Giles County Public Schools releases back to school plan, gets feedback from VDH

Back to School

PEARISBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Giles County Public Schools has joined a list of school systems that have released their flexible back to school plan for the upcoming school year.

Parents in Giles County received a hard copy of that plan in the mail on Monday, Aug. 3, and the plan has also been posted online.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the school board met with Director of the New River Health District, Dr. Noelle Bissell, for feedback and a Q&A session on the plan.

The plan, as it stands now, is similar to some of the hybrid approach to learning that other school systems are also implementing.

In Giles County, students will be divided into two groups: an A group and a B group.

Starting Aug. 24, A group students will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays while B group students will attend in-person classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other three days for both groups will be online.

“Kindergarten through second grade will receive tablets, third grade will receive pro-books, and fourth through 12th graders will receive chrome books,” described Superintendent Dr. Terry Arbogast.

There’s been a concern, however, of internet access and students’ ability to effectively learn from home. Arbogast says a survey went around the district earlier in the summer, and the board has the solution to fix this.

“We are working with the county to secure air cards that individuals could use to help with the issue to be able to access their learning modules.”

During the hour and a half Q&A between the school board and and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Bissell expressed the importance of everyone playing a part in keeping everyone safe, especially when a child thinks he or she might be sick.

“I’ve been there, the pressure on parents,” said Bissell. “‘Oh! I’ve got to get to work. They have a fever. Can I give them some Motrin and get them in school for at least half a day?’ I know where those parents are coming from; I really do. Now is not the time to do that, and they have to realize that in the short term, if they’re trying to buy themselves one day or two days… in the long term they could shut schools down and it could be several weeks.”

Bissell says this plan Giles County has is solid. She doubts the district won’t see cases, but having backup plans for different outcomes is key.

“An emergency response has to be flexible, adaptable, and scalable, and this is,” said Bissell.

Another concern involves what happens outside of school. Students are going to socialize, and Bissell knows that.

She’s encouraging two things: first, if possible, socialize outside. The potential spread of the virus is significantly decreased when in the open air.

Second, socialize in a “social pod.” Aside from family, students should have a “pod” of five to 10 close friends. That pod should be a students core group for social activity, and students should keep to their groups until the conditions of the pandemic begin to lighten up.

Giles County Schools will implement this A/B staggered schedule for four weeks. After that period of time, the board will reassess the approach. If cases are kept to a minimum among students, the board is likely to move toward a more in-person approach to learning.

Parents should expect a letter from the board on what group their kid(s) will be put in on Friday, Aug. 7.

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