Patrick County Public Schools to start virtually

Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 10:13 PM EDT
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STUART, Va. (WDBJ) - Students head back to school Tuesday in Patrick County, but a last-minute decision will make it all virtual.

School leaders say that is because of confirmed COVID-19 cases before the year has even started.

“What’s going on in the county is usually a reflection of what we have going on in the schools,” said Superintendent Dean Gilbert.

Gilbert said there was an increase of more than 20 COVID-19 cases in the county over the weekend. He said at least 10 staff members have been quarantined since Thursday with two testing positive for the virus.

“We did switch gears on Friday and engage our principals on what we expect from our staff,” he said. “Given the fact where we are with the amount of subs we have available and staff members having to be quarantined, we thought it would be the safest option to revert to starting the school year on a 100 percent virtual model.”

About 28 percent of students already chose the virtual option this school year. Now that the kids have been out of school almost nine weeks, the district didn’t want to delay anymore, especially after the end to last year.

“We just felt like it was better to get that engagement started on a bigger scale and start getting back to normal as quick as we can,” Gilbert said.

Mobile hotspots will be deployed on some of the school buses to more rural areas for internet access, and school parking lots can be used as well. The district is working to secure additional hotspots.

“It’s going to be hard on some of our families and we understand that,” Gilbert said. “We’re hoping that we have some things in place that can make things a little easier.”

The school board will re-assess the situation August 27 to potentially go back to the in-person ‘A’ ‘B’ model for instruction. ‘A’ students attend in person Monday and Tuesday; ‘B’ students attend Thursday and Friday.

Gilbert said it’s important they get back to in-person instruction as quickly as possible.

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