RADFORD, Va. – It was the first day of the new school year in Radford Thursday. Even while balancing normal challenges a new school year can bring, this year there is an added hurdle -- controlling coronavirus.
As of last school year, there are roughly 1,600 students across four schools enrolled in the system.
The students are split into three groups: one group 100% virtual and two other groups who alternate in-person instructional days. The “Rocky R’s” group attends school Monday and Thursday. The “Bobcats” group attends school Tuesday and Friday. Wednesdays are virtual days for everyone.
Social distancing measures are in place on buses, in classrooms and the cafeteria. Even in the hallways, students are asked to spread apart. Extra cleaning is implemented daily.
“It definitely has a different feel to it. All of the logistics are different,” explained sixth grade teacher Cole Wilder. “Honestly, once you get in the classroom, it feels very similar.”
Every student has been issued a Chromebook for virtual learning.
Virtual Radford is the district’s online schooling system powered by Google Classroom. Students that are 100% virtual picked up their textbooks, laptops and other supplies Wednesday.
“We actually have about 20% of our student population that have signed up for Virtual Radford this year,” explained Matthew Whelan, Virtual Radford Tech Support. “So, yeah, that’s quite a huge jump in numbers.”
Teachers have created lesson plans so that all students are learning at a similar pace.
All of this is happening as coronavirus cases surge in Radford.
Here is the latest coronavirus case data in Radford, according to the Virginia Department of Health:
- as of July 1: 12 cases
- as of July 15: 18 cases
- as of August 1: 26 cases
- as of August 13: 60 cases
Cases have more than doubled since the beginning of the month as Radford University students return to campus and now public school students return to the classroom.
“It’s a little bit concerning, and sure, there is a risk of coming back face-to-face, but there is also a risk in not coming back face-to-face,” stated Superintendent Robert Graham. “We have a strong virtual program but it’s certainly not going to compete with what our teachers do face-to-face.”
Graham said his team will continue working closely with New River Valley Health District to monitor cases within the system.
If a student or staff member test positive, Graham said the health district will notify others through contract tracing. Those individuals, along with the person with a confirmed positive case will immediately quarantine.
Closing entire buildings is not out of the question.
Graham said having every student familiar with the virtual system and armed with a system-issued Chromebook decreases lapse in instructional time.
In response to recent case surges, Radford University released the following statement:
“Radford University has developed a comprehensive plan in response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. The University is implementing all facets of that plan in order to promote the health, safety, and well-being of the campus and the community.
Any and all COVID-19 cases at Radford University are included as part of the Virginia Department of Health’s localized reporting totals.
The Campus Reopening Plan estimated that a total of 1,700 students would be tested during the first two weeks of August as part of move-in activities. Also, for criteria related to campus dismissals or shutdowns, please see page 89 of the Campus Reopening Plan (https://www.radford.edu/content/dam/departments/administrative/university-relations/reopening-covid-materials/SCHEV_FOLLOW_UP.pdf).”