Roanoke County parents, staff press school board about reopening plan

Parents urged to take online survey
Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 3:42 AM EDT
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - School districts around our region are struggling with how to reopen safely this fall. That struggle played out in Roanoke County, with dozens of parents, teachers and students pressing the school board on its current plan.

Roanoke County School Board delays vote on start of school year

Thursday night, Northside High was packed, with parents, teachers and students lining the walls, floors and doorways. Nearly 50 took to the podium to weigh in.

“Do you really want to put your students and your employees at risk?”

“And the current plan that’s proposed means that my husband or I have to quit our job. So you’re lowering our family income.”

One of the largest groups present: Roanoke County teachers.

Many said they’re in favor of the current proposed schedule, with one telling the board because she has an immunocompromised husband, she may have to rent an apartment if she and her son return to school.

“This is going to be an emotional and financial burden for me. But I’m willing to do these things to go back to school if we go back safely. If we don’t follow health department guidelines, we’re doomed for failure.”

But support for the plan was far from uniform, with plenty of parents saying the district needs kids in the classroom full time.

“We as parents, you the board and principals and teachers can make this a truly exceptional year by giving our students a chance to be back together, learning with their live teachers in their physical building classrooms.”

Board members were also split - with some, including David Linden and Chair Mike Wray - expressing support for a five-day-a-week schedule where parents could opt in or opt out.

“Because there will be some people that opt out regardless,” he said.

But others, including former board chair Don Butzer, said cautious approach will be key.

“But we also in my opinion, have to do it in a way that’s safe,” he said. “And that takes care of the health of not only our students but our teachers as well.”

As part of the decision-making process for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Roanoke County Public Schools is asking families to complete a student-specific survey by Tuesday, July 7. This survey asks parents about their preferences for 100% remote instruction via RCPSonline or some form of in-person instruction. The survey also asks parents about their ability to provide transportation to and from school.

“Part of the challenge of developing this plan are the limitations imposed by physical distancing as recommended by the CDC and public health experts,” said Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely. “We are limited on space in our classrooms, so we need to know which students would like to attend classes in person, and which would opt for 100% remote instruction via RCPSonline. This will help us determine just how many students we can have in our school buildings each day.”

The survey can be found online here.

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