Roanoke County School Board votes in favor of returning to in-person instruction four days a week for grades 5-12

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke County Public Schools met Tuesday to discuss an expandable plan for reopening schools.

On Tuesday, March 2, district officials voted in-favor of bringing back all remaining hybrid students — from grades five through 12 — into the classroom four days per week.

Kindergarten through fourth grade students have already been attending in-person classes four days per week.

Starting March 15, all current hybrid plan students in fifth grade will begin on a four day schedule. To facilitate this expansion, all fifth grade students will only receive remote instruction on March 11 and 12.

Meanwhile, all middle and high school students currently on the hybrid plan will begin four days a week in-person instruction starting March 22. However, March 18 and 19 will be remote instruction only days for secondary students.

For those who are have been attending classes 100-percent virtual, there are two options.

  1. Remain as 100% virtual.
  2. Inform the school by March 15 their intent to transition to in-person instruction four days per week – but only if space permits.

Schools are creating plans to maximize social distancing with three feet being the minimum allowable distance.

CDC guidance released on Feb. 12 says, “The many benefits of in-person schooling should be weighed against the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the school and community. Working with States, Tribes, Localities, and Territories, schools can weigh levels of community transmission and their capacity to implement appropriate mitigation measures in schools to protect students, teachers, administrators and other staff. Schools that are open for in-person instruction (either fully open or hybrid may decide to remain open even at high (red) levels of community transmission. These decisions should be guided by information on school-specific factors such as mitigation strategies implemented, local needs, stakeholder input, the number of cases among students, teachers, and staff, and school experience.”

Roanoke County Schools have released the following statistics regarding COVID-19:

Positive CasesExposures
October
– # of Positive Students 63/6,916 = 1%
– # of Positive Staff 44/2,251 = 2%
October
– # of Positive Students 29/6,916 = 0.4%
– # of Positive Staff 16/2,251 = 0.7%
November
– # of Positive Students 86/6,916 = 1.2%
– # of Positive Staff 46/2,251 = 2%
November
– # of Positive Students 24/6,916 = 0.3%
– # of Positive Staff 16/2,251 = 0.7%
January
– # of Positive Students 92/6,916 = 1.3%
– # of Positive Staff 51/2,251 = 2.3%
January
– # of Positive Students 29/6,916 = 0.4%
– # of Positive Staff 15/2,251 = 0.7%
February
– # of Positive Students 60/6,916 = 0.9%
– # of Positive Staff 14/2,251 = 0.6%
February
– # of Positive Students 16/6,916 = 0.2%
– # of Positive Staff 1/2,251 = 0.04%

Regarding current vaccinations, of the 2,251 total staff, a total of 1,482 said they wanted to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

  • 1,351 have received the first dose, which is 91 percent of staff who said they wanted the vaccine.
  • 1,060 have received the second dose, which is 72 percent of staff who said they wanted the vaccine.
  • 263 are scheduled for the second dose.

Factors supporting the decision to expand instruction include a downward trend in cases based on CDC K-12 School Metrics (percent of positive tests in the last 14 days).

  • Dec. 28, 2020: 11 percent
  • Jan. 28, 2021: 10.7 percent
  • Feb. 28, 2021: 8 percent

Other factors include all staff members at the district have been given the opportunity to be vaccinated, the most vulnerable members of the community have also been given the opportunity to be vaccinated, and COVID-19 positive cases and transmission rates in schools are trending down.

Also, quarantine numbers of students and staff are decreasing.

  • Dec. 24, 2020: 440 total and 72 staff were in quarantine
  • Jan. 25, 2021: 362 total and 65 staff were in quarantine
  • Feb. 25, 2021: 150 total and 22 staff were in quarantine

Dr. James Lane, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, during a call to superintendents on Tuesday, said, “The intent of the CDC guidance is to do six feet distances to the extent that you can, but it’s ok to do less, if needed, to have more students in school. The prevailing guidance from VDH and VDOE is that using three feet distances is acceptable.”

Roanoke County Public Schools says that students will be seated at three-to-five foot distances in many classrooms and buses. Masks will be required in schools and on buses.

Parents are being encouraged to drive students if they are able to do so. Seats will be assigned for consistency and to help reduce potential exposures. Selected windows will be open to allow free air circulation. Buses will also continue to be sprayed between each run.

During Tuesday’s School Board meeting, a presentation with the following information was submitted to the Board by VDH/Roanoke County Public Schools:

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