County schools remain virtual

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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Board OKs future phased plan


Although the board of Southampton County Public Schools (SCPS) has agreed to a plan of phasing students into classrooms when health conditions permit, learning will remain virtual through the second nine weeks. These decisions were made during a special called meeting on Monday evening in the high school.

As board chairwoman Dr. Deborah Goodwyn pointed out at the start, “COVID has forced us to reconsider how our students learn.
Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, superintendent, then reiterated the proposal that she made at the board’s regular meeting on Oct. 12.

There are four goals to the phase-in: continuity of health and safety; nutrition; learning; and resources.

Presently, SCPS is in Phase I, virtual learning. Phase II would be a hybrid plan, with students attending only a couple days a week. She estimated that 50 percent of students would attend if and when that’s established. Phase III would be four four days a week of in-class instruction, and attendance would be split alphabetically, such as A-I; J-Z.

For the second phase, there will be health screenings, such as on buses, as well as sanitation breaks.

Shannon cited recent statistics from the Virginia Department of Health, showing increases in the number of COVID-19 infections since July 27, which was then 238.8 per 100,000 people; on Oct. 12, the number was 324.1; and as of Monday, 619.8.

Audience members could be heard to gasp “Wow!” as she pointed out the stats displayed on a screen.

Principals of elementary and secondary schools briefly outlined other health plans, such as temperature checks and cleaning.

Lynn Bradley, board member, asked what happened to the teacher who has health problems or cannot return. It was noted that there are two sets of teachers on the elementary level. Fellow member Christopher Smith Sr. asked if the Phase II plan could begin first on the elementary level, which Shannon acknowledged is possible. Denise Bunn said she likes the phase-in plan, but it’s important to look at COVID numbers.

“The numbers are just not looking good,” added Bradley.

William Worsham, though, suggested that students return only on the preK to fifth grade levels.

“Nothing surpasses teacher/student interaction,” he said.

The superintendent noted that over 90 percent of teachers surveyed said they have some reservations about returning, and want to stay with virtual learning.

“They do not believe it’s safe to return now,” she said.

Smith and Rountree agreed to the importance of protecting students and staff as well as the community.

Ultimately, the board supported the phase plan. All but Worsham voted to stay with virtual learning for the remaining semester.

Note: This version corrects a remark made by Denise Bunn, not Donna Rountree.