By Linda Cicoira
The current school year for Accomack County Public Schools was extended, isolation and quarantine guidelines were shortened, and at a recent public hearing on the division’s budget, concerned citizens made suggestions about the way budget funds should be spent.
With virtual and snow days still available on the calendar, Accomack Schools Superintendent Chris Holland extended the current school year without the consent of the school board. The board usually votes on any calendar changes. The adjustments are posted on the schools’ web site and has the term ending on June 10 for students.
“Due to inclement weather changes, the 2021-2022 school calendars needed to be revised,” Holland wrote in a memo to school employees. “The first semester exams were changed to Monday, Jan. 24 and Tuesday, Jan. 25. The Teacher Work Day and the Staff Development Day were moved up one day to Wednesday, Jan. 26, and Thursday, Jan. 27. Therefore, these changes automatically moved the start date for the third nine weeks and second semester to Friday, Jan. 28, which also affected the remaining days in the school calendar for interim reports, report cards, and the last day of school.” There were reportedly seven virtual days and 3.5 snow days left in the calendar when the administrative decision was made.
Last week, three people made comments about the proposed school budget.
Luke Brankley, of Melfa, a coach at Nandua High School, spoke in favor of stipends for athletic directors and coaches.
Connie Burford, a school activist from Bloxom, complained that the budget spends too much on vehicles and not enough on children. She said computer labs need to be utilized and could have allowed students to be better prepared to operate Chromebooks at the start of the pandemic. “We need to start them out with a good foundation,” Burford said.
Karen Downing, of the Parksley area, said the budget “is heavy in infrastructure instead of instruction.” Downing said the infrastructure could be delayed to make more time for teacher recruitment, which should be the “priority.”
School board members agreed to follow new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines by shortening the required isolation and quarantine times. Those will move from 10 days to five days for those staff and students who test positive for COVID-19 or are considered close contacts. If they continue to have symptoms after five days, they should continue to isolate at home until day 10. During the isolation period students will be allowed to learn remotely.
“On days six to 10, students and staff will be required to wear masks at all times, including while outdoors. The only exception will be when eating or drinking. However, they will be encouraged to refrain from talking, if possible, when not wearing masks and are closer than the six-foot social distance.”
“Students and staff, who are fully vaccinated, and who have been identified as a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, will not have to quarantine, but will be required to wear a mask around others for 10 days.