K-12 Virtual Academy still an option for students

After a rocky previous year, Mecklenburg County Public School students are heading back for face-to-face learning.

As COVID numbers rise again in the county, students are required to wear masks while attending. Though the Virtual Virginia program offered by the Virginia Department of Education is no longer an option for students, the Mecklenburg County School Board has voted to partner with Virginia Virtual Academy K-12.

On Aug. 16 the Board unanimously voted to reverse their previous decision to enroll in the program based on a recommendation from Superintendent Nichols.

Looking at the feedback, Nichols said that he had changed his stance on the program. He stated that it would be significantly extra work for the staff to keep up with all of the data and that there are concerns about losing more students to virtual education if they stick with it.

In an Aug. 30 meeting, the School Board voted again to reverse their decision to enroll in Virginia Virtual Academy K-12.

Ricky Allgood asked how long the contract would remain active. Nichols answered that it would be a one year contract. “We can get out of it. That was a discussion that we had with Mr. Edwards. It started as 120 days and now it is 90 days,” said Nichols.

“With COVID numbers being what they are, I think it would be smart to have a plan B. If it doesn’t work out, we can get out of it,” said Allgood.

Nichols said that the school system does not want their students to enroll in virtual learning because, as Chairman Honeycutt has pointed out, they do better in a face-to-face setting. Nichols said that, based on data from the state, the COVID numbers will not decrease until late October or early November.

“We will be in a position to say that any student who chooses a virtual option should choose it for at least a complete semester and then we will look at it again for a second semester,” said Nichols.

Board member Wanda Bailey raised some questions about the program putting the school system in a position to not meet budget requirements. “I do not like an outside vendor putting us in that situation.” Nichols assured her that Director of Finance Christy Peffer would never allow them to go over their budget.

The final vote was 6-2 with Chairman Honeycutt and Bailey voting against the motion and Vice Chair Garner along with Edwards, Smith, Allgood, Palmer, and Richey voting for. Board Member Rob Campbell was absent.

After returning from another closed personnel session, Vice Chairman Doris Garner made a motion to censure Chairman Honeycutt for “behavior that is putting unreasonable working conditions in the central office”. Honeycutt asked her to define “unreasonable” to which she answered that he allegedly put employees of the central office in uncomfortable positions to feel that they can not communicate with Honeycutt. Ricky Allgood seconded the motion made by Garner. The Board tied the vote at 4 to 4 meaning the motion did not carry.