Roanoke City school leaders host virtual town hall to answer questions

Masks or face coverings will be mandatory when students are within six feet of each other with few exceptions

ROANOKE, VA. – More than 2,600 people tuned in for a virtual town hall with Roanoke City school leaders on Thursday.

Many in the community still have lots of questions about the plan to return to the classroom this fall.

“I know that you can be anywhere else, but you’ve chosen to be here tonight because you are dedicated,” superintendent Verletta White said, addressing the group.

White and other staff members hosted the parent forum to answer questions and make themselves available to the community. It covered the spectrum of questions, from virtual learning, to mask wearing, to what happens if an outbreak occurs in a city school.

White also shared that her own brother-in-law died from COVID-19.

“If there’s any doubt that we are taking this seriously, please don’t because it’s serious to me, it’s touched my family and I hope that it never touches yours,” White said.

Earlier this week, the division put out a video on social media showing what things will look like when students return. Masks will be required for all students and staff when they are within six feet of each other and few exceptions will be made. They also plan to enforce the mandate.

“We will face that with an educational process, the staff will talk with the student and find out why they’re not wearing the masks,” director of student services Timothy Hahn said.

Classrooms will be sanitized as frequently as possible using new equipment in the process. If an outbreak does occur, White said it will be handled on a case-by-case basis for how many students and staff are impacted. Chief of security Chris Perkins also said the department of health will play a big role.

“Rosters of all the contacts, all the staff members that have contacts, we will share that information with VDH so we’re as through as possible so we realize the extent of how that contact tracing may impact us,” Perkins said.

The division also shared what the virtual platform, Canvas, will look like from the student side.

The plan unveiled earlier this month calls for in person students to attend class Monday through Thursday, with an online day Friday. Families can choose for their students to take classes fully online in the Virtual Academy too. Roanoke teachers will teach both formats.

“They will be our regular teachers who are all highly qualified and talented teachers,” director of improvement Julie Drewry said.

School staff are still waiting on families to tell them their choice for the fall, whether in person or in the virtual academy. The entire plan hinges on at least 30% of the students choosing the fully online Virtual Academy for the in-person option to be viable.

Families have until July 28 to submit their information. You can find the intent form online here.

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