CHRISTIANSBURG, VA. – Students in Montgomery County schools will be back in the classroom four days a week starting in March.
On Tuesday night, the school board approved moving to the next phase on a split vote, 4-3, after initially delaying the vote in a meeting that went until nearly 1 a.m. earlier this month.
Tuesday’s vote came after about three hours of discussion and some outright bickering amongst school board members. The vote split the board four to three on the second night of discussion.
Jamie Bond, Gunin Kiran, Dana Partin, and Marti Graham all voted in favor of the plan, while Mark Cherbaka, Penny Franklin, and Sue Kass voted against it.
Franklin felt the year should finish as is and the division should make any changes when school starts back up in the fall.
“We will have learned some good lessons from dealing with this, but I just don’t think moving forward because we have to keep moving forward is a thing that we have to do,” said Franklin.
The board delayed the vote earlier this month to allow time for a community survey for parents, students and staff. The dissenting board members argued that the majority of teachers voted against moving to the next phase of in-person teaching.
“Beyond the expert opinions of these teachers, I think to push that aside for no good reason I think is already causing morale issues and we’re just going to exacerbate our problems down the road,” said Cherbaka.
Of the students who responded to the survey, the majority of them voted to stay in the current phase as well; however, the majority of parents surveyed said they wanted their children back in the classroom four days a week.
“I’m really sick and tired of living in an environment where we have to be pitted against each other, whether it was board members to board members, teachers to parents,” Gunin Kiran said.
The division estimates that about 70% of students will opt for in-person learning while 30% will stay fully online.
Wednesdays will still be a virtual day for all students and a planning day for teachers.
The majority of the board said the division has done what it needs to do in regards to safety to make this plan work.
“We have provided the safety measures that we were told that were needed to put in place to make this choice happen,” Dana Partin said.
Parents should expect more information from school leaders in the coming days about how the plan specifically affects your children.