Pulaski County Schools present reopening plan in online discussion

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT
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PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ) - Thursday, Pulaski County Public Schools presented its plan for reopening this upcoming school year to parents in an online discussion.

If COVID-19 cases stay low and out of the building, 100 percent of the students will be back at the high school by the fourth week of classes, four days a week. It’s a plan Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers says helps the district maximize student time in the classroom.

“I hope that parents come away knowing that they do have a choice,” he said.

Siers said he wants parents to know they have two options this school year: go completely virtual through the district, or bring students back in a phased approach.

“We’re trying to give two really good options,” Siers said. “We’re not asking anybody to just go half a day four days a week and then parents have to work out transportation.”

The plan is to bring students back in person one day the first week for a small group orientation, teaching best practices and setting them up online.

For elementary and high school students, weeks two and three they’ll be coming in twice a week, with two virtual days. If no cases emerge, by week four all students will be back in the building.

Wednesday will always be online so staff can clean the schools, a common theme across the New River Valley.

“We are preparing to be able to have just a fluid transition back and forth between virtual and face-to-face learning,” Siers said. “There’s really no way to determine how it will play out.”

Middle school will be different. These students are virtual weeks two and three because construction got delayed on the new building by two weeks due to an outbreak on the construction site. Students will be having orientation at the high school the first week.

“We know that COVID is in our community,” Siers said. “There’s a very high probability that it will find its way into our schools, and when that occurs, we have a plan to shut down the school temporarily.”

Siers said the only way this plan will work is if students incorporate face coverings. Right now, desks in some classrooms in the high school are three feet apart, which is permissible under Phase III if students wear masks.

“We are following the science, we are not following the politics,” Siers said. “We want to keep our students safe, we want to keep our faculty and staff safe. Science tells us the best way to do that is to utilize face coverings and practice safe social distancing guidelines.”

Siers said the district hasn’t started working with any local childcare programs for the virtual day on Wednesdays, but they are open to suggestions and working with programs to provide it.

Bus routes have been shortened to a schedule that is similar to summer routes allowing only one student per seat. Buses are going to run two runs to pick everyone up.

The plan was submitted to the Virginia Department of Education Wednesday for final approval.

The first day of school is September 8. You can read the district’s entire reopening plan here.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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