School Board discusses plans for upcoming academic year

Photo by Pam Dudding
Samuel Foster sharing extensive measures and all possibilities of CCPS reopening in the fall to the School Board.

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

As the coronavirus lessens its grip on the nation, the Craig County School Board continues to make many preparations, as the future path of school as most know it is still unknown at this time.

Superintendent Jeanette Warwick announced at the June meeting that Governor Northam announced his plans for students returning to school.

The 135-page document is on the Department of Education (DOE) website, “Recover, Redesign and Restart 2020 comprehensive plan to move Virginia learners forward.”

“The plan is to reopen in August, but it will be very different than what it has been in the past,” Warwick said. “Please note that what we share tonight is everchanging as to what is happening with the COVID-19.”

Samuel Foster presented the Board with information on the ‘Return to Learn’ Phase mandated for schools to adhere to in the fall.

Foster said CCPS has already been contemplating what the reopening process is going to look like for about two months. “Over the last week, we were given snippets of what was in the plan, but because the Governor hadn’t officially announced, we could not go forward,” he said.

Foster reviewed three documents with the Board and stated they would be moved into the public section after the meeting was over.

Document 1: Return to Learn and a summary on each

  • First – No virus, no social distancing, back to normal and kids pour in
  • Second – A blended school where some students are attending CCPS and some learning virtually at home. Social distancing, occupancy limits, alternating student schedules and face-to-face and virtual learning
  • Third – Schools closed and virtual classes resume

The DOE divided plans into three stages.

“We are in Phase Two,” Foster explained. “There is limited access to the building and primarily for Special Ed students and English language students – with social distancing.”

He continued with Phase Three which is what CCPS is looking to for the fall. Until Governor Northam decides, it cannot be done as of yet. CCPS does have a plan set for Phase Three.

“Schools are open with social distancing, spacing students’ six-feet apart with limited spacing on the buses and teachers will have to wear a mask when in close contact with students,” Foster said. “Those are the things in the plan the Governor and state superintendent have spoken.”

Foster further explained there are two parts to the reopening which the school will start working on immediately:

  • Instructional plan – operational infrastructure, school schedules, transportation, technology and communication. How to give new instructions for students who cannot do their own packets. Mandate from state to do new instructions for all students with disabilities who are economically disadvantaged or English language learners, etc. Identify all student needs. “We did that in the spring and had the teachers to evaluate where students had specific individual needs,” he added. “Our plan has to include how we are going to specifically address those needs come fall. And must explain how to do remote learning and continuity of instruction.”
  • Health mitigation plan – promotes behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 in maintaining a healthy environment and healthy operations, protect vulnerable individuals and for a student or staff who may get sick. Plan to close if necessary.

“We have to have an instructional plan in place 15 days prior to the opening of school,” Foster said. “However, we don’t want to wait that long, we want to get it done earlier.”

Return to Learn – Gives an idea of what instruction is going to look like and what the VDOE has mandated. “This gives our kids the ability to learn from home while still being enrolled in our school,” he continued.

Foster also noted that if the mindset isn’t changed, CCPS will lose students. Parents may choose to homeschool as it doesn’t take many students not returning to school to lesson their budget drastically.

He added, “Parents expect us to provide continual learning experiences.”

VDOE’s “Game Plan” is to:

  • Adopt Canvas as the Learning Management System (LMS) – free to the school which becomes the school’s own entity, Virtual Virginia (VV) provide K-12 content, Integrate into PowerSchool. This will be called the Craig County Virtual Academy
  • Professional Development – VV and VSTE (a technology group) are offering free PD for Canvas and local PD on blended learning
  • K-12 1:1 Chromebook initiative (every student will get a chrome device)
  • Teacher Chromebook initiative – purchase chrome books, mice and document cameras for in-home classroom and allows teachers to plan, develop and distribute online content from home if required
  • Wireless hotspots – Purchase and install hotspots on school buses, strategically target areas with limited internet – allow students to upload/download assignments and extend CCPS wireless to create parking lot hotspots. (Note: if there is a building in Sinking Creek that would allow this, they could hotspot there as well.) This does not give students a wireless internet in their home, but provides them a place to go to make a connection on the internet. (Foster said over 30 percent of students do not have access to a computer or internet)
  • Online or Virtual Learners – revise policies to allow Virtual Learners, taught by CCPS teachers using the new Canvas LMS

“The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund has been allocated to the schools and $148,000 has been allocated for these,” said Foster before adding there are funds given to the county which they will be requesting to meet all the upcoming needs.

“We are going to have to change our mindset when it comes to education,” he explained. “The days of the children coming to us are gone and we must take school to them.”

He continued, “Bottom line, we are creating the Craig County Virtual Academy (CCVA) which will include all students at all grade levels and all interests and all abilities. CCVA is a learning space taught by our teachers, using our own curriculum and pacing guides and delivered through the CLM System – ‘Learning anytime, anywhere.’”

A letter will be sent to all parents, inviting students to enroll in the Virtual Academy.

“They will be a part of our school, taught by the teachers in our building. They are all learning the same content at the same time and same way,” Foster explained. “If a parent decides to send the student back to school, they will be in their class with that teacher and doing the same content.”

Warwick added that the letter to the parents is not going out too early, as the school needs time to prepare for the number of students who will be returning so they can set up specific plans. The letter was agreed to be sent immediately.

Board member Crenshaw asked about the plans with CCPS students and BTEC. Foster said those have not yet been solidified.

However, Warwick added that Governor’s School will continue as they were during the previous months.

The next School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 8, at 5:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

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