By Brandon Martin
Henry County Public Schools will be transitioning to four-day, in-person school weeks for some students on April 19, according to Schools Superintendent Sandy Strayer.
Strayer made the announcement at an April 8 school board meeting, noting that students would be maintaining a three-foot distance inside of school facilities, following guidelines from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the VDH (Virginia Department of Health).
“Any student that is currently in the hybrid form can come to school four days a week. Any virtual student that would ask to come back to in-person will have to work individually with the principal of the school,” Strayer said.
Due to social distancing and limited space in classrooms, she said principals need time to decide where to place the additional students. It also will serve as a transition period “to give two weeks of transition for our transportation department and our food service department to change the way meals are ordered,” she said
Strayer said she felt comfortable with the return given recent trends.
“Things are running smoothly on our return to hybrid instruction,” she said. “We have seen a decrease in the number of positive cases as well as the number of quarantined cases.”
Strayer said the official next steps for the plan are still being determined.
In addition, the school board also heard a presentation about upcoming math curriculum updates.
“We’ve been meeting with students and parents for years to discuss math and math skills,” Strayer said. “Our students must be able to transfer the knowledge that they receive to us into real world, applicable situations throughout their lives.”
Along the same rationale, Strayer said the Virginia Department of Education is introducing the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative.
Phyllis Meade, STEM coordinator for the school division, said the initiative is a joint effort between the Virginia Department of Education, the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, and the Virginia Community College System.
“The structure of Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 in mathematics for high school students has been in place since the 1800’s,” Meade said. “The VDOE wants us to think about what mathematics we are asking our students to learn and what students all truly need.”
Among the goals of the initiative are to improve equity in mathematics learning opportunities, identify pathways for future careers, and empower students to be active participants in mathematics, Meade said.
Sherri Helbert, the curriculum coordinator for secondary math and science, said grades kindergarten through seventh grade will focus on math concepts such as numbers and number sense; computation and estimation; measurement and geometry; probability and statistics; and patterns, functions, and algebra.
“During these courses, teachers will not teach from memorization but will teach for deep conceptual understanding and differentiate in the process,” Helbert said. “The intent is to give our students a strong foundational understanding of mathematics that will transfer to future essential concepts in advanced mathematics courses.”
Among the biggest changes is in “the essential concept courses” for grades 8-10, according to Helbert.
“The traditional Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 course sequence will be removed and will be replaced with Essential Concepts 8, Essential Concepts 9 and Essential Concepts 10,” she said. “The Essential Concepts courses will be framed through the lens of mathematical modeling and will be taught in real-world problems and making interdisciplinary connections as well as meaningful interdisciplinary connections.”
Students will receive two high school mathematics credits for the completion of data analysis, mathematical modeling, functions and algebra, spatial reasoning and probability, she said.
Once students reach grades 11 and 12, they will be given more options for math courses. Each student will still complete two high school mathematics credits, but the courses can be split between multiple half-credit and one-credit courses “based on their interest and goals,” Helbert said.
She added that during this period, more counseling would be needed with students to match the curriculum with the desired career outcome.
In other matters, the school board:
*Approved the 2021-2022 Perkins V CTE Local Plan and budget application to the Virginia Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education Services for $189,550.70 in expenditures.
*Approved the purchase of Tyler Drive for $310,927.25 from Tyler Technologies. The purchase will be mostly grant funded with $100,127.25 coming from fiscal year 2021 transportation year-end funds. Tyler Drive is a software loaded onto a tablet on the school buses. It provides drivers with turn-by-turn directions, manages student ridership, employee timekeeping, and pre-and post-trip vehicle inspections. It also assists with familiarizing new drivers with unfamiliar routes and helps provide complete documentation for Affordable Care Act reporting and state reimbursement. Other benefits include maintaining route integrity, eliminating the distraction of paper student lists, and keeping eyes on the road with the MotionLock audio setting.
*Awarded a contract to GCS Electronics for an amount not to exceed $198,000.00 to upgrade the remaining elementary schools to the Hytera Digital system.
*Awarded a contract to Trane in the amount not to exceed $350,000 for installation of Bi-Polar ionization devices in the remaining schools pending availability of funds. The devices create a plasma field that separates the particles into positive and negative ions improving indoor air quality while capturing particles in the air.
*Recognized Rebekah Vernon and Tammy Noe for receiving awards from the Southside Virginia Regional Technology Consortium. Vernon was awarded the Instructional Support Award and Noe won the Technology Support Award.