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Blend of virtual, in-person classes proposed for Harrisonburg students

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 9:17 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - During a work session scheduled for Tuesday night for Harrisonburg City School Board members, a proposal will layout a draft plan for students returning to school in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Parts of the plan are likely going to change, according to Harrisonburg school superintendent Michael Richards.

Under this proposed plan, the first day of school would be August 31 to provide more time for safety and instructional preparation. During the first three weeks of August, teachers will have time to get their lesson plans ready and instructional meetings will be held with families on how best to use distance learning.

The school system would have in-person learning four days a week.

Certain identified students and those in grades Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and 1st grade, would attend school each of the four school days.

All other students would be split in between groups and attend two of the four days based on an A/B schedule. According to the proposal, attempts will be made to schedule siblings in the same A or B groups so childcare would be less of a challenge.

Under this draft proposal, in-person classes would not exceed five hours a day.

- High school: 7:45 a.m. - 12:45 p..m.

- Thomas Harrison Middle School, Bluestone Elementary School, Keister Elementary School, Waterman Elementary School: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

- Skyline Middle School, Smithland Elementary School, Spotswood Elementary School, Stone Spring Elementary School: 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

While in school students in middle and high school are expected to wear face masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained. The school division has found ways to strategically cut back on social interactions like in the hallways, in the lunchroom, or while getting off the bus.

According to the proposal, students in grades 2-12 will have devices that will allow them to manage learning whether learning is face to face or virtual. To address any internet access challenges, the school system purchased mega-WiFi hot-spots and positioned them throughout the city.

Parents and guardians will have a choice of either 100% distance learning or a blend of distancing learning and in-person learning. Once a plan is approved by the school board, parents would be able to make that choice, however, they will not have the option to switch to a blended schedule unless the school district announces such changes are available.

Transportation to the schools for students will also see a change. Students would be required to wear face masks on buses that will only be able to transport 24 students at a time. School division superintendent, Dr. Michael Richards, said normally buses hold 74 students but they will have to comply with CDC guidelines.

The school board is looking at an alternative for transportation including working with the city on developing walking zones.

“So if you’re a certain distance, within a certain distance, and it’s safe then we would put you in a walking zone and that would grealty reduce the number of bus riders in some schools as many as 200 fewer bus riders,” Dr. Richards said.

If the school board approves the walking zones pop-up crossing guards may be placed at intersections to make sure students make it to school safely.

As noted, this is a draft plan and changes are likely.

School board leaders will discuss the plans at a meeting on Tuesday night.

You can read more about the return to school draft plan, by clicking here.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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