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Roanoke City Schools changes reopening plan, cutting down on in-person learning

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 7:13 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Monday night, Roanoke City Schools changed its reopening plan. The board voted 4-3 to start the third quarter with two days a week of in-person instruction for all grades, instead of the planned four.

The change split the board, with Laura Rottenborn raising particular concerns about younger students, whom she says can’t learn as well online.

“When you look at the number of hours the kids are doing remote learning,” she said, “20% of our elementary school students are doing less than 90 minutes a day.”

Those concerns were echoed by Board chair Lutheria Smith, who said she believes families are suffering.

“We received, gosh, today I’m thinking upwards of thirty emails. And the one that sticks out for me is the one from a teacher and parent, who says 85% of her students received an F in their interims. She’s an English teacher. That makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t have any children in our system right now, and I’m grateful that I don’t,” said Smith.

District leaders, including Superintendent Verletta White, said bringing students back more days a week is possible, but it would require compromises, including reduced social distancing and changes to school schedules. She also cited comments from teachers.

“We have to take into account our teacher’s concerns regarding going straight to a four-day-a-week model. And it’s not just teachers, it’s staff across the board,” she said.

The new, two-day-a-week plan was based on a survey that went out to parents last month. 79% of parents responded. 64% of those said they wanted their students back for in-person learning.

The new plan will take effect January 25. Board member Joyce Watkins said the more cautious approach is the better call.

“While education is of the utmost importance, I’d just like to say life is more important,” she said.

Click here for more about Roanoke City Public Schools.

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