoted.

“Will the material that we are sending home for the next two months be graded or not graded?” board member Laura Rottenborn asked.

“Most of it will not be graded," Bishop answered.

Food distribution will be consolidated from bus delivery to school pickup sites during spring break, and reassessed after that.

The division is setting up a special website by the end of the week with specific information for seniors with things like prom, AP exams and graduation, there are a lot of decisions left to be made.

The board said it will work on the tech issues and will be in touch with families soon, thanking all for their work during this time.

“We’re all sorry that we’re in this predicament, but I love the fact that we’ve all come together and done what we can to help,” board member Joyce Watkins said.


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