Safety, emotional well-being: Roanoke County school leaders try to check all boxes with 2020-21 plans

'If we don’t see those kids more often, then I really worry about their development of those crucial skills'

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely released his recommendations for the 2020-21 school year to the school board Thursday evening.

“There are so many hardships,” said Nicely.

The plans are based on local, state and federal guidelines, the governor’s guidance, conversations with surrounding school districts, and input from families. It covers everything from when kids will get in-person instruction, to transportation, to new safety protocols.

“That’s not just physical safety,” said Nicely. “That’s social, emotional well-being.”

Pre-K through 2nd grade will attend class in-person, every day, Monday through Friday.

“They’re developing their reading skills,” said Nicely. “If we don’t see those kids more often, then I really worry about their development of those crucial skills.”

Grades 3-12 will attend at 50% capacity in-person twice a week. Siblings will be on the same schedule.

Students will learn remotely the rest of the week, as they did for a portion of this spring, but this time around, grades will count.

“This fall’s going to look very different,” said Nicely. “There’s going to be structure to that. There’s going to be assignments. There’s going to be expectations.”

The district considered other ideas, including using churches for in-person instruction space, but staffing and security posed a problem.

All students will have the option for remote learning 100% of the time thanks to new laptops and hotspots the district purchased.

The district also plans to buy about $160,000 worth of Plexiglas to divide desks and reception areas.

Other noteworthy changes include not offering field trips and assigning seating to help with COVID-19 contact tracing as needed. Also, perfect attendance won’t be recognized.

“It’s going to be like a new adventure,” said Nicely. “It might be a different way of learning, but maybe we’ll learn some good things out of this experience that we can apply in the future.”

The school board is set to vote whether or not to accept the recommendations at the next meeting on July 2.

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