After parent and teacher outcry, Roanoke County releases school plan

Students who choose remote learning will have course options.
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 12:06 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It was a reluctant five-to-zero vote Wednesday night as the Roanoke County School Board approved its fall reopening plan.

When schools open August 24, pre-K through second grade will be in class five days a week. Grades 3 through 12 will use a “blended model,” where one half of students will go Monday/Thursday, the other half Tuesday/Friday, with online learning the other three days.

The plan is being called “expandable.” According to Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely, that means as the number of kids who want full time online instruction fluctuates, the district could add more days of in-person instruction.

“We’re going to evaluate that each week, and if the numbers change, we’ll be able to adjust accordingly,” he said.

Students in Roanoke County will have online options.

Not only will kids have what’s called RCPS Online - essentially in-person classes on a computer - they can also enroll in the “online Academy,” which is described as independent learning, with dedicated teachers and students working at their own pace.

“That’ll serve well our own students, as well as student in the community who might be home schooled and want to come in,” said Nicely.

Officials say the online options will likely outlast the pandemic, and could even be an option for students in other districts who like the program.

“This is a golden nugget. This is a grand slam,” said board member Don Butzer.

The district says it will be taking a number of steps to keep in-school students safe. Teachers will rotate between classrooms, instead of students. Germ filters are being installed in the air vents. And students of all ages will be required to wear masks, if they can’t maintain six feet of social distance.

“To protect everybody, we have to have common expectations,” said Nicely.

Transportation remains a major struggle for the district. In order to make the current plan work, many parents will have to pick up and drop off their kids at school. Board members said they’re working to get more funding from the County to address the situation.

Not everyone is happy with the current plan.

Teachers lined the entrance to the school administration building before the board meeting Wednesday, many arguing it’s too dangerous to reopen schools at all.

Superintendent Nicely says the district is aware of those concerns, and is prepared to work with teachers.

“We want to be here to help them know what their options are and to support them as best we can,” he said.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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