By Randy Arrington
LURAY, July 28 — The Page County School Board unanimously approved its proposed guidelines and procedures for the upcoming school year on Monday night, with two significant changes — an adjustment to the weekly schedule for in-person instruction, and the implementation of health screenings at all schools.
Page County Public Schools’ original proposal for the 2020-21 school year called for students to be broken into two groups, A and B, alternating in-person instruction on Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday. Wednesday was reserved as a “deep cleaning” day, with remote instruction taking place three days a week.
Under the new proposal adopted on Monday, students opting for in-person instruction will attend school two consecutive days, with Group A going Monday and Tuesday, and Group B attending Thursday and Friday. Parents also have the option to keep their children home for remote instruction only.
Dr. Wendy Gonzales, superintendent of the school division, said on Tuesday that the intent of the original scheduling was to prevent a longer gap in instruction.
“The original A/B structure was driven by what was best instructionally for students. The [new] AA/BB schedule puts five days in between the face-to-face session; however, the A/B schedule would only be a gap of two or three days each time,” Dr. Gonzales said. “We felt that model would provide students with the opportunity to get time with their teacher for support, instruction and clarity for that day. Then they would be able to work independently for two or three days, and come back again with the teacher for more support, instruction and clarity.”
Another driving factor behind the original schedule, according to the superintendent, was the free meals being sent home with students in need.
“Sending two to three days worth of food would be easier than five days worth,” Dr. Gonzales noted.
However, comments from the community pushed Monday night’s change to the new weekly schedule for in-person instruction due to safety concerns, according to the superintendent. Many parents wanted to keep the same group of students in the buildings for two consecutive days in order to reduce the potential spread of any illness. The idea being to expose fewer students to the environment prior to the deep cleaning taking place on Wednesdays and weekends.
“Many said it would also be easier for child care with back-to-back days,” Dr. Gonzales added.
The superintendent noted that Page County will be one of few school divisions in the state that is opting for an AA/BB model versus the proposed A/B model, with the exception of the Fauquier and Henry school divisions, she said. Most school districts in Virginia have opted for some type of mix between in-person and remote instruction, with some offering remote instruction only.
Another big change on Monday night that will alter the daily routines of students opting to attend school for in-person instruction is the addition of temperature checks and health screenings before entering school buildings.
“We are still working out all of the details, but essentially the temperature checks will involve some staff taking temperatures at the school’s designated entrances with no-touch digital devices,” the superintendent said. “The students will need a ‘ticket’ (paper slip) to enter the building signed by a parent to indicate the parent has checked their child for the symptoms and are ‘certifying’ their child is symptom free.”
Dr. Gonzales said Tuesday that the school system will provide a checklist of symptoms for parents to follow. Students without that slip of paper certifying that they have been checked by their parents will not be admitted into school buildings. Parents will be contacted to certify the health screening.
“The data and comments we have received show we are really split among who wants what at each level. We had heard some concerns among the staff via some faculty meetings too,” Dr. Gonzales said. “So as our students’ and staffs’ safety are a priority for us, we wanted to find a way to implement both temperature checks and screenings across the division to help everyone feel more secure.”
Page Schools will be updating both the instructional and health plans and posting those on the division’s website in the near future, possibly as soon as next week.
The local school division has also been working to update its COVID-19 page on its website and has now included a FAQ page with answers to questions submitted in recent weeks.
To go to the COVID-19 page:
To go to the FAQ page: