HENRY COUNTY, Va. – Just one week before Henry County public school students were set to return to the classroom, on Monday, the district announced it would remain virtual indefinitely, delaying its plan to return to hybrid learning due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
“Looking at the cases in our community, just don’t lend themselves to do that safely at this time,” said Monica Hatchett, the director of communications for Henry County Public Schools.
School officials track COVID-19 cases and exposures at least once a week. With teachers quarantining and a limited number of available substitutes, they just don’t have the staff.
School leaders said it was a difficult decision with new data showing more than a third of students are failing at least one class, according to Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Lisa Millner.
“It’s disheartening some when we look at how our students are performing,” said Millner.
Nearly 36% are failing at least one course, compared to 14% this time last year. And almost 26% are failing two or more.
“Some are doing extremely well, however some have not,” said Millner. “And I contribute a lot of that to a lack of participation.”
It’s hard for working parents to help kids with school work and keep them on track, a lack of daily structure and limited internet access are all factors.
“Our guestimate right now is about 20% are having limited issue access,” said Hatchett.
The district wants to add small group sessions, virtual tutoring and homework help after school and on Saturdays and plans to offer summer school to all age groups.
“Research says that the best place for K-12 students is to be in front of a teacher. We understand that. However, we have other things that come into consideration that we have to take into consideration when making those decisions,” said Millner. “I think that we made the best decision for our students.”