Roanoke County Superintendent presents recommendations for 2020-21 academic year to school board


ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) – Roanoke County School’s Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely presented, on Thursday, his recommended plan for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

The plan was developed around key commitments and considerations which mentions that the safety of students and staff remained a top priority and that in-person instruction is the most-effective method of learning for students.

Dr. Nicely also stressed the school leaders are not public health experts and the school system must rely on those who are experts for guidance regarding health-related decisions.

“We want all students to be in school as soon as possible. Given the governor’s current restrictions related to social distancing, we believed most students would be better served with a staggered or hybrid schedule than not attending school in-person at all. We’re trying to meet as many needs as possible while protecting the safety of our students and families.”

Dr. Ken Nicely, Roanoke County Schools Superintendent

The plan is based on Virginia being in Phase Three and associated public health recommendations for Phase Three.

The plan also calls for a hybrid schedule with preschool through second grade students receiving in-person instruction daily.

To accomplish the plan, Roanoke County Schools will need help with daily transportation, given social distancing restrictions imposed on school bus capacity.

“It is important for our youngest students to attend school in person every day. Reading development is critical at this stage and we felt that these young students need this instruction daily and directly from a teacher. This option also will help our young families with child care, something that is a concern for many parents and employees,” Dr. Nicely added.

Students in grades 3-12 would receive in-person instruction twice a week with remote instruction the remainder of the week.

Transportation help from parents would be necessary for the youngest students.

The student body would also be divided into two groups, according to the plan.

Group 1 would attend school Mondays and Thursdays with remote learning taking place Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Group 2 would be in school on Tuesdays and Fridays with remote learning taking place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Teachers would have planning and remote learning scheduled on Wednesdays.

Parents who need or would prefer for their child to receive complete remote-instruction could choose that option.

Dr. Nicely stressed that the remote portion of instruction would be very different from the continuity of learning plan conducted in the spring as instruction would be robust.

Students will receive new material and ongoing feedback about their progress including grades.

To help facilitate effective remote instruction, the school district would provide a laptop to all elementary families for home use. This is in addition to the existing laptop program for all students in middle and high schools. The Roanoke County School District would also provide hotspots for families in need that live in areas where broadband internet is either unavailable or is unreliable.

As the public health situation evolves through the course of the school year, the school system is ready to quickly transition to have more students attend in-person classes as permitted due to changes in public health guidance and/or requirements from the governor.

The school system will be reaching out to parents in the coming days to determine which parents or students will need or want 100-percent remote learning, which families can provide transportation either daily, or varied days and which students will definitely need bus transportation to and from school.

The school board will vote on the Superintendent’s recommended plan on July 2.

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