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Roanoke City Public Schools holds virtual town hall to address parent questions about reopening

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Thursday, leaders at Roanoke City Public Schools held a virtual town hall to address questions from parents about the reopening of schools on Aug. 31.

“It is serious, it is real,” said Superintendent Verletta White. “You know I just lost my brother-in-law to COVID-19 and I only bring it up because I talk to my sister every day and I see the impact that it has on her and on us.”

School leaders want you to know they are serious about keeping kids safe.

“There are new procedures that we had to put in place,” White said. “That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to push the calendar back a bit.”

In-person classroom instruction will happen Monday through Thursday, with Friday all virtual, allowing a three-day weekend for a thorough clean.

Thursday night, a lot of parents had questions about what that virtual environment will look like for classes. School staff explained students will use a program called Canvas to do and turn in their assignments. The Canvas platform will contain all courses students would normally be in at school, but will include podcasts, videos and self-guided and interactive learning modules.

There is a video explaining how it works on the school’s Facebook page.

“We are going to use asynchronous learning, primarily,” said Executive Director of School Improvement Dr. Julie Drewry. “We will have times that teachers may meet with smaller groups or individuals during office hours using a program called Microsoft Teams.”

Microsoft Teams was the software used to conduct the town hall Thursday.

Several parents had questions about access to school counselors if their students participate in the virtual academy. Officials said the best way to reach a counselor is to call the school directly. Another question submitted by a parent: if a student switches from in-person to virtual learning, can that student can keep the same counselor? School officials said they will do their best to keep students matched with the counselors they started the year with.

Virtual students will still have access to meals. School officials said it would be similar to the grab-and-go program that was instituted when school closed in the spring.

Other parents submitted many questions about mask wearing and enforcement at school. Students can remove their masks when they eat and are six feet apart.

“I’m talking about the refusal of wearing a mask, then we will need to get parents involved, and we will need to make sure that our students are doing this because our students are potentially at risk, our staff members are potentially at risk,” White said.

Most importantly, the district asks that you fill out your intent forms by July 28. They said it’s possible to move a child to virtual learning from face-to-face, but it’s not as easy the other way around.

“That’s why we need the numbers and we need the intent form to know so that we can maintain that physical distance and follow the CDC guidelines,” White said.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 in the schools, leaders said they will take each instance on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the situation, they will determine if robo calls are sent out or letters to parents, etc.

Students will have to answer screening questions each day before going into school. Staff said the questions will be geared toward the age of each student.

For students with special needs who plan to work in the virtual academy, school staff will work individually with each student depending on his or her needs.

When all is said and done, White said kids need to be the focus of this process.

“Let’s make sure that we are honoring them in this process and keeping children at the center of every discussion,” White said. “If we do that, then we can’t go wrong.”

The final recommendation of the school reopening plan goes to the school board next. Once given approval, it will be sent to the Virginia Department of Education.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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