Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

After opposition from teachers and parents, the system decided to go fully virtual.

As the 2020-2021 academic year approaches, several Virginia schools are reconsidering their reopening plans after an uptick of COVID-19 cases in their areas. 

Goochland County Public Schools is one of those systems that went back to the drawing board. The school board in a unanimous vote on Tuesday chose to adopt a fully virtual reopening plan. They had first backed a hybrid approach to schooling in July, which received push back from teachers, parents and community members.

Before the vote, Goochland County Public School teachers hosted a virtual rally expressing their concerns with the reopening plan, with many saying the in-person classes didn’t take students and teachers’ safety into account. 

The new virtual plan includes live lessons from teachers in the morning and direct support in the afternoon. Alongside the lessons, the virtual plan will also include the following: 

  • A homework hotline from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on weekdays
  • Tech support from 8:00-8:30 a.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Social emotional support from 8:00-8:30 a.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m. 

If students don’t have internet access or adult supervision during the school day, accommodations will be made for them to attend in-person classes. 

Teachers will work and host lessons from their classrooms, which will be videotaped for students who’ve chosen the asynchronous track from the earlier plan. While this new plan does decrease potential exposure to COVID-19, it still requires teachers to physically return to the classroom. 

“I am incredibly grateful that GCPS took this important step in the right direction; I am still apprehensive knowing that under the new plan, all staff and some students will still be in buildings,” said Alden Blevins, a Goochland County Public School teacher, in an interview.  “This especially worries me for those who have family members in risk groups, like myself.”

Goochland County Public School teachers have been urging the school board to take their and the students safety into consideration for months. A petition was formed by The Virginia Educators United, urging Gov. Ralph Northam to keep schools closed until there is at least 24 days of near zero community spread of COVID-19 cases.

READ MORE: Virginia Teachers Push for Remote Learning in the Fall

“I’m optimistic that we will work towards the best possible solution to protect students, staff, and our community to the greatest extent possible,” said Blevins. “I breathe my biggest sigh of relief knowing that we won’t be yo-yo-ing back and forth between hybrid and virtual formats, at least to start the year. That wouldn’t make good learning for anyone!”

But while Goochland changed their plan, not every school board is following suit. 

Despite the region currently being under a state of emergency due to their high volume of COVID cases, the Virginia Beach School Board decided to keep its same reopening plan approved two weeks ago. 

In a two-hour long debate, members of the board attempted to pitch amendments that would keep students in virtual learning for a longer period of time, according to the Virginian-Pilot. 

Currently, the city’s almost 70,000 students will continue learning virtually until the region’s positive test rate drops below 10% and it reports fewer than 265 cases a day. Students will begin the year virtually and certain grades will be able to return to in-person classes if there are improvements in the region’s number of cases and the percentage of tests that return positive. 

Kelly Walker, the Virginia Beach Education Association president, said to the Virginian-Pilot that she was very disappointed with the vote’s outcome.