Accomack: More Students May Repeat Grades, Fewer Teachers for Summer School

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By Stefanie Jackson – The COVID-19 pandemic and virtual and hybrid learning have challenged Accomack teachers and students, with more students recommended this year to repeat grades but fewer educators willing to teach summer school.

An average of 20 to 40 students have been recommended for retention at every Accomack elementary school, said Early Childhood Education Coordinator Belinda Rippon at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Rippon, former principal of Metompkin Elementary School, said that in 2019 at her school, about 15 students were recommended for retention, and only two or three were held back.

Summer School – Elementary

Elementary school students in summer school will attend two sessions of three weeks each during June and July. Classes will be held Monday through Thursday, from June 21 to July 8, and from July 13 to July 29.

Students will attend school 11 days during each session, as Monday, July 5, is a holiday and Monday, July 12, is a teacher workday.

The school day for students will be 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., including breakfast and lunch.

The number of students recommended for retention at each elementary school is: Accawmacke, 22; Chincoteague, 18; Kegotank, 51; Metompkin, 59; and Pungoteague, 38.

The number of teachers at each elementary school (not counting pre-K teachers or teaching assistants) who have volunteered for summer school is: Accawmacke, three; Chincoteague, three; Kegotank, six; Metompkin, six; and Pungoteague, three.

Accomack school administrators intended to offer summer school to kids who were not necessarily failing but needed extra help recovering academic losses that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, not enough teachers have volunteered to teach summer school, even though the program will be supported by Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act funding, enabling the school district to offer teachers higher pay for summer school than they would normally receive.

Administrators said teachers have little interest in summer school because they’re “tired” from working through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers have simultaneously taught hybrid students in the classroom and virtual students at home.

Only elementary school students who could be retained will be invited to summer school. Students who do not attend summer school but still need help catching up will receive intensive remediation in the fall, said Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall.

Summer School – Middle and High

The summer school schedule for middle and high school students will be slightly different: Monday through Thursday, June 22 to July 29. Monday, June 21, will be a teacher preparation day.

Middle school students will be in school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., including breakfast from 8 to 8:30 a.m., instruction from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and lunch from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

Middle school instruction will be divided into two sessions of two hours each. Middle schoolers must pass both English and math and either science or history to advance to the next grade.

High school students will be in school from 8 a.m. to noon, including breakfast from 8 to 8:30 a.m., instruction from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., and lunch from 11:30 to noon.

High school instruction will be one session of three hours daily. The courses to be offered are algebra I, geometry, English 11, science, and history, to keep students on track for graduation. A Standards of Learning or SOL test will be given during the last week of summer school to any student who needs a verified credit.

Return to Learn Plan – Fall 2021

Virginia will require all K-12 public schools to offer a five-day school week starting this fall, Hall said.

There will still be a virtual learning option for students who have a doctor’s note excusing them from attending school in person.

A student without a medical excuse may apply to Accomack’s virtual learning program but will be considered for acceptance only if the student has proven success with virtual learning through such accomplishments as consistent online class attendance and good grades.

Virtual Virginia, an online program of the Virginia Department of Education, was selected as Accomack schools’ virtual learning option for the 2021-2022 school year.

Virtual Virginia students may be taught by teachers anywhere in the U.S.

Accomack County Public Schools will pay the enrollment fee for any student who participates in Virtual Virginia, and school counselors will register each participating student.

The students must follow the Virtual Virginia calendar and schedule: the school year begins in August and ends in May, and each school day ends at approximately 1 p.m.

Students also must have reliable internet and adhere to Virtual Virginia’s online code of conduct.

If a student is not accepted into Accomack’s virtual learning program, the child’s parents may appeal to Superintendent Chris Holland, whose decision is final.

The decision not to require Accomack teachers to conduct both in-person and virtual classes next year was informed by a survey sent to 430 teachers. Nearly 87% or 373 teachers responded.

About 76% or 284 respondents said a virtual learning option should be provided through Virtual Virginia only. About 24% or 89 respondents said Accomack teachers should simultaneously teach virtually and in person.

If Accomack teachers were to teach virtually, they should teach only virtual classes, respondents stated.

Hall agreed that teachers handling two classes simultaneously all day, five days a week, would be susceptible to burnout.

Notes to parents about Virtual Virginia will be sent by May 21. Applications are due June 4.

The program will be managed by Accomack schools Coordinator of Student Services Della Jordan.