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COVID concerns include funding for public schools

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 8:42 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In Roanoke, the impact of COVID-19 on public education will linger. Making sure schools have adequate funding to meet the challenge is a continuing concern.

School leaders, members of Roanoke City Council and state lawmakers came together Monday morning as they looked ahead to the General Assembly session that begins next month.

While school funding is a perennial issue, it’s taking on even more importance in the midst of COVID-19.

During a tour of Roanoke neighborhoods over the summer, Roanoke School Superintendent Verletta White said she met a grandmother who was reluctant to send the children in her care back to school, because of health concerns. She told White she would need the school system’s support.

“That conversation has resonated with me, and has really stuck with me,” White told officials at the meeting.

The continuing challenge for teachers, students and their families include safeguards to keep everyone healthy, but also to help students keep up and catch up.

“We do know that we have challenges in these unprecedented times,” White said later. “And so we just have to keep in mind learning loss. We have to keep in mind our students with special needs, and students who are English learners, as well as making sure that kids catch up.”

Another concern is how a decline in enrollment experienced by school systems across Virginia will affect their state funding.

The Average Daily Membership in Roanoke is down about 270 students, which could have a significant impact.

Lawmakers say they expect the General Assembly to protect current funding, but they’re keeping a close eye on how their colleagues tinker with the funding formula.

“We want to make sure that we don’t get less funding for our school systems in this part of the state than we got before,” said Delegate Chris Head (R-Botetourt Co.). “We certainly don’t want ours to go down while it goes up in Fairfax.”

“COVID creates huge problems and we understand that there are new resources needed in several places,” added Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.). “And we want to make sure that our schools are able to provide that to our students.”

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