Schools plan fall return to five-day schedule

Students who want to will be able to return to Louisa County Public Schools five days a week in the fall of 2021, Superintendent Doug Straley said this week in a message to families.

Straley cited the fact that most staff will be fully vaccinated and that COVID-19 case numbers have been dropping for almost two months. But he cautioned that students will continue to wear masks and undergo daily health screenings, since the pandemic is unlikely to disappear by late summer. Staff will still be subject to these rules, too, even if they have received a vaccine.

New guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control encourages schools to maintain three feet of social distancing between students, rather than the six feet that was the standard before. With the reduced distance, the schools are able to accommodate the entire student body in each building. 

Since August 2020, the schools have operated with a blended learning model in which students attend school two days a week and work from home the rest of the time. Almost a third of all students are studying entirely at home through a virtual academy.

Virtual classes will continue to be an option for students in the fall, but some courses may be taught by someone other than an LCPS teacher, Straley said.

“We strongly advise students who have not been successful in the virtual model to return to face-to-face learning for the 2021-22 school year,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence in Louisa and across the country suggests many students have struggled with keeping up with academics while only going to school part-time. The schools will offer a learning program four days a week this summer to help students catch up.

The relaxed guidance on social distancing won’t necessarily apply to school buses, so parents who can bring their children to school and pick them up will be encouraged to do so. If it becomes necessary, the schools may implement a lottery to determine which students are able to ride buses. Under current state rules, only 26 students can ride a bus at a time, even though buses can accommodate twice as many.

The schools asked families to fill out a survey by March 26 indicating their preference for in-person or virtual learning.

Jouett contract awarded

The Louisa County School Board voted 6-0 at a called meeting on March 16 to award a $7 million contract to Gulf Seaboard Contractors Inc. to build an addition at Jouett Elementary School. Frances Goodman (Jackson District) was absent. The Ashland company’s submission was the lowest bid among 10 applicants.

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