At a meeting Monday, the Rockingham County School Board approved a later start date for the 2020-21 school year, as well as a change to the reopening strategy in general.
The Rockingham County Public Schools Steering Committee for Reopening Schools recommended that the start date of school be moved to Sept. 10. This change will allow the school district to assess if there has been an increase of COVID-19 cases in the community after the return of college and university students to the area.
Also, it will provide additional time for faculty and staff to collaborate, plan and prepare for the hybrid model of instruction, along with additional opportunities for professional development.
The committee also recommended changing the date for the end of the first semester and removing some teacher workdays during the first semester since Wednesdays will provide this opportunity, which was also approved by the School Board.
Additional changes to the school calendar may be warranted as the school division determines the needs of students and teachers moving into the second semester.
“We may bring this again depending on health data at that time,” Superintendent Oskar Scheikl said during Monday night’s meeting.
The School Board also approved a change to the reopening plan that was previously approved and included a two-day a week, in-person learning for most students, with some students in the classroom four days a week.
Due to new research about children’s capacity for getting COVID-19 and to pass it along, Scheikl recommended that the School Board approve a four-day a week virtual learning plan for all students in grades two through 12. He recommended that students in grades prekindergarten through first grade remain in the classroom four days a week.
Students in grades two through five will have two hours of synchronous learning online for those who can. The learning will be recorded for those who can not be available for those two hours. Three hours of synchronized learning were approved for middle school students, and 2.5 for high school students.
Mobile hot spots will be given to families who need this option.
The move to virtual learning was approved for the first semester, with the option of amending based on trends and expert advice and the first revaluation occurring at the beginning of October for elementary school students.
“This strikes a balance for young students who need that in-person instruction,” Scheikl said.
The plan includes phases that can be moved through depending on this new information, including blended learning and 100% in-person learning. However, the plan calls for high school students staying online only for the entirety of the fall semester.