Blue Ridge chooses hybrid plan for reopening

After hashing out a number of potential scenarios and discussing potential pros and cons of each option, the Blue Ridge Board of Education adopted its school reopening plan at the Monday, July 20 meeting.
The general consensus of the board was to move forward with a hybrid model that includes both in-person instruction and online learning following a discussion of the options that lasted over two hours in a work session.
Students will be divided into two groups, allowing for 50 percent to be on campus at a time. Superintendent Matthew Button explained that students in group “A” would attend class on Monday and Tuesday, while students in the “B” group would have in-person instruction on Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays would be a complete remote learning day for all students, allowing for the school to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between the student groups. Students in the same household would attend school on the same days.
Almost all of the textbooks used in the districts have an online version which would be heavily utilized in the hybrid reopening model.
“We’re tasked with a no-win situation to try to come up with a solution to this no-win problem,” Button told the board. He said that in-person classes are the most effective instructional model. But he also noted that if a parent chooses to go the cyber route, that could present a huge impact to the district’s projected costs.
Board member Chris Lewis reminded parents on the Zoom meeting that cyber school is not free. “We’re having to take money out of the public school to pay for that education.” He warned that an increase in that cost would ultimately lead to tax increases.
Button also told the board to anticipate a greater shortage of substitute teachers. “We were short before, now it will be worse than ever.”
Board members also discussed what they have been hearing in the community. School director Ed Arnold said he’s spoken with several parents who want their children back in the classroom because “they are not teachers.” He noted that some parents have to take children to work with them, “That’s not a good teaching environment,” he said.
Button said that he hears parents who tell him they want their kids back in school “but don’t want them to wear masks” throughout the day.
The superintendent said the hybrid reopening would significantly reduce the amount of time wearing face masks would be necessary.
He acknowledged the hard part is the logistics of the model for families who are challenged to find childcare and handle remote learning. Button warned of a residual impact on learning for some students down the road.
But, he said, the district’s concern is for the health and safety of the students, staff and their extended families.
Board president Jessica Wright said, “I don’t think we give our kids enough credit. I think if we say that have to wear a mask during the day, they will wear a mask. I think students will rise to the challenge. There are so many kids that need that in-class (support). I don’t think we can be fear-driven the whole way. I think it will be a learning curve.”
Board members were in agreement that the district should reevaluate the situation and set a benchmark of the end of October.
Prior to the next July 27 board meeting, district administrators will further develop details of the hybrid model of reopening the schools for students and staff. Students are scheduled to return to school on Aug. 26.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17, 7 p.m. Visit the website, for meeting details.

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