CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - After hearing calls from many teachers in Charlottesville City Schools, Superintendent Rosa Atkins wrote a letter recommending the school year start with nine weeks of virtual learning.
“In short, we know you have concerns. We share those concerns,” Atkins wrote in the letter. “And for the time being, with cases rising in our nation and area, with a higher-than-recommended positivity rate in our area, and with many unanswered questions about how best to protect our staff and students, we have decided to put our efforts into online learning so we can make this first nine weeks rewarding and productive.”
Bonnie Yoder, a special education teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary School, appreciates the steps Atkins has taken.
“It was amazing to be led by a superintendent who empowered her staff that much, and trusted us that much,” Yoder said. “She really seemed to listen to what the teachers were saying, and they had amazing ideas.”
The teachers have had a lot to say about how to approach learning this fall, perhaps most notably during a five-hour school board meeting earlier this month.
“Sending them back to school is, in my opinion, a science experiment that can and will lead to trauma and loss,” Tess Krovetz, a teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary School, said at that meeting.
There are some questions about how students will learn virtually. Yoder says there will be improvements since the unexpected switch to virtual learning in the spring.
“The idea of having all the professional development time and beginning and the delayed start for students will enable teachers to become experts at the different platforms,” she said.
In her letter, Atkins addressed some concerns, such as childcare, food services, and what virtual learning means for students’ mental health. As Atkins says plans are being worked out, Yoder has a message for her students. It’s a message many teachers share.
“I miss you. And I can’t wait until it’s safe enough to see you. And Miss Yoder just wants to give you a hug. And also, I’m so glad that we’re going to be able to keep you safe.”
Parts of Atkins’s presentation to the school board, which she will deliver during a virtual meeting on Thursday, have been released. It includes a survey that shows over 85% of teachers were either not comfortable, or not sure if they were comfortable, teaching in-person even with proper protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also includes an instruction schedule that is four days of teacher-directed learning and one day with some teacher-directed learning and “a large portion of student-driven learning.”
Also expected to be discussed are personalized in-person open houses, and Chromebook distributions in August that will be provided to all students grades 2-12.
The school board is likely to hold a vote during its Thursday meeting.