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Montgomery County students return full-time to classroom for first time in almost one year

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 11:33 PM EST
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - For the first time in almost a year, students in Montgomery County returned to the classroom in person for a full day Monday. The last time was March 13, 2020.

It wasn’t a completely normal day, but lots of different mitigation strategies have been put in place to make the schools as safe as possible.

“It’s almost like the first day of school again,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Miear said. “It’s not normal, but it’s the same schedule.”

All school year, students were going into the buildings for a half day, that is, if they chose the in-person option. Now, the classroom is more full, dividers are up on desks that are not more than three to six feet apart. Students can now get more in-person time with teachers.

“I truly believe that how we end school will dictate how we begin school next school year,” Miear said. “August isn’t that far away and I’m sure there will be even more, so this is a good step into having more students in the school, showing we can do it safely.”

The superintendent said about 75 percent of students have chosen to attend in-person, four days a week. He is hopeful that will reduce how many might need summer school.

“By us being in school, we’ll have more instructional hours here. The last 10 weeks of school, there will be fewer students that need summer remediation and summer school,” Miear said. “Hopefully we can catch some kids up for the loss of their learning that has happened this year.”

Lunch is the biggest change from earlier this year—because it’s the one time during the day masks come off. The district has tents outside for students who don’t feel comfortable eating in the cafeteria.

“We want to provide an outdoor eating option for students,” Miear said. “Families can request for their students to eat outdoors.”

School leaders know there will be bumps in the road, but they plan to keep working them out.

“We’ll make changes as the year continues to end; that will probably help us move into next school year as well,” the superintendent said.

The other big change now is when students switch class, they must be double masked, or wearing a mask and a face shield. WDBJ7 witnessed that during dismissal.

Last week, some students protested the change to the school learning plan. We checked in with them and they said the classes didn’t feel too crowded but walking in the halls seemed to be overwhelming. They say they have mixed feelings about the change.

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