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Schools announce strategies to reopen

Schools across the area are slowly unveiling plans to reopen under new guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with the majority opting for both a staggered class format that has children attending school in person some days of the week and utilizing at-home learning the remaining school days as well as the option to complete classes online without leaving home.

Guidance from the governor’s office came out Tuesday, June 9, calling for a phased reopening of the state’s pre-K-12 schools. Gov. Ralph Northam’s guidelines left the majority of reopening plans up to individual school systems.

House minority leader Todd Gilbert criticized the governor’s handling of school reopening plans recently, stating Northam’s guidance to schools was confusing and “woefully short of being realistic.”

Buckingham County Public Schools (BCPS) published a reopening summary Thursday, June 25, establishing itself as the school with perhaps the most detailed reopening plan thus far.

BCPS revealed in a phone survey conducted with parents, of which approximately 608 completed the survey, 51% of parents felt comfortable sending their child back to school for in-person classes, while 49% did not.

Of those surveyed, 57% of the parents liked the idea of a virtual/remote learning model for their children, while 43% did not. Of parents surveyed, 60% supported a two-day rotation if participating in a hybrid learning model consisting of students being in school two days a week and using remote/virtual learning three days a week.

BCPS’ task force determined due to the split opinions of those surveyed, both a virtual/remote learning model and a hybrid learning model will be utilized during Phases 2 and 3 of the school’s reopening process.

For the plan’s hybrid learning model there will be an “A” schedule and a “B” schedule. Students on the A schedule will report to school Mondays and Tuesdays and receive virtual/remote learning on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Students on the B schedule will receive virtual/remote learning on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and report to school Thursdays and Fridays.

The schedules will be based on the location the students live within the county, allowing Buckingham’s bus fleet to go to certain locations on each schedule to meet the guidelines for social distancing on the buses.

Attendance for students who participate in the virtual/remote learning model, meaning those students will not have to attend in-person classes at all, will be based on completion of work. The plan stated once the family has determined a student’s model, generally, changes will not be allowed due to social distancing requirements and transportation restrictions.

Pre-K-12 students may, according to the plan, receive a Chromebook and one or two flash drives. Students who do not have internet access will be provided with two flash drives in which learning materials will be downloaded for two weeks. This will enable students to access learning materials and return their work on one flash drive while working from the other. Generally, flash drives will be exchanged on Wednesdays at each school’s designated pick up zone and time. Alternate times may be requested through the school administrator and students’ teachers.

For in-person days, breakfast will be delivered to children in their homeroom class at the preschool and primary schools. Breakfast will be available as a grab-and-go option as students enter the building at the elementary, middle and high schools.

For lunch at each school, students will be taken to the cafeteria to pick up their meal. Students and staff will follow the social distancing guidelines in the hallways and cafeteria. Once students and staff get their meals, they will return to their classroom to eat. Meals will continue to be distributed to parents for their children every Wednesday at the middle school from 12 to 2 p.m.

Temperatures will be checked for each student before entering the classroom utilizing a no-contact infrared thermometer or kiosk for middle or high school students. Staff temperatures will be checked when they enter the building utilizing a kiosk. CARES Act Funds will be used for contract services of two additional nurses to allow for a nurse at each building pending approval of a CARES Act Grant to be submitted in mid-July.

BCPS’ complete reopening plan, including sanitization, family engagement and more can be found at bcpschools.org under “Coronavirus Information and Resources.”

Superintendent of Cumberland County Public Schools (CuCPS) Dr. Chip Jones gave an update for the school’s reopening plans in a Tuesday, June 23 email, confirming that CuCPS parents will also have the options of sending their children back to school on a staggered schedule or allowing their children to participate in remote learning from home.

“We are in the process of finalizing our return to school plan for the upcoming school year,” Jones said. “We have been soliciting input from parents, students and staff via surveys. Our intent is to open school as scheduled on August 10. Although the school year will look different, we will continue to provide a quality learning experience for our families.”

In a June 24 press release, Fuqua School in Farmville announced its reopening plans.

“The highest priority is the health and safety of faculty/staff, students and their families,” Incoming Head of School Chance Reynolds noted in the release. “While we are excited for a return to campus on Wednesday, August 12, for our first day of classes, we are also prepared for the possibility of potential interruptions.”

The school system will conduct temperature checks upon arrival at school or upon boarding the school bus, with limited campus visitors. Classrooms will be modified to allow for adequate spacing between desks for social distancing and will also be equipped with technology designed to create a more immersive experience for students who must learn remotely.

The release states in order to meet student needs, Fuqua School will be moving to a “1-to-1” device for students in grades six through 12. Chromebooks will be supplied to each student for the school year.

According to Fuqua School’s website, a re-opening committee is working to develop plans for four possible learning scenarios in the coming year, including an on-campus plan, a distance learning plan, a modified plan with transitions between on-campus and distance learning and a hybrid plan where most students are on campus, but high-risk and symptomatic students engage in distance learning from home.

In a Tuesday, June 23 email, Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) Superintendent Barbara Johnson said the school anticipates releasing information regarding a potential reopening plan to school staff, parents and students by the end of the following week.