During this time, it’s pretty clear that schedules that had been set in stone just months before COVID-19 have now vanished. This turned out to be the case for Westmoreland County’s public schools at last week’s monthly School Board meeting as well, when a request was given for the start of school instruction to be shunted back another week to August 31. The request for the one week delay came during a presentation before the School Board by Deputy Superintendent Cathy Rice, who also laid out the reasoning behind it.
“Our rationale for that is due to circumstances beyond our control,” Rice explained. “The first is our anticipation of the release of the Virtual Virginia content, so that our teachers can use that content for the creation of their virtual classrooms. The VDOE delayed the release just enough to make an impact for us, which left our teachers with only one week to access the content and tweak it for their canvas classrooms.
She continued, “We feel like a week is just not enough time for our teachers to work with the Virtual Virginia content before our teachers can roll it out.”
Another major factor, according to Rice, was the anticipation of a release from the Virginia Department of Education with regard to their minimum requirements for virtual learning. Originally expected to be released on the Friday before the School Board’s meeting, they had not yet been released when the School Board gathered at the office last Monday.
“That’s a major factor because each school developed what it thought a daily schedule might look like for students in the classrooms,” she continued, “and that includes synchronous and asynchronous learning times. We can’t publish that until we’re certain that what we created meets or exceeds the minimum requirements that will be coming from the Commonwealth.”
These minimum requirements were speculated to include hours per day spent learning, which, according to Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry, are absolutely vital to know.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that their kids will likely be engaged for almost as much time as if they were in a traditional classroom,” he explained. “There’s a whole lot more that we just don’t know right now. Of course, if there was no coronavirus, students would be going to school from 8 to 3 like usual.”
Approval was unanimous, as Dr. Perry noted that all of this threw their original plans of getting things done before Christmas out the window, which was the point of going through all of these hoops with the calendar in the first place.
After the decision was made, Chairman Ralph Fallin commented that, “I don’t want us to keep changing the dates after we’ve done this several times already.”