Montgomery County students protest switch to full day learning

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 10:55 PM EST
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Students are not happy with the district’s recent change to increase the amount of time and number of people in the classroom. At Tuesday’s meeting, they made their voices heard.

The Montgomery County Public School Board voted last week to move to full-time, four days a week. That move was met with criticism from students at a protest before the meeting.

“Our big thing with it is that it went against the wishes of the community,” Christiansburg High School Junior Joci Shelton said. “This is something [students] say, ‘hey the hybrid schedule works for me in terms of half capacity, I can physically handle being at school, but I don’t mentally have to handle isolation at home.’”

Class capacity and compliance of mask regulations were some concerns of students at the protest.

“A lot of the students that I’ve talked to, we feel as though at school right now and the way that they’re operating, we feel safe and we feel comfortable,” protest organizer Molly McPherson said. “Our class sizes are small and our desks are still six feet apart for the most part.”

These are thoughts that were reflected in community survey data presented at last week’s meeting. Only a quarter of teachers and just under half of all students are on board with the change.

“They didn’t give students a way to state their reasons or any concerns they have, it was just yes or no,” McPherson said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the new learning plan continues. Some school board members reminded people the hybrid model doesn’t work for everyone. All school year, students have been in a hybrid, half-day learning method.

“If you’re a parent and you can’t pick up your child during the middle of the day and nobody’s at home for you, hybrid is not a compromise,” school board member Gunin Kiran said.

Other school board members said this is not a one-sided issue and they got feedback from both sides of the schedule change.

“Just as much as children and teachers and parents and kids don’t want to go back and feel like they’re not ready to go back or shouldn’t go back, I’ve heard just as much of the opposite,” school board member Dana Partin said.

Back-to-back during public comment, students reminded them they are still not on board with the change. McPherson said she knows they can’t change the board’s mind, but she wants to remind them they should have a say in their education.

The Phase 3, Level 3 plan goes into effect Monday. As of March 2, 72% of students have chosen the in-person learning plan and 28% are choosing the remote option.

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