John Dalton Intermediate and Radford High will go remote for at least the next three weeks.

RADFORD-Statewide numbers may be dropping, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. Radford City Public Schools learned that firsthand this week, as two schools had to shut down in-person classes. 

“Due to the large number of positive COVID-19 cases we have been made aware of in some of our athletic programs, and the fact that we can not contact trace the way we would like to because of the high number of positive cases, we will be moving Radford High School and John Dalton Intermediate to fully virtual learning,” Radford Superintendent Rob Graham said in a statement to parents. 

At least 10 students at the two schools tested positive for the virus. But due to the fact those kids play sports, it’s hard to fully isolate everyone they’ve been around and keep in-person classes going. 

The two schools will remain in remote learning until at least Monday, April 12. Graham noted that the COVID-19 outbreak only affects the two schools. Students at Bell Heth and McHarg elementary schools will remain in the classroom. However, the district does offer parents the option of pulling their child back to fully virtual learning at any point if they want. 

What About Any Other Activities? 

Going fully virtual means all extra-curricular activities at both the middle and high school have been canceled, through at least April 4, Graham said. They can restart during spring break on April 5, he added, as long as the team doesn’t have any more positive tests between now and then. 

This creates a problem beyond just sports. Radford High’s forensics team was actually set to compete Saturday at the state competition. Graham said district officials are working to try and find a virtual solution to make that happen. Forensics doesn’t have anything to do with the lab. It’s a type of debate competition, offered on both the middle and high school level. 

Radford is one of 38 school districts across the state where classes are mainly in-person. Unlike most of the others, however, Radford just reopened to four-day-a-week classes as of March 8. A total of 91 districts still offer a hybrid schedule, as local school boards weigh the benefits of in-person classes against concerns about a situation like the current one in Radford. All three districts that remain fully remote, including Sussex County, Portsmouth and Richmond City, have plans for at least a partial return to the classroom by the end of April. 

What About Summer School? 

With outbreaks like the one in Radford popping up, the call for expanded summer school gets louder. Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this month that each district would have to make their own decision about what that looks like. Maybe it’s an extension of the current semester or expanding the days traditional summer school is held. However, it’s currently up to local districts and cities/counties to figure out not just the logistics, but also the funding. 

The options don’t just take time to plan. They’re also expensive to run. Plus you have to negotiate some sort of payment plan with teachers, who work on 10-month contracts. They’re off during the summer months and can’t be required to work beyond the contracted hours. At a press conference earlier this month, Northam said he thought teachers will give up part of their summer break to help.  

“I’ve had discussions with a lot of teachers,” Northam said. “I think the majority of our teachers want to be part of the solution.” 

Those teachers who do take part in the summer sessions will receive some type of additional payment, although no one can still say what that would look like. Northam and Dr. James Lane, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, have said previously they would use some of the remaining CARES Act funding to provide funding. No definite amounts have been set, however.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at brian@vadogwood.com.

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