New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | February 26, 2021

Phase-in return for Charles City County students to begin March 8

By Andre Jones | February 16, 2021 9:22 pm

The option for parents to send their students back inside school buildings at Charles City has received a date after a narrow vote.

Charles City School Board members approved by a 3-2 vote to phase in students beginning March 8 back into buildings during Tuesday night’s school board meet.

Superintendent of Schools Dalphine Joppy addressed school board representatives with the possible hybrid option as part of the “Return-to-Learn” implementation for the school system. A survey was sent out Jan. 31 to receive feelers about the possibility of in-person learning, with 225 responses out of a possible 571 returned.

The hybrid option would allow parents to continue with virtual learning or enroll them into a two-day on campus, three-day virtual format. Group A would attend school days on Monday and Tuesday, while Group B would occupy classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday would be an asynchronous virtual learning day for every student where all assignments can be uploaded and downloaded.

Under Joppy’s proposal, grades pre-kindergarten to second would return the week of March 8. Grades 3-6 would follow on March 15, as well as the first group of high school students (grades 7-8) during that same week. Grades 9-10 are scheduled to return on March 22, and grades 11-12 would be allowed on the premises on March 29. An evaluation of the plan will take place the following week on April 5, which is Spring Break.

“The biggest thing I want people to know that this is an option,” Joppy commented at the meeting. “This is giving parents a choice and is in line of the Governor‘s [Northam] message to push for in-person learning. A parent can continue to keep their child at home virtually if they choose to do so.”

The superintendent added that many of the logistics will also change when the hybrid option is implemented. The meal service structure will alter due to many of the drivers who deliver the food will now return to regular routes, as well as finding an ideal way to make teachers and other school workers comfortable.

A staff survey also returned 94 responses about in-person learning. Of that number, 46 employees indicated they would be willing for an in-person return, while an additional 10 would be open to the possibility if media access centers were available. Thirty-five responses from staff indicated they would prefer to stay virtually, and four employees indicated they would not be able to return due to health concerns.

One of the biggest points that was being pushed about the option is that the survey sent to parents will serve as an indicator which students will be hybrid and which ones will remain virtual.

District 1 school board member Joy Harris is encouraging all parents to take the survey as it will play key in the superintendent’s preparation and plans for students to reenter buildings.

“I want to make it clear to the public that if you do not respond to the survey, Charles City County Public Schools will assume that your school will attend virtually for the remainder of the semester,” she commented.

With the survey deadline extended to the end of next week, Joppy is encouraging for parents to take the issue seriously.

District 3 representative Martha Harris commented that parents need to make sure that they do not send their child into the school building if they were sick, but also said that she wasn’t comfortable with the proposal on the table.

“I am concerned about the time frame and how instructors are going to deliver instruction both ways [virtually and in-person],” she said. “If we go to a blended option, that will be a long time to have students sit in front of the computer.

“I’m also concerned about the emotional well-being,” the District 3 representative continued. “I think we’re putting too much pressure on the students. If they sit beside someone and they cough, it will be lingering somewhere that this person may have the virus and they are sitting next to them.

“We’ve done it for this long, how much is three or four months going to make?” she concluded.

For District 2 Representative and chairman Rodney Tyler, he talked about the difference in his household since virtual learning has begun.

“I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say that my kids have been struggling since virtual began,” he commented, pointing to the difference in grades. “I know there are some students who do better virtually and some who do better in-person. This is just an option for them if they do want to come back.”

After receiving comments from the public about some concerns that include air quality, Joppy indicated that ADM Solutions will begin in March on upgrading HVAC systems. Along with that, air purifiers and dehumidifiers have also been ordered to maintain a safe environment and health quality. Desk shields are also already in place and extensive cleaning continues to take place in the building according to the superintendent.

At-large member Preston Adkins made the motion to approve the hybrid plan, with Joy Harris and Tyler voting in favor. Martha Harris and at-large member Royce Paige voted against the recommendation.