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Virtual learning to continue for Buckingham students

The Buckingham School Board has voted to continue virtual learning for all students through Jan. 15.

The news comes as schools across the commonwealth decide how they will proceed with classes following the Christmas holiday.

In October the board voted to continue virtual learning throughout the remainder of the first semester, which is scheduled to end Friday, Dec. 18. As the spring semester is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 5, the board needed to make a decision regarding potentially allowing students to enter into Phase 2 of a hybrid learning format.

Currently, Buckingham students are operating in Phase 1 of reopening plans, meaning students participate in virtual learning only. Previously, the school’s reopening plan said that when students do enter Phase 2, the first round of hybrid learning would include only students in grades Pre-K through third grades.

But at the monthly School Board meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 9, board members approved changes to the Phase 2 Model of hybrid learning that will also include fourth and fifth graders in the first round of hybrid learners.

However, it doesn’t appear hybrid learning will be happening immediately after kids return from winter break.

On Wednesday, Buckingham County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. Daisy Hicks presented information to the board regarding current coronavirus data in the county.

Hicks informed the board the county was seeing a large surge in COVID-19 cases. She said Wednesday the county was reporting 196 active coronavirus cases within the past 14 days, 121 of which were related to prisons or other facilities.

Hicks said the county’s positivity rate average Wednesday was at 15.9%, higher than the state average of 10.8%.

She also stated the school system had seen 12 positive cases and 28 quarantines from students and employees. She said it is anticipated teachers could be receiving vaccines some time in January.

Hicks added it would be her recommendation for the board to consider remaining virtual until Jan. 22.

The information had some board members torn on whether or not to allow students to enter hybrid learning after the break.

District 5 board member Sherry Ragland, who was participating virtually by telephone during the meeting, told her fellow board members she was not attending the meeting in person because she herself was assumed COVID-19 positive.

Ragland felt a possible uptrend in data anticipated after Christmas would mean remaining virtual until Jan. 22 would be wise. She offered a motion to do so, but the motion failed.

District 4 board member Joii Goodman presented data to the board that students in the U.S., especially Black students, were being set back several months in their education due to the pandemic.

“I just think that we need to make a move in the direction toward getting our children back to school,” he argued.

Goodman offered a motion to have Phase 2 begin January 6, but none seconded and the motion died.

“I’m just going to share again that I was exposed Nov. 27,” Ragland added. “I had no symptoms. I found out that person was positive. I was encouraged by my office that I needed to get tested. I did not start showing symptoms until Dec. 3.

“I could have gone on out into the public and exposed however many other people there could have been out there, but I didn’t. … If you haven’t had COVID, I’m going to let you know, it’s miserable. And I haven’t been sick sick like some other people have … I think we should be going to Jan. 22 until we can figure out the health of our county.”

After a lengthy discussion, a motion was made by District 3 board member Pamela Morris and seconded by District 2 member Rachel Castello-Dunn to continue virtual learning through at least Jan. 15, as the board will have its next meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13, and can reassess data during that time.

The motion passed with only Goodman voting no.