After 90 minutes of presentations, questions and public comments the Accomack County School Board voted unanimously to adopt a hybrid plan to get the schools reopened on schedule. The plan will include two days per week of in person instruction and two days of on line instruction. Students will be assigned either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday for in person instruction at the schools. The other two days of instruction will be virtual or on line using the Virtual Virginia system with some local virtual instruction as well.
Fridays will be devoted to staff education and office hours for teachers at their schools.
The plan is a compromise that was necessary to get the schools open as close to normal as is possible considering the COVID-19 situation. Parents who have concerns about sending their children to school during the pandemic will have the option of going 100% virtual and keeping their children at home.
Dr, Rhonda Hall, Assistant Superintendent said that because of the need for social distancing during the COVID threat, the two day a week instruction policy had to be because the schools were not nearly big enough physically to allow all the students to be in the building at one time and maintain social distancing. The situation is the same with school buses. There are simply not enough buses to transport all of the students and maintain 6 feet of separation.
Several individuals spoke during the public comment part of the meeting. The general consensus was that many supported the hybrid plan but wanted the schools to return to normal as soon as possible. Three speakers favored going back to normal school operations.
One speaker, the president of the Accomack Education Association spoke in favor of going to 100% virtual with the school buildings being closed.
Other teachers took issue with the AEA’s position stating that the children need the person to person relationship with teachers and that virtual learning is very inferior to in class teaching.
Parents also spoke on the difficulty of finding day care for children on their off days and the challenges of trying to monitor a child’s on line assignments when both parents are employed.
In the end, most agreed that the goal of the school system should be to get back to normal as soon as possible.
Dr. Hall said that the situation is fluid and that the school system will work closely with the Eastern Shore Health District to determine when it is safe to go back to regular hours.
A full explanation of the plan is posted on the Accomack County School System website. It will include plans to take students temperatures daily. Have masks on at all times and maintain social distancing.
Because of bus route issues middle schoolers and high schoolers will have to begin their school day at 7:30 a.m. and end it at 2:30 p.m. Elementary students will begin instruction at 8:30 ending at 3:30.
It was stated that the very best way to prevent Covid-19 from breaking out in the schools is to monitor the students health, wear masks and maintain 6 ft. of social distancing. If that can be accomplished, and along with the fact that the virus does not spread among children at the same rate it spreads among the elderly, the students should have a very small chance of coming down with COVID-19.
The plan must now be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education for approval.