By Stefanie Jackson – All Accomack hybrid students in grades pre-K to 12 will be attending school in person four days a week before the end of April, Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall announced Tuesday night.
The four-day, in-person school week will begin Monday, April 19, for elementary school students, and Monday, April 26, for middle and high school students.
The number of days hybrid students receive face-to-face instruction every week will double, due to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that cut the amount of required social distancing in half, from six feet to three feet.
The number of students allowed to ride each school bus also will double, from about 11 to approximately 22.
Currently, one student is allowed in every other seat, but the rule will change to one student per seat, with 20 to 25 students on each bus.
It will likely be mandatory that all hybrid students participate in the four-day school week, because it would be impractical for the transportation department to bus some students to school four days a week and others only two days a week, Hall said.
Parents who do not wish to send their children to school four days a week may switch the students to the virtual learning program.
Current virtual students will not be offered the option to switch to the hybrid learning program at this time, Hall noted.
To accommodate the new influx of students, some teachers who were only teaching virtually will now hold classes in person, Hall said.
To accommodate all the students while maintaining a three-foot distance between each person, some students will be moved to different classrooms, she added.
School board member Janet Turner declined to vote on the updated Return to Learn Plan because neither she nor her peers were sent a new copy of the plan to read after a last-minute change was made.
The school board passed the updated plan, with school board member Edward Taylor voting “no” and Turner abstaining.
Accomack schools Coordinator of Student Health Services Tonya Martin reported that as of April 6, four Accomack students and no teachers or staff were positive for COVID-19.
However, Gov. Ralph Northam’s April 1 executive order, which increased the total number of people permitted at an indoor gathering to 50 and the total permitted at an outdoor gathering to 100, was not enough for Superintendent Chris Holland to recommend allowing proms to be held at Accomack schools this year.
Vice Chairman Ronnie Holden asked if there would be enough space for social distancing at proms if only seniors were invited.
Chairman Paul Bull pointed out that Nandua High School has more than 180 seniors, well above the limit for outdoor gatherings, and Holland said he did not believe students would adhere to social distancing guidelines at an event that involved dancing.
Upon Holland’s recommendation, the school board voted in favor of canceling proms for the 2020-2021 school year, with school board members Jesse Spiedel, Turner, and Taylor voting against the cancellation.
Turner then questioned why the school board had held “surprise votes” on issues that were listed on the meeting agenda only as discussion items.
There’s no rule that states the school board can’t vote on a recommendation following a discussion, but it is common practice that when members of boards or councils are expected to vote on issues, those topics are listed on the meeting agendas as action items.
No action items were listed on the school board’s April 6 agenda.
The superintendent, school board chairman, and vice chairman all asserted that the appearance of the discussion items on the agenda was adequate.
Holland said plans for graduation are in the works and he is looking forward to spring sports.