Harrisonburg City School Board approves fall reopening plans
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Harrisonburg City School Board approved the proposed plan to get students back to some in-person learning this fall.
Board members still had many questions and concerns about those plans, like managing and affording childcare on days some students aren’t physically in class, enforcing face coverings, and the safety of students and staff.
“We all understand that we’re being influenced by external circumstances for which we have absolutely no control,” Andy Kohen, board chair, said.
The first day of school for HCPS students is 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.
HCPS would have in-person learning 4 days a week. Certain identified students and grades PK, kindergarten and first will attend each of the four days, and all other grades would attend two of the four days on an A/B schedule.
Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for all students.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Richards said students will attend in-person for five hours a day. He said a large factor of the shortened schoolday is providing extra time for teachers to collaborate and continue adapting to the blend of in-person and virtual learning.
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.
Face coverings can be provided to students and staff without one.
Richards said that getting back to teaching all students in-person is their goal, but with COVID-19 spikes still occurring, that option doesn’t seem feasible just yet.
According to the proposal, students in grades 2-12 will have devices that will allow them to manage 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.
For parents and guardians not ready to send students back in-person yet, 100 percent distance learning is an option, but will not be able to switch to a blended schedule unless the division announces that those changes are available.
On June 23 the Task Force Subcommittee on Family Engagement & Communication sent a survey to all HCPS families asking for feedback on their experiences with remote learning in the spring.
The board said that after tonight’s decision another survey will be sent to families asking them for specific information related to their intentions for transportation to and from school, their choice of either 100% distance learning or whatever in-person model is decided upon, and other child-specific questions.
For more information on the Return to School Plan, click here.
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