ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – UPDATE
The Roanoke County School Board gave its support during Thursday night’s meeting for a plan that will bring third-grade students back into the classroom for in-person instruction five days a week starting on October 26.
Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely said school leaders have identified ways to accommodate more students in classrooms while still adhering to public health guidelines.
“From the beginning, we’ve said our instructional plan is an expandable plan, and now we’re expanding it,” said Nicely.
Students who are participating in 100% online instruction will not be permitted to switch to in-person instruction until the start of the second semester at the earliest, according to school leaders.
Some students may be getting different teachers as additional staff are brought in to accommodate more classrooms.
Other changes under the plan include allowing fourth- and fifth-grade students who currently receive daily special education or English learner services to return to in-person instruction four days per week, with Wednesdays excluded.
Some middle and high school students will start having “hybrid help days” on Wednesday mornings for extra instructional help or additional in-person time to complete assignments. School leaders will identify students who may need this type of assistance and invite them to hybrid help days.
Also during Thursday night’s school board meeting, members approved a proposal to close schools on Monday, November 2 as a way to thank teachers and staff for their hard work during the pandemic. Schools are already scheduled to be closed on November 3 for Election Day.
During a work session on Tuesday, Roanoke County Public School officials presented an expandable plan to school board members that would allow more students to return to the classroom.
Through this plan, third graders would now attend school in-person five days a week while fourth and fifth grade special education and English language learners could attend four days a week.
Middle and high schoolers would be able to attend a half-day of school on Wednesdays for a “Hybrid Help Day," similar to a study hall that would be supervised by instructional assistants. Additionally, more bus routes would be offered to accommodate.
“Having a half a day in school is a step in the right direction," said Roanoke County parent, Nicole Pardon.
Pardon has two kids in high school and has been outspoken about reopening schools, saying this is a start, not a solution.
“I’m just not sure how much one-on-one instruction will be happening specifically with their teacher," said Pardon.
Her biggest concern is the online learning platform, Blackboard, used by the district.
“If teachers are stressed out and working this hard, and students are stressed out and working this hard, and parents are stressed out and working this hard, it comes down to a systemic problem," said Pardon. "It’s not the failure of one person, it’s the failure of this platform that’s not working.”
Available space and social distancing are still constraints, so the district plans to look into module classrooms or additional staff. Students who signed up for 100% online learning would need to stick with that for the rest of the calendar year.
Roanoke County Public School officials would not comment on the proposed plan before it is presented to the school board during Thursday evening’s school board meeting. However, a district spokesperson told 10 News that the board is in favor of the plan.
“I commend the school board for being nimble and being willing to change this plan. We just think there’s more work to be done,” said Pardon.
If the board decides to move forward with the plan, students could return to school starting as early as the end of October.
The district also launched an online COVID-19 dashboard to track the number of cases for students and staff at each school.