Most Roanoke City students could spend the first 9 weeks of school at home

School division released its proposed plan on Thursday evening

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Public Schools released a 53-page document on Thursday providing a better picture of what the upcoming school year could look like.

It’s a significant change from the initial plan released three weeks ago because of the increased number of COVID-19 cases.

Under this modified plan, most students will participate in virtual instruction for the first nine weeks beginning August 31.

Here’s a look at which students which qualify for in-person learning in those first nine weeks.

  • Academically vulnerable students, which would include students with disabilities that participate in the special education setting more than 50% of their school day
  • Level 1 English Learners
  • High school students from Forest Park Academy and Noel Taylor Learning Academy who may need additional support to graduate at the end of the school year.

Changes in the second nine weeks, which start Nov. 2, include:

  • PreK –5th graders can choose to attend in-person classes two days per week, 50% on Mondays and Thursdays, 50% on Tuesdays and Fridays

Changes in the third nine weeks, which start, Jan. 4, 2021, include:

  • All students not enrolled in the Virtual Academy will be in-person four days a week, Monday -Thursday

Changes in the fourth nine weeks, which start March 1, 2021, include:

  • All students not enrolled in the Virtual Academy will be in-person five days a week

The goals above are all subject to change, pending infection rate data.

When Roanoke City outlined the initial plan, the big question was if enough students choose fully online learning to allow others to return to the classroom. They met that goal of at least 30% opting to go fully online, but the variables changed right under their feet.

“What we didn’t anticipate and what’s different now, than where we were three weeks ago, would really be that community transmission, being in the substantial range, changes our space, which changes our phase, which changes everything for us in the city,” Roanoke City Schools superintendent Verletta White said.

White said COVID-19 cases are double, if not triple that of neighboring localities. The 53-page report published Thursday said that fact puts Roanoke back to phase one and phase two guidance, which does not recommend in-person learning above third grade.

And if they do, desks need to be six feet apart, not the three feet school administrators used in calculations.

“With that distance we need two classrooms for every one, two teachers for every one, so we have looked at every model possible,” White said.

School leaders considered five choices. The other four had even fewer students in person, students going on alternating days, or even four groups of students with just one in-person day a week. But the division said under each of those plans the continuity of education just wasn’t there, and this phased approach is the only feasible option.

“Hopefully in nine weeks we will have come down to at least the moderate range where we can work in a different phase and get more students back in the fold,” White said.

For those who would like to, students can also remain fully virtual for the entire school year. White said they want students back but the math doesn’t add up until cases go down.

“So we really do want to get back to normal as soon as possible, so we’re going to do our part, we’re going to stay distanced, we’re going to wear our masks, and we would just hope that everyone else would do the same,” White said.

The Roanoke City School Board will discuss this at Tuesday’s meeting at William Fleming High School.

Below is the full reopening plan for the school division:

About the Authors:

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.