By Carol Vaughn —
Parental support will be key during the upcoming school year, said Chris Holland, Accomack County School Superintendent.
Holland and other school officials updated the Accomack County Board of Supervisors about preparations for the school year, which begins Sept. 8 for students.
A task force has been working out details of the unusual school year, in which students are offered either all-virtual instruction or a hybrid model in which they attend class in person two days a week, in two different cohorts, and receive virtual instruction the remaining days.
Holland emphasized that students in school buildings must wear face coverings, social distance, and wash their hands frequently. Temperatures will be checked.
“Safety is the first thing,” he said.
Among other changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Only 11 children will be transported on a bus at the same time, unless they are from the same family, meaning drivers will make multiple bus runs.
Start times are, for high school and middle school, 7:10-7:20, and elementary school, 8:30-8:45.
The district bought 25 electrostatic disinfecting machines and hired additional custodians. Buildings will be deep-cleaned at night.
Schools will have two health clinics — one for well students and one for ill students, with additional staff to accommodate that.
The district purchased UV water coolers and is remodelling bathrooms.
Meals will be delivered to classrooms. Students will receive meals in school or to take home for all five school days, if desired.
Athletic schedules are delayed.
In Virginia, 78 school districts, or 56%, are using a hybrid instructional model this year, according to Rhonda Hall, assistant superintendent of instruction.
To date 56% of Accomack parents have chosen the hybrid model for their students and 44% have chosen virtual instruction.
At Nandua High School, for example, 350 students selected the hybrid model, meaning only around 175 students will be in the building at one time, Hall said.
“Our teachers in our classrooms are (also) teaching…the kids at home, so those kids are going to have an opportunity to see other kids that are at school at some point in time,” she said.
Information packets will be sent out in the coming week.
Unlike last spring, attendance will be taken and grades given under both instructional options, Hall said.
The district also purchased hotspots, which if needed may be put on buses and stationed in areas where students live without internet access.
A video showing what a “new normal” school day looks like is posted on the school district website, www.accomack.k12.va.us
Finance Director Beth Onley said one reason the district can offer the hybrid model is school officials had foresight to purchase needed supplies, including computers, personal protective equipment, thermometers, disinfectant, and more, early on.
Additionally, the health department donated 5,000 adult masks to the schools, the Accomack County Department of Public Safety donated 50 infrared thermometers, and volunteers are making youth masks.