Charlottesville schools to expand in-person learning after the new year

It will be a slow, phased return to school. But for some students in Charlottesville, January may mark the first time they step foot into a classroom in nearly
Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 10:10 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville City Schools will expand its face-to-face learning after the new year.

It will be a slow, phased return to school, but for some students in Charlottesville, January may mark the first time they step foot into a classroom in nearly a year.

“We want to get our students back, especially the youngest and the most vulnerable of our students,” said School Board Chair Jennifer McKeever.

The school board voted unanimously Thursday night in favor of a plan that will bring Pre-K through 2nd grade students back to the classroom four days a week, starting January 19.

That was a change from the original proposal, which would have also allowed 3rd through 6th graders to come back.

“It does give us a little bit more flexibility in regards to space, space usage,” said Johnson Elementary School Principal Summerlyn Thompson. “It does affect our staff allocations to some extent, again giving us a little bit more breathing room.”

Most middle and high school students will have to wait a little longer for that return. Buford Middle and Charlottesville High are going with a ‘virtual and support’ schedule. That means targeted groups of students will be in-person for support, but most teaching will be done virtually.

“We’re all struggling virtually, so I would really need for teachers to focus on the students that our data is showing these students need some additional supports,” said Charlottesville High School Principal Eric Irizarry. “It would also cut down the number of students in the building from about 350 in the building to that 150.”

Part of the reason students won’t return until nearly two weeks after winter break is because there’s concern of a COVID-19 surge after the holidays.

“We’re all anticipating at least what we’ve had from Thanksgiving surge if not higher because more people will have more time to travel and get together in small groups,” said Beth Baptist the coordinator of CATEC, who said she has been in touch with the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

The school board is still authorized to change these plans if they see fit based on COVID cases. They hope to revisit the data every two weeks.

Each school will plan on having some more asynchronous learning time prior to students in-person arrival in order to give teachers time to prepare classrooms.

The presentation the school board received is here. It includes the approved option for elementary school (Option A on page 11), middle school (Option A on page 13), and high school students (Option A on page 17).

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