Floyd County families will have two options when school starts next month.
One is the return to in-classroom instruction, the other is a virtual learning system for those who choose to stay at home as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
“There was a huge pushback on us starting with some kind of a hybrid model,” said Superintendent Jeff Wilson.
Floyd County Board of Education Chairman Tony Daniel said the system sent out a survey to families earlier this month and got more than 6,200 responses — with 80% of them wanting a return to in-person learning at school.
“All board members have been bombarded, with emails, phone calls, texts, everything, about the importance of starting school (in person),” Daniel said. “I think everybody agrees that starting is the best thing long-term for our kids.”
The decision was cemented at a called meeting Monday, with Melinda Jeffers casting the lone dissenting vote against the plan. She said that she, like other board members, believes it is important for children to be back in the classroom. But she felt the system should have something other than what she called an “all or nothing” return to the classroom Aug. 13.
“We really don’t know what we’re going to be looking at. There are so many little details,” Jeffers said. “I’m a former elementary school teacher and I know those details can really cause havoc if they are not thought out totally and completely.”
Parents will have the option of signing up for a virtual learning management program through the first 10 days of August.
Wilson said approximately 5% of the student population across the county has signed up for the virtual learning management system.
“Basically, it is a computer-based instructional program,” Wilson said. “We just do not have the staff to run a full virtual teacher-led program and a full in-person school program.”
The computer curriculum will be set by a certified teacher working with the system on the specific modules that will be offered to students. There will not be direct, face-to-face instruction with a teacher on the computer.
“They will be in that mode for at least nine weeks,” Daniel said. “Then they would have the option to change.”
Wilson said there would be some staff assigned to work with the virtual learning management system but their primary function would be to make sure the technology was working properly.
“We didn’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going to happen three months from now,” Daniel said “You can’t make policy decisions based on what you don’t know ... Based on all the contact with parents, statistics, articles I’ve read, the long term effects of students not coming to school is more hazardous than coming back to school.”
Daniel said the system will use a $50,000 grant from Floyd Medical Center to help purchase masks for students and staff as well as personal protective equipment for teachers who want it.
“If they need a face shield, or a plastic shield in front of their desk, we’ll do whatever we can to protect our teachers and staff,” Daniel said.
Students will be encouraged to wear masks but will not be mandated to wear a face covering. Students will be provided masks but Daniel said that the board did not feel making it mandatory was the best option.