GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - More Central Virginia school systems are taking the plunge to bring students back to the classroom five days per week.
The Goochland County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night on a plan to do so, while Powhatan County School Board members voted to expand five-day-a-week in-person learning.
Starting Monday, Oct. 19, kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Goochland County will be able to get back in the classroom for a full school week. However, families can decide if that is what they want to do.
“Families have their own perspectives for what is taking place related to this virus,” said Goochland Co. Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley. “[The plan] understands that there are folks with different perspectives on this, ultimately you as a parent have the choice to do what is best for your family.”
For parent Corey Harris, who has three children in the Goochland County School system, he plans on keeping his kids learning virtually at home.
“It’s been going good for all of them,” Harris said. “The teachers are helping them out the best that they can, and I can thank them 100% for the good job they’ve been doing.”
Harris said other school systems are seeing COVID-19 cases, and he would rather wait until more research is done.
“Until they find something with a vaccine to get rid of this stuff,” he added.
However, Harris, like many other parents, understands there are situations that may prevent students from staying at home.
“From what I understand, and I could be wrong, is that virtual is extremely difficult for some areas of Goochland,” said Janice, who has a family member who works in GCPS. “Internet is not easily available and that makes it even more of a challenge.”
Bringing kindergarten through fifth-grade students back is the first part of Goochland’s plan.
On Nov. 2, sixth and ninth-grade students will be allowed to return to in-person learning five days per week and on Nov. 9 other middle and high school students will be allowed to return.
“My personal opinion, it’s too early,” Janice said. “But it’s ultimately up to the parents. The parents should always have a choice.”
While teaching will be happening in the classroom, Raley said it will also be done virtually.
“For our preschool students, our teachers are delivering both in-person and distance learning experiences simultaneously,” Raley said. “In kindergarten through fifth grade, we will have assigned distance learning teachers who will deliver synchronous live distance learning to students.”
There will also be in-person teachers who will deliver instruction in the traditional setting.
The superintendent added teachers were able to make requests to continue teaching virtually, however the school system was not able to accommodate all those requests.
“We’ve been faced with the balance of recognizing some of the challenges our staff has while at the same time operating our core business,” Raley said. "I’m proud of the professionals in our school division who have pulled together to make this possible.'
In neighboring Powhatan County, pre-K through third graders are already back in the classroom five days a week. That went into effect Sept. 14.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Powhatan board members voted unanimously to expand that plan for fourth and fifth graders. They will be allowed to return to the classroom on Nov. 4.
However, Powhatan Superintendent Dr. Eric Jones said if families chose to start the year virtually, they will have to remain in that course of learning until the end of the first semester.
The gradual return of students is being done with precautionary measures in place.
All students and staff will be required to wear masks throughout the day, get their temperatures checked and socially distance.
Goochland school leaders have also looked at improving air quality.
“We’ve ordered HEPA air filters for each and every classroom across the school division and with the support of our local board of supervisors we’re retrofitting over 40 HVAC units in our division with higher MERV filtration that will allow us to have better air quality,” Raley said.
However, before Goochland students step back into the classroom on Monday, the Chickahominy Health District will check things out first.
“This Friday they’ll do virtual visits to our classrooms in preparation for Monday and giving us suggestions and recommendations for how we might want to make our strong plan even stronger,” Raley said.
In Powhatan, there is no word at this time on when other grade levels could return to in-person learning five days per week.
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