INDEPENDENCE, Va. – Several school districts across Virginia are switching back to remote learning because of COVID-19 concerns; however, one district along the North Carolina border is committed to in-person learning.
Grayson County Schools announced it will continue regular classes indefinitely, with social distancing procedures in place.
Superintendent Kelly Wilmore believes his school district is safe because of the rural make-up of Grayson County.
“Children are not meant to be socially isolated, and at this time of year, we felt it was imperative to keep the kids in school,” Wilmore said. “Our numbers and our isolation are very positive for us. That’s the only reason we’re able to continue to stay open.”
The school district has only experienced four coronavirus cases, according to Wilmore.
In total, Grayson County has had 587 COVID-19 cases, with 44 hospitalizations and 22 deaths, according to VDH.
Mount Rogers Health District Director Karen Shelton said the coronavirus can still become a threat, even in rural areas.
“Grayson County has 3,755 cases per 100,000 residents,” Shelton said. “That’s equivalent to almost every other county in my district.”
Grayson County’s rate ranks fourth among localities within the Mount Rogers Health District.
The chart below breaks down the cases per 100,000 residents since March for each of the eight localities within the district as of Monday:
|Locality||COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 residents|
Shelton and Wilmore did discuss the decision to remain in-person. She said she understands Wilmore’s decision because children may not be able to learn remotely in Grayson County.
“There’s very limited cell phone service and internet access within much of the county,” Shelton said. “We know that in Grayson County, going virtual is not really an option.”
Wilmore said he has plans to adjust if an outbreak occurs in Grayson County, but remains confident his kids can make it to the end of the year without having to go virtual.
“It has been a tremendous challenge, by far the hardest thing I’ve dealt with as superintendent,” Wilmore said. “You have to do what’s best for your community and your kids, and that’s what I feel we’ve done here.”