By Taylor Boyd
After hearing impassioned pleas from several attending an Aug. 27 meeting, the Patrick County School Board approved a motion for students to return to classroom instruction, beginning Sept. 14.
Students participating in the blended learning option will be in one of two groups, A or B. Groups will attend in-person classes two consecutive days each week. For example, students in the A Group will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, while those in the B Group attend classes on Thursdays and Fridays.
School buildings will be closed on Wednesdays to allow for cleaning.
Additionally, the board requires students attending in-person classes to wear a mask or face shield while on school buses and while at school, except when they are eating.
Many of the residents attending the meeting said they favored a blended learning schedule due to technological difficulties.
“I’m raising three kids, and my household can’t handle this. When I get one computer or Chromebook set up, another one goes out. My Wi-Fi can’t handle this, nobody’s can,” said Trish Cassell, of Meadows of Dan. “I got to go through six or seven links to find an assignment. I can’t find the assignment. How do I expect a nine-year old to do it?”
Isaiah Nickelston, a senior at Patrick County High School, said “I have welding class. I can’t do that at a computer. How do you learn how to weld with a computer? There’s some things we just can’t do with technology. We have to have that physical touch to it. To learn how to do it the right way.”
Andrea Cassell, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, said teachers and school faculty have continued to hold meetings with families to help train them to use the technology.
“Families can still call and schedule meetings if they need help learning how to use the technology,” Cassell said.
Those with technological issues also were advised to contact their school or complete a Student Technology Support Form on the school division’s website.
Amy Walker, of the Mayo River District, made the motion to offer the blended learning option.
Shannon Harrell, of the Blue Ridge District, seconded the motion that was also supported by Walter Scott, of the Smith River District, and Brandon Simmons, chairman and of the Dan River District.
Ryan Lawson, of the Peters Creek District, voted “present” on the motion.
After the meeting, he said “I felt personally that it was a better option to stay virtual right now instead of going back,” and that he wanted “to attempt to stay virtual a little bit longer and hopefully allow the cases to reduce further,” before students return to classrooms.
The board also voted to create a School Reopening Committee, consisting of Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert, Cassell, Scott, and others. The committee will help the board learn more about how the schools are handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee plans to meet weekly until it is deemed unnecessary by the board.