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Botetourt County keeps two-day-a-week schedule, invites online students back

The district’s original plan called for students to come back three days a week starting in mid-October.
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:35 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - School officials in Botetourt County say they want to get students back in the classroom as soon as possible. But Wednesday, the county’s school board decided not to bring back students for three days of in-person instruction per week.

The decision impacts third through 12th graders, currently in class two days a week. Botetourt’s original plan called for those students to come back three days a week starting in mid-October.

“What determines the decisions we make is what’s best for kids, and I feel this is what’s best for kids,” said Botetourt County Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Russ.

Russ says keeping the district’s so-called “virtual Wednesdays,” when all students learn online, turned out to be a must. Teachers are stretched thin right now, he says, and not having class Wednesday means they have more time to not only work with Botetourt’s all-virtual learners, but to plan for the other four days a week.

“If we take that Wednesday away from them, I truly don’t know when they’re going to have time to plan and work with the remote learners,” Russ said.

Deep cleaning is another issue, as most of it in Botetourt County Schools is done Wednesdays.

“Student safety and faculty safety has to be our number one priority,” said Russ.

The school board did vote to let at least some students come back to the classroom – the district’s all-virtual students.

“On a case-by-case basis, we’ll consider allowing those students to come back,” said Russ.

Russ says parents interested in switching their students can have them back in class for the second nine weeks of school, but there is a deadline to apply.

“This window will remain open through next Friday [October 5]," said Russ.

And that switch isn’t guaranteed – space in Botetourt County schools remains limited by COVID-19, and so-called vulnerable learners will be given priority.

“Those are students who are identified as special education, or 504′s. We have ESL students,” said Russ.

Parents may also have to drive their kids to school if they do switch.

Botetourt County originally planned to offer in-person instruction for students five days a week starting in January. Russ says he believes the district is still on track to make that happen.

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