Pulaski, Galax to return fully to classroom next week

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 10:58 PM EDT
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DUBLIN, Va. (WDBJ) - School districts in and around the New River Valley are the latest hometowns to adjust their learning plans.

Pulaski County Public Schools and Galax City Public Schools are gearing up to bring all their students back for four and five days a week respectively.

Meanwhile, students in Grayson County Public Schools have been in the classroom ever since school started six weeks ago.

“I know that last year it was definitely a struggle,” said Pulaski parent Rhonda Cooper. “I learned that teaching was not my forte.”

Cooper’s son Cameron is now a sophomore in Pulaski County Schools. The two of them are happy with the district’s plan to have everyone back in class four days a week.

“I was elated to hear the news; I just think it’s a great opportunity for the children in this community to get back to some type of normalcy,” Cooper said.

Not everyone is on board with this decision, expressing their concern on the school’s Facebook page.

Pulaski and Galax join Grayson County, which has been doing this since it first went back.

“It is going really well, we are very blessed,” said Superintendent Kelly Wilmore. “It is going much better I think than anyone anticipated.”

Wilmore said in the last six weeks they’ve only had six cases in the district, and no one got coronavirus at school.

“It’s not about doing the easy way; it’s about doing it the best way, and the best way is we need to have our kids in school,” he said.

He said about eight percent more students have decided to rejoin the classroom.

“I think a lot of them thought we would be shut down in a week or two, and they see our numbers and the progress we have and I think that has probably helped some of their fears,” Wilmore said.

But in the end, families must decide what’s best for their kids. Districts have a virtual option for students and families who cannot go back into a classroom.

“I think that if people take the time to do the steps and plan it out, I think you could definitely be successful,” Wilmore said.

Galax Superintendent Susan Tilley said the board met last Thursday and voted unanimously to return for a shorter school day from 8 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. five days a week. The district has been completely virtual, but will switch to in person Oct. 7.

Tilley said 73% of students have chosen to participate in person and 27% plan to stay with the virtual option.

Pulaski Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said COVID-19 cases have dropped by almost 65% in the last two weeks, putting the district in a lower risk of transmission in schools based on new CDC guidelines released earlier this week.

Originally, the school planned to go to 100 percent attendance at all schools on Sept. 28, but adjustments had to be made based on where there were cases in the district. Last week the board voted to make a few amendments to the school plan to allow for use of shared spaces and more room on the buses.

Siers said about 1,100 students will be staying in virtual mode.

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