ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) hosted its first virtual town hall Thursday afternoon for parents, teachers, and health professionals to share their suggestions and concerns regarding the upcoming school year.
Dr. Denise Bonds of the Thomas Jefferson Health District says school districts need to drastically change what normalcy looks like to keep students safe, from changing attendance policies to utilizing more outdoor spaces.
“Schools really need to create and establish a culture for maintaining health,” Bonds said.
ACPS created a task force and action plan to address concerns earlier this summer, but teachers said mask mandates, social distancing, health screenings, and other preventative measures will not be enough to prevent the disease from spreading.
“Schools are supposed to be safe. How can we guarantee safety of our students and staff if legally, we have no right to know if a student has COVID?” Kathryn Deatley, an ACPS teacher, said.
Quality of virtual learning was also a hot-button issue, especially among working parents.
“Some parents work 7 to 3 or 6 to 2 or are not able to be there with their children to do that, in-real-time virtual learning and what would be another option for that? And, will attendance be another factor in that as well?” Katrina Eubanks, a participating member, asked.
Board member Kathrine Acuff said they’re considering every option to make learning as safe and normal as possible, but with rising infection rates, another complete closure could occur.
“If we open and then we have a spike and have to immediately close, that is one scenario,” Acuff said.
Two more virtual town halls will be held before a reopening plan is finalized. One will take place Friday, July 24 at 2 p.m. and the other on July 27 at 6 p.m.