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Expanded in-person learning set

Buckingham County Public Schools (BCPS) is planning to move forward with its expansion of in-person learning opportunities that has been set to unfold across the next three weeks.

Daisy Hicks

During the Wednesday, Feb. 10, Buckingham County School Board meeting, BCPS Superintendent Dr. Daisy Hicks announced that because COVID-19 numbers were falling consistently, the school division would start with Phase II of its plan Tuesday, Feb. 16. Phase II involves pre-K through fifth-grade students attending in person for two instructional days per week.

Students are divided into Group A, which is composed of those from the west side of the county, and Group B, which is composed of students from the county’s east side.

Group A will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, except for Monday, Feb. 15, since it was a holiday. Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for all students while deep cleaning is done in the school buildings. Group B will then attend Thursdays and Fridays.

Phase III for BCPS is set to begin Monday, March 1.

“We didn’t want to push that back because there was no need to do that if our data continuously stays like this,” Hicks said.

On March 1, all pre-K through fifth-grade students will attend in-person classes four days a week — Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will remain a virtual learning and deep cleaning day.

Also starting March 1, grades six through 12, also divided into groups A and B, will start two-day, in-person instructional weeks. Group A will attend Mondays and Thursdays, and Group B will attend Tuesdays and Fridays.

Hicks explained that the staggered nature of the in-person classes for this age group is for instructional purposes to allow time for teacher evaluation of student progress between classes. Also, the experience of other school divisions that held in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays showed that a lot of students came for only one day, preserving their three-day weekend and causing teachers to have to re-teach material.

For students attending in-person classes, face masks will be required, and they will be socially distanced from each other in classrooms by six feet, Hicks said. The latter measure is why BCPS can have only half its population at the secondary level.

Hicks explained that lower enrollment at the primary and elementary school levels has allowed for more in-person opportunities under the current COVID-19 guidelines coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We had a smaller enrollment number, so that’s why we could move forward with the number of people who wanted in-person instruction to get all of them in four days a week,” she said. “But it’s going to be a little bit more challenging for the number that we have at the secondary (level) who wanted the hybrid model, so that’s why we’re sticking to the two days a week at that level.

“But hopefully we keep seeing some new guidance that’s coming out from CDC, and I’m following that to make sure any time that six-feet distance reduces, if it reduces, then we’ll be able to offer more in-person instruction,” she said.

Thursday, March 5, Tuesday, March 9 and possibly Friday, March 5, will be fully virtual learning days because BCPS staff members are going to be getting their second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to those days.

“In talking to others who have had the second shot, their second day is rough,” Hicks said. “You’re going to be possibly with chills and some vomiting and low energy. You’re going to sleep a lot. All of those are the side effects.”

She said she was proud to say that the school division had 147 of its employees vaccinated over two days — 97 on Thursday, Feb. 4, and 50 on Tuesday, Feb. 9.