Albemarle County School Board discusses COVID, renovation projects

Albemarle County School Board discusses COVID, renovation projects

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - There has already been one ‘Back to School’ in the fall of 2020. Could there be another one?

That’s what the Albemarle County School Board is preparing to decide. At Thursday night’s work session, the board received guidance and comments on how to move forward with school in the age of COVID-19.

Right now, county schools have plans to be almost fully virtual through the end of the first quarter in November.

“I just want to make sure that we’ve considered a lot of things that need to happen before we safely move into a hybrid plan,” said Andrew West, an Albemarle County Public School teacher.

Albemarle County is seeing a steady decline in percent positivity - just 3.6 percent.

“Look at those data points as a part of the conversation,” said Ryan McKay, the senior data analyst with the Thomas Jefferson Health District. "But also understand what the ability is of a school system to implement the strategies that are going to reduce and minimize risk. "

McKay says schools could reopen if done well. He learned that from touring Louisa County schools.

“School doesn’t look like school in terms of numbers and what classrooms look like,” he said, "but they have been very successful in bringing students back with policies like face masks.”

But there are still concerns from teachers like Kathryn DeAtley, a kindergarten teacher. She worries in-person learning won’t be as effective as usual, especially for young students.

“Instead it will be replaced with our students trying to sit in a desk for the majority of their school day, 6 feet away from the friends they just want to play with, looking at the toys that they can’t play with,” she said.

Monticello High School teacher Maggie Johnson knows exactly when she will feel safe returning.

“The questions of when and how to return to in-person classes should not even be considered until the CDC approves distribution of a vaccine and that vaccine is made accessible to every person,” Johnson said.

Some teachers who called into the meeting said virtual learning is not ideal, but it’s what they feel is best and safest for now.

The school board also discussed some of its ‘wants’ from its Capital Improvement Program.

A presentation the board received highlighted a five-year plan to spend over $100 million on school safety, capacity, and renovations.

School board member Jonno Alcaro says he knows what’s at the top of his priority list.

“We’ve got to solve capacity issues,” he said, "but if we don’t then potentially modernization of our existing facilities could be a place to put our CIP money.”

The school board will hold a joint session with the Board of Supervisors to discuss these plans in October.

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