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Roanoke School Board mulls instructional plan for second nine weeks

Roanoke School Board mulls instructional plan for second nine weeks

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Roanoke schools remain on track to have pre-K through fifth grade students attend in-person two days per week during the second nine weeks, division officials told the Roanoke School Board on Tuesday. Upper grades would remain virtual under the division’s current plan.

”At this rate, we do not anticipate any proposed changes to our approved plan, but we will continue to watch our indicators,” Superintendent Verletta White said.

White and her staff provided the board with an “honest reflection” of the successes and challenges since the nearly all-virtual school year began Aug. 31.

Another intent form will be sent to families, likely next week, for virtual and in-person preferences for the second nine weeks, White said.

School board member Laura Rottenborn asked whether pre-K through fifth grade students could return four days if a large percentage of students opt to remain virtual. Chief of Security Chris Perkins said that may be possible but is dependent on multiple factors, such as staffing.

The board also discussed whether it would be possible to allow middle and high school students to attend in-person for the second nine weeks. White explained that there are “opportunity costs” to consider: If students attend at 25% capacity — one day per week — then teachers will be occupied every day with their in-person students, so students would have to spend the other four days with little synchronous instruction, she said.

A total of 674 students have returned to the classroom on a regular basis, according to Executive Director of School Improvement Julie Drewry. Another 325 students identified by counselors and teachers have been transported to school for small groups.

The ability to provide in-person instruction to vulnerable students has been important, said Supervisor of English Learners Programs Corey Allder. But it has been a challenge for teachers to manage both virtual and in-person classes, and some students have difficulty accessing the virtual component, he said.

Students whose classes are online enjoy the live instructional component, according to Executive Director for K-5 Education Greg Johnston. But teachers are still working to strike a balance with amount of work given, among other challenges, he said.

White said she understands virtual learning has been difficult for many families and that the division will continue to make adjustments as needed.

Likewise, she voiced support for teachers and said she understands many report feeling overwhelmed with little planning time.

“We are going to move with expediency on the various ways that we can provide additional planning time, professional development and collaboration for our teachers without compromising the instruction environment for our students,” White said.

There have been 13 positive student and 11 positive staff cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 31, which includes people who may not have been in the school building, said Executive Director for Student Support Services Tim Hahn.

Upon approval of the personnel list at the start of the meeting, White announced that Perkins is now acting chief operations officer. Information was not immediately available about his new duties.

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K-12 Education Reporter

Claire Mitzel covers K-12 education for The Roanoke Times. Contact her at (540) 981-3334 or claire.mitzel@roanoke.com. Follow her on Twitter: @c_mitzel.

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