Mixed reactions to virtual learning requirement for Virginia schools reopening

School superintendents say it’s costly and forceful; teacher says it’s for safety

ROANOKE, Va. – Though a school reopening bill passed the Virginia Senate, the virtual component is getting mixed reactions from school superintendents and teachers.

Grayson County Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Wilmore said Senate Bill 1303 that wants to make all Virginia public schools reopen with in-person and virtual learning “is not a good compromise.”

“How they think we are going to pay for that virtual component is another mandate that is not, not very thought out at all,” he said.

As for some districts, it can be too expensive. If Grayson County uses Virtual Virginia, it could cost the district about $1,200 a year per student. For elementary students, Wilmore said the price tag will jump even higher.

“If you want a virtual component then you need to put some money in the SOQ [Standard of Quality] to cover that virtual component and not leave us shorthanded,” he said. “This is going right back to no child left behind unfunded mandates from years ago.”

Wilmore said this piece of legislation is micromanaging and Henry County Schools agrees.

Henry County Schools Communications Director Monica Hatchett tells 10 News the superintendent shared a letter with Senator Bill Stanley asking him to oppose the bill because “it is our feeling that school divisions should have the option to offer both learning formats rather than being required to do so.”

However, Hatchett adds the school district does plan to offer a virtual academy in the next school year.

As a parent and a teacher, Franklin County High School Teacher Kim Ellis said virtual learning needs to be on the table because of safety.

“If a school can’t provide a safe learning environment, you are putting your students and your staff at risk,” she said.

While Wilmore respects that concern, he also worries about internet accessibility.

Ellis agrees the state needs to address this issue before moving forward.

“Because without equality to a good internet, we no longer have an equal education for students,” she said. “And that’s the bigger issue here.”

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