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School reopening plans discussed

Schools across the area are slowly unveiling plans to reopen under new guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with the majority opting for both a staggered class format that has children attending school in person some days of the week and utilizing at-home learning the remaining school days as well as the option to complete classes online without leaving home.

Guidance from the governor’s office came out Tuesday, June 9. calling for a phased reopening of the state’s pre-K-12 schools. Gov. Ralph Northam’s guidelines left the majority of reopening plans up to individual school systems.

House minority leader Todd Gilbert criticized the governor’s handling of school reopening plans recently, stating Northam’s guidance to schools was confusing and “woefully short of being realistic.”

Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Charles Berkley Jr. said Wednesday, June 24, LCPS anticipates to also reopen in the fall with both options for staggered in-person or 100% at-home class options.

“We are looking at a blended learning program with staggered scheduling,” Berkley explained. “We are also looking and planning for early learners from Pre-K to third grade to attend every day, but this could change depending on what phase we might be in and what recommendations are handed down to us from VDOE (Virginia Department of Education), CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and VHD (Virginia Health Department).

Berkley said the school division was making plans for every situation that might unfold, including options of blended learning, distance learning and normal school days.

“We are working on a variance for approval to transport students with safety measures in place to be approved by VDH, our school division attorney and VDOE,” he added.

Berkley said extensive cleaning and sanitizing will be in place throughout each day and after hours with guidelines and recommendations from CDC, VDH, and VDOE.

Social distancing will be in place at LCPS, although exact class size is to be determined at a later date.

Berkeley concluded by saying the school’s learning strategies and plans are constantly changing and will likely be updated and modified on a daily/weekly basis. While school officials hope and plan to get back to a normal educational setting for all students, safety is the top priority.

In a June 24 press release, Fuqua School in Farmville announced its reopening plans.

“The highest priority is the health and safety of faculty/staff, students and their families,” Incoming Head of School Chance Reynolds noted in the release. “While we are excited for a return to campus on Wednesday, August 12, for our first day of classes, we are also prepared for the possibility of potential interruptions.”

The school system will conduct temperature checks upon arrival at school or upon boarding the school bus, with limited campus visitors. Classrooms will be modified to allow for adequate spacing between desks for social distancing and will also be equipped with technology designed to create a more immersive experience for students who must learn remotely.

The release states in order to meet student needs, Fuqua School will be moving to a “1-to-1” device for students in grades six through 12. Chromebooks will be supplied to each student for the school year.

According to Fuqua School’s website, a re-opening committee is working to develop plans for four possible learning scenarios in the coming year, including an on-campus plan, a distance learning plan, a modified plan with transitions between on-campus and distance learning and a hybrid plan where most students are on campus, but high-risk and symptomatic students engage in distance learning from home.