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Buckingham School Board approves plan for in-class instruction

The Buckingham County School Board voted 6-1 Wednesday, Jan. 13, to approve a plan to get students back into classrooms.

But that plan is contingent on the possibility that COVID-19 data will trend downward in the coming months.

During a Wednesday afternoon school board meeting, Buckingham County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Daisy Hicks told the board Buckingham County had been on a downward trend of new coronaviruses over the previous eight days, noting the county had 75 active cases, 39 of which were in facilities such as prisons and nursing homes, as of Jan. 13.

Daisy Hicks

Hicks presented the board with findings obtained from a survey recently distributed to school staff in which employees were asked if they felt a hybrid learning model should be offered for families.

Of the 211 staff who responded to the survey, 62 strongly disagreed with the idea of a hybrid model implementation, 45 disagreed, 44 were neutral, 29 agreed and 31 strongly agreed.

When asked if they would feel safe coming to work for hybrid learning, 59 staff strongly disagreed, 50 disagreed, 32 felt neutral, 45 agreed and 25 strongly agreed.

Thirty employees reported having medical conditions which would inhibit them from returning to work should in-person classes commence.

Hicks explained that since September the school has had a total of 22 employees/students who have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus. She added since September 45 staff members have had to quarantine due to COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 279 days, remarking that a similar trend if seen in the future could lead to difficulty in finding and bringing in teachers to substitute.

Hicks said she did feel there was light at the end of the tunnel, noting that Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccination was scheduled to begin in the Piedmont Health District Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Hicks then explained to board members the plan she would like to see initiated provided that data continues to trend downward for the county.

According to Hicks, the school district’s plan is to begin on Jan. 19 to bring back students with disabilities which require in-person instruction. Beginning Jan. 25 the district hopes to provide in-person instruction as needed for students who failed the first semester of school as well as CTE (Career and Technical Education) students who need hands-on help.

On Feb. 1, dependent on continued downward trends in cases, the school district is likely to move into Phase 2 of hybrid learning in which students Pre-K through fifth grade return to school two days a week.

Beginning March 1, data permitting, the school will move into Phase 3 to allow fifth-grade students and below to attend school in-person four days a week and grades six through 12 to attend school two days a week. Families will still be able to opt-in for virtual-only instruction.

The motion was made by District 2 School Board Member Rachel Castello-Dunn and seconded by District 4 Rep Joii Goodman.

The motion passed 6-1 with only Jacqueline Newton of District 1 voting no.