School Divisions Making New Plans

School Divisions Making New Plans

FACEMASKS and gloves were the order of the day for Lexington Farmers Market vendor Mitch Wapner and his nephew Evan Rothman as they helped customers last Wednesday morning outside of Lexington Presbyterian Church where the indoor winter market is normally held. The farmers market, because of the coronavirus emergency, has now moved to its outdoor location starting today, several weeks earlier than planned. Vendors will be set up in the McCrum’s parking lot for pre-packaged and pre-ordered items, per the governor’s directives, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

School Divisions Making New Plans

ENDERLY Elementary staff distribute lunches to families with car-side service for the Buena Vista student meal program last week, the first week that schools were closed due to the coronavirus emergency. (Harrison Mines photo)

Area school administrations anxiously awaited guidance from the state Tuesday morning following Gov. Ralph Northam’s order Monday for Virginia K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the current academic year.

“We are holding course until then,” Buena Vista Superintendent John Keeler told the News-Gazette Tuesday morning, before the guidance on how to proceed was sent from the Virginia Department of Education in the afternoon.

Within the guidance documents sent to schools, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced he is using authority under the governor’s executive order to ensure high school seniors who were on track to earn a diploma this spring are able to graduate.

Lane announced that high school seniors in the following categories will be able to graduate on time: seniors currently enrolled in a course for which they need a standard or verified credit, earned by passing a required course and also passing the associated Standards of Learning test, in order to graduate; seniors who have successfully completed a course required for graduation, but have not earned the associated verified credit; and seniors who have not passed a required student-selected SOL test.

Lane also announced flexibility is available for seniors who have not earned a required career and technical education credential, seniors who have not completed a fine or performing arts course or CTE course, seniors who were unable to complete sequential course requirements, and seniors who have not completed a course in economics and personal finance.

“The governor and I agree that every student who was on a trajectory toward earning a diploma should be able to graduate on time and move on to the next stage of his or her life,” Lane said. “I hope the flexibility that I am announcing today will help students and teachers as they cope with the deep disappointment of having their time together unexpectedly cut short and of not being able to enjoy the recognitions and celebrations that should be a part of every student’s graduation experience.”

Virginia General Assembly action is required for the waiver of requirements in the Code of Virginia for seniors who have not completed training in emergency first aid, CPR, and the use of automated external defibrillators, as well as seniors who have not completed a virtual course.

The guidance issued by the Virginia Department of Education also includes options for school divisions to provide students in other grades with equitable opportunities and instruction covering required course content. These options include distance and remote learning modules, instruction during the summer of 2020, and adjusting school calendars to integrate instruction into coursework next year.

“We are meeting to discuss continuity of instruction, meal services, and every little aspect that we take for granted,” Rockbridge County Superintendent Phillip Thompson told the News-Gazette Tuesday. “Graduations, proms, all things parents want to know about, and rightfully so, we are talking about as much as we can.

“We will meet [Wednesday morning] to hammer out a plan,” he continued. As the response to the pandemic remains fluid, Thompson explained, the division will keep up with changes as they come.

“While devastated by this news, I know that this is the best plan for the safety and health of our school community during this widespread health crisis,” Superintendent Rebecca Walters said of the school closure in a statement to families Monday. “Please know that we are thinking of you, and miss our school families very much.”

Area school staff remain hard at work to keep students fed with meal programs at pickup sites across the area. Buena Vista, Lexington and Rockbridge County schools all indicated they hope to continue their meal services into the closure.

“We served [over 2,000] meals in the last four days,” Superintendent Keeler said of the feeding program at Enderly Heights Elementary. “We plan on keeping that going on for as long as they will let us do it.”

School families are strongly encouraged to stay connected with their school offices, as well as division websites and social media for official updates regarding resources and instruction.

In a statement to Buena Vista families Tuesday Keeler offered the school community words of encouragement.

“We will overcome this set back,” he wrote. “During this time of uncertainty, we must take care of each other. We will pick each other up and get through this.”

The News-Gazette

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