HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Henrico County School Board voted to expand optional in-person learning for younger elementary students on November 30. Middle and high school students will have the option to go back to in-person learning starting in February. A virtual learning option will remain in place for all students.
"The Board adopted a plan that would enable a phased expansion of in-person learning, starting Nov. 30 with younger elementary students having the option to return in-person, and concluding with middle and high school students having that same option in February," Henrico Superintendent Amy Cashwell wrote in an email following the vote. "We feel confident that, given conditions as they exist now, we can offer families an in-person choice while implementing effective risk-mitigation and safety measures that will prioritize the safety of students and staff. And as mentioned earlier, there will still be a fully virtual option for students."
The Approved Plan
- Keep a fully virtual option for students.
- Expand optional in-person learning opportunities.
- Adopt a phased-in approach to expanded in-person learning that prioritizes pre-K and elementary students:
- Monday, Nov. 30: Grades pre-K, K, 1 and 2 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Monday, Dec. 7: Grades 3, 4 and 5 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Jan. 4-8: One week of virtual learning for ALL students (including pre-K through grade 5) during the week after Winter Break.
- Monday, Feb. 1: (start of second semester): Grades 6 and 9 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Thursday, Feb. 4: Grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
The School Day
Fully virtual students would remain on a five-day schedule (with an abbreviated schedule on Wednesdays.)
In-person students would be in school buildings four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Virtual “Wellness Wednesdays” would include a deep cleaning of schools, two hours of teacher-led virtual learning for elementary schools, additional independent student learning time for all students, academic and social/emotional support for all students, and teacher planning and professional learning time.
Masks, Classrooms, and Social Distancing
- 6-foot distancing in classrooms
- Maintain cohort groupings as much as possible.
- Create one-way traffic patterns in school hallways.
- Adjust secondary master schedule to stagger and extend transition times.
- Continue the use of masks, three-sided protective guards for desks, HVAC air flushing and other safety measures.
Cashwell said the plan could change as conditions surrounding the virus change.
Before school started in September, Henrico Schools announced it would spend the first nine-weeks of class in a nearly 100-percent virtual setting due to COVID-19.
The second nine-week grading period begins November 16.
During a Tuesday night online session, dozens of people shared their concerns with school board members. Some expressed caution with returning to in-person learning, while others felt it was time for children to return to the classroom.
A survey sent to parents and teachers earlier in October offered three potential models for a return to in-person learning.
While About 75 percent of teachers said they would return to the classroom if told to do so, 55 percent indicated they would resign, retire, or use sick leave instead of returning to class.
Teachers were allowed to check multiple options.
A slight majority of parents, 55 percent, indicated they preferred to keep their kids learning from home.
CBS 6 spoke with both parents and teachers prior to Thursday's meeting, who had mixed emotions on the topic.
"Pumping the brakes is just what we have to do. There's so little to be gained but return and so much to be lost, that I think it would be foolish and dangerous to push forward at this moment," said Varina High School teacher Jimmy Lincoln.
"I have hopes of going back five days. I think that is the best option for our children," parent, Ashley Sherdel said. "They need to have a connection with their teachers that they cannot get on the computer.”
Despite differences, both agreed that parents and teachers should have a choice.
"If some plan can come up where everyone has a choice to where they feel is safest, I think both sides of this debate would support it," Lincoln said.
"I don’t want to take anybody’s choice away, I just want a choice," Sherlden said."I want to do what is best for my children and other people’s children.”