By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack and Northampton County Public Schools were unprepared when Gov. Ralph Northam announced last Friday, March 13, that all Virginia public schools must close for at least two weeks, starting Monday, March 16, in response to COVID-19.
This week, both school districts have rolled out plans to continue providing school breakfast and lunch for students while school is closed, and they have worked on plans to help kids continue their education at home.
Accomack is distributing meals every Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Northampton is distributing meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon.
At each visit, Northampton students will receive multiple breakfasts and lunches to last through the weekdays until the next meal distribution day.
Both school districts are handing out the meals drive-up style. In Accomack, parents or guardians should drive up to the exterior entrance of the cafeteria at each participating school.
In Northampton, meals are picked up in the bus loop at each school.
Accomack’s participating schools are Accawmacke Elementary School, Arcadia High School, Chincoteague Elementary School, Kegotank Elementary School, Metompkin Elementary School, Nandua Middle School, and Pungoteague Elementary School.
An Accomack student can pick up meals from any participating Accomack school, and a Northampton student can pick up meals from any Northampton school.
The program is intended for students age 18 and under, but Northampton schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence said no student will be turned away.
When Accomack and Northampton students pick up their meals, they may also receive learning packets of review and educational enrichment activities.
The assignments are not mandatory and will not be graded but are “meant to provide optional opportunities for student learning while they are away from school,” the NCPS website states.
Northampton students with internet access at home can get the learning packets online by visiting www.ncpsk12.com
Accomack students may visit www.accomack.k12.va.us for links to the learning activities.
Some teachers are also posting learning resources on Facebook, Google Classroom, Class Dojo, and other platforms.
For example, Joy Phillips and Lara Wallace, sixth-grade history teachers at Nandua Middle School, connected with students on Facebook and invited them to play Kahoot, an online, multiple-choice trivia game for reviewing what was taught in class.
The Northampton school district is working on a plan to provide students opportunities to learn new material at home. That is a challenge in a small, rural school system with limited resources and students who lack internet access, Lawrence said.
Neither Lawrence nor Accomack schools Superintendent Chris Holland had information on possible postponements or cancellations of upcoming school events, such as senior prom, since it is unknown how long schools will be closed.
Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) testing has already been impacted by the minimum two-week closure. Northam’s announcement last week occurred while SOL writing tests were being administered.
The Virginia Department of Education has extended statewide testing windows, but further action is needed, a March 17 release stated.
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said, “Given what we are now hearing about the potential duration of the coronavirus pandemic, we now have to seek further flexibility related to state testing.
“To do this, the commonwealth must have relief from the annual testing requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.” Virginia will request statewide relief, Lane said.
“We now have to take additional steps to ensure schools and students – especially seniors completing their graduation requirements – are not adversely impacted by circumstances beyond their control.”
This story has been updated since it was originally posted.