By Aila Boyd
The Botetourt County School Board voted Monday to approve the division’s return to school plan for this fall.
The division will open for the 2020-2021 academic year on August 10. While a plan has been designed for the fall semester, it was noted that a re-evaluation will occur prior to the spring semester once additional guidance is issued by Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Education.
“I want to say what a challenge this has been to come up with an instructional plan for our school division. Our efforts have been for the edification of our children to provide the safest experience that we can in the midst of a pandemic,” Dr. Larry Massie, the interim superintendent at the time, said. “I’m confident that the plan that I’m presenting to the School Board tonight is the best plan at this time.”
The plan includes the following in regard to PK-12 schedules:
- Students will receive in-person instruction two days per week and remote learning three days per week.
- Students will be scheduled for in-person learning on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. Remote learning will occur on the other three days of a student’s schedule.
- Students from the same home will be scheduled for in-person learning on the same days.
- Students may opt to participate in 100 percemt remote learning.
- Face masks are optional at school while social distancing is maintained
- Transportation will be provided for in-person learning at all Botetourt County Public Schools with one student per seat and required face masks. Students from the same household may be assigned to the same seat.
- Individual student schedules will be released this month after transportation routes have been finalized.
“The plan is intended to minimize the risk to our students and staff while meeting the needs of our community,” Massie said. He stressed that each school bus and classroom will be disinfected periodically.
The plan notes that student schedules may vary on the weeks of September 7 and November 2 due to schools being closed for Labor Day and Election Day. Additionally, remote learning has been scheduled for all students on November 23 and 24.
The following considerations were taken into account: students and maximized in-person learning, level of risk, mitigation, meal service, transportation, common schedule for students in the same home, child care, employees, academic programs and services, and the division’s 2020-2021 calendar.
“I think the plan that has been presented is reasonable. It is consistent with other divisions, not just in our region but throughout the Commonwealth. It gives an opportunity for our kids to get back in the building for in-person learning, but there is still going to be a remote learning element,” Michelle Crook, the chair of the School Board, said.
The plan was developed by the superintendent and division and school administrators.
According to the plan, the division will abide by the Phase Three programmatic recommendations and the health, safety, and social distancing recommendations from the state. It was developed based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Education. The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts communicable disease director consulted on the plan. Additionally, it was noted that information was obtained through the superintendent’s advisory committees, which are comprised of parents, students, and staff, and a parent input survey that received 4,154 responses.
“Most families indicate they would prefer in-person and remote learning options,” Massie said.
He later said that the division will return to full in-person learning “as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Crook stressed that there is still a lot of work to be done by the division. “Once we’ve solidified a plan, then we have to figure out scheduling and transportation. Work does not end today,” she said.