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Craig County needs school supplies as students prepare for in-person and virtual learning

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 5:49 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Craig County Public Schools has pushed back its first day of school from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31. That first week will be a “soft opening” to ease teachers, students and parents into the new way of doing things.

Superintendent Jeanette Warwick spoke to WDBJ7 inside the administration building’s newly-renovated conference room. There, Craig County Public School leaders spent the summer trying to figure out what to do in the fall.

“I call it our command center, our ground zero,” Warwick laughed as she recalled the countless hours she and her administrative staff spent in here asking questions and planning answers.

“These are just our charts,” she said pointing to large sheets of paper taped on the walls. “We would brainstorm what do we need to do, we’d put it up here, and you can see all the things that have been crossed off.”

One of the original plans had been to start school August 24, but the rural-ness of Craig County presents a unique challenge that needed more time to be addressed.

“We don’t have internet all over the county,” Warwick explained. “We have parents that have no internet. So we’ve had to purchase hotspots and MiFi devices for those students, so that’s taken some extra planning.”

Under the new plan, there will be a week-long soft opening beginning Aug. 31, when students will be divided into four groups. Each group gets one day to come to the school, meet with teachers and hopefully leave with a better understanding of what the new school year will hold for them.

“It’s important to see people in person,” Geoff Boyer, high school math and computer science teacher, said.

He added it’s the days when he doesn’t see the students that’ll be the hardest.

“It’s easier to keep track of people when they’re right there,” Boyer said. “But I’m just missing seeing my students really.”

Once students start their regular Return 2 Learn Plan Sept. 8, Pre-K through 8th grade will attend school Monday through Thursday for in-person learning. Grades 9 through 12 are divided into two groups, each group attending school two days per week. Fridays will then be reserved for virtual learning and meeting with teachers one-on-one for further instruction.

“Please place their hand over the scanner without touching it,” one of the staff members said, demonstrating how the new touch-free temperature check device works.

This is one of the new procedures being introduced to students as they come to pick up their new Chromebooks.

“Our county board of supervisors were very generous and as part of their CARES Act funding, they funded fully a laptop for every student,” Warwick said.

One of the items still not crossed off, though, is how to make sure every student has all the school supplies they need.

Typically, Craig County is part of Salem’s Stuff the Bus school supply drive, but this year, because of COVID-19 and other circumstances, Craig wasn’t able to participate, which means they never received any of those donations. While some school supplies can be picked up by families, the procedure to do so has changed.

“They have to call the Salvation Army in Roanoke,” Warwick explained. “They have to make an appointment. They have to have a birth certificate. Parents have to have a photo I.D. That’s very limiting for my families here in Craig.”

While families, churches and local grocery stores have stepped in to help, many supplies are still needed.

“Pack of paper, pack of pencils, glue sticks. Any school supply would help,” Warwick said.

Pencil boxes are in high demand because each student will have his or her own supplies and there won’t be any community supply bins for sharing. Backpacks for all ages are also a big need.

"That's really important this year cause we're not using cubbies or lockers so they have to keep all their individual supplies in a bag."

Superintendent Warwick is determined no children will lack what they need this year, and every offering helps.

“We will take any donations,” she said. “If there are people who want to do monetary donations, we will make sure that we will purchase things that kids need.”

Overall, though, she said her staff and students are ready to get the school year started.

“So when you look at this and look at probably where you started with all these things not crossed off to where you are now, what goes through your mind?” WDBJ7′s Katey Roshetko asked Warwick back in the conference room.

“It’s like, ‘Wow. We actually did it!’” She laughed.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Craig County Public Schools building: 6 Alleghany Circle, New Castle, VA 24127.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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