Schools outline split home/classroom schedule

When the new school year starts in August, Louisa County Public Schools students will attend classes in person two days a week and work from home the other three.

That's the plan outlined by Superintendent Doug Straley in a message sent to parents on June 24. 

The schools are not assuming families have good internet access. Instead, the schools will send students home with iPad or Chromebook computers, on which they will have access to regular assignments.

However, 26 percent of parents want their children to learn from home full-time, according to the results of a survey the schools conducted. Those families are expected to have good enough internet to download assignments, whether on home computers or by traveling to a location with public wireless access.

The student body at each of the six public schools will be divided into two sections. One section will attend class on Mondays and Thursdays; the other on Tuesdays and Fridays. Siblings will attend school on the same days.

All students will work from home on Wednesdays, which is designated as a teacher work day but also a time when parents can talk with teachers by telephone. Custodians will take advantage of those days to thoroughly clean school buildings.

"We need that day to make sure we can do this well," Straley said.

Besides time in school, officials have also been preoccupied with figuring out how students will get to and from classes.

The state initially told Louisa and other school systems they could only allow one child per bus seat, in every other seat. It would have been impossible, Straley said, to operate buses, which are designed to carry up to 77 students, with so few children on board.

Louisa obtained a variance from state officials to allow one student to occupy each seat, as long as they wear a mask. 

Straley said students will not need to wear masks while in class, because the limited number of students will allow for effective social distancing.

Some students in special education programs may attend school in person three to four days per week.

With the needs of families who keep their children at home in mind, the schools will add 10 more Wireless on Wheels units to the 13 already set up around the county. Internet will also remain available at school sites.

All of this assumes the state will still be in Phase III of reopening on August 13, the first day of school. Governor Ralph Northam ordered the third phase to begin on July 1.

If health conditions deteriorate somewhat, the state could switch back to Phase II. If that happens, most education would be conducted with students at home, except for Pre-K through third grade and special education. 

It's also possible health conditions will improve even more, and the governor could move the state beyond Phase III.

The schools plan to conduct some type of health screening for children each time they go to school, but the details are still being worked out, Straley said.

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