School Board talks second semester reopening and in-person SOL testing

School Board Chairman Gavin Honeycutt opened the November meeting by pointing out that the meeting was limited to 25 individuals and that all of the new COVID-19 guidelines set by Governor Northam were being followed.

Superintendent Nichols began by wishing everyone a happy American Education Week. “I just want to emphasize that it is the desire of all staff here to be able to have our students get back into school as quickly as possible,” said Nichols. He explained that there is a possibility of Middle School students returning for the face-to-face option after the Thanksgiving break. The plan sees the students staying in one classroom all day similar to the elementary students. “We put that plan out and began asking more questions and there was an immediate response from many parents who were concerned with that plan because of the interruption to current schedules that the children have.”

According to Nichols, the surveys that were returned to the schools showed only 50% of parents wanting their students to return for face-to-face learning.

The administration suggests that the middle and high school students plan to return for face-to-face learning on an A/B schedule beginning second semester. Whether elementary students will be returning on an alternating schedule or continuing the Monday through Thursday face-to-face and virtual on Fridays will be determined by the amount of students that want to return to school in the second semester. Mr. Nichols explained that “the numbers” would determine the elementary decision.

“There’s much hope for the second semester. I hope for the immunizations, I hope we overcome the COVID crisis all together and are able to get students back face-to-face as soon as possible.”

Board Member Glenn Edwards expressed his concern about changing the elementary schedule saying that it would be difficult for the students who are already attending face-to-face to have to change now.

The school administration is currently making plans for SOL testing in the second semester where students will be required to attend in person, as the state does not allow for virtual testing. “We are looking at transportation options and how we can get each student to the schools safely.”

Mr. Honeycutt asked when parents could expect a definitive plan for moving forward in February. Nichols explained that an A/B alternating schedule plan is in place for a second semester return and will be implemented as long as there is not a significant increase in COVID cases in the state that “interrupts us again”.

Mr. Nichols expressed his thanks to the teachers, staff, custodians, and all faculty members for all of their hard work and wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. Ricky Allgood spoke on the concerns expressed by parents because there are no sports being offered. “I explained that this wasn’t something that is being taken lightly and if they had any questions they could talk to Mr. Nichols about it. They weren’t mad, just frustrated. Some of these students rely on sports scholarships and things like that.” He continued, “There’s nothing that we can do about it [with restrictions in place] but I just want to let the parents that reached out to me know tonight that we do feel their pain.”

During public input, Edward Bogle, spoke as a “concerned parent” who moved from Warren County to Mecklenburg County to have his child educated because he thought it was an amazing school system. “Virtual school is destroying us,” he said. Mr. Bogle explained that at this point he feels that son is being discriminated on based on the fact that elementary, English as a second language, and special education students are allowed to learn face-to-face. “Our high school students should not be left behind.” He continued, “Not every child has the ability to navigate a software system that even teachers struggle with from time to time.” He pleaded with the school system to consider a plan to get students back in schools because they cannot receive a proper education “staring at a Chromebook screen for 6 to 8 hours a day”.

Park View Middle School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School in a ceremony on Friday, November 13 at the Dogwood Auditorium in South Hill. The school was the only middle school in Virginia to receive the honor. Teachers with perfect attendance and Super Staffers for October were recognized for their work over the past month.

Brittany Harris, Crystal Elmore, and Matt Rulli were the recipients of the Southside Virginia Regional Technology Consortium Awards Program which “recognizes those school divisions and individuals that use technology to achieve the mission of the SVRTC to integrate emerging technologies and training for K-12 students, staff, and citizens to enhance learning at all levels and encourage economic development in Southside Virginia”.

Dr. Paige Lacks presented the Middle and High School Program of Studies to the Board. The Board will have a month to review the documents and will vote on the plan at the December meeting.