The Waynesboro School Board invited kindergarteners back for in-person instruction starting Oct. 19 during Tuesday’s meeting, and other grade levels will slowly begin to come back in a hybrid-model with the goal of a fully hybrid start to the second semester in January.
Waynesboro Superintendent Jeffrey Cassell recommended the action to the board, who unanimously approved it. Parents of kindergarten students will have the option of whether their child returns to school. Cassell said 70% of parents elected for in-person learning as of this point.
Kindergarten teachers will not have to worry about teaching in two systems at once because there are enough teachers to split the workload, according to Cassell.
“We have identified dedicated virtual teachers to teach the kindergarten students who choose virtual,” he said. “So those teachers will not be doing two types of instruction. Principals have contacted our families, informed them of their options and detailed our mitigation strategies which are significant.”
Friday marks the end of the first nine-week grading period, and students who struggled will be contacted and asked if they would like to return in person, Cassell said.
“Our principals have identified students who are not successful and who are failing to engage with their schoolwork each day and contacting those families to ask the students to come into the building,” Cassell said. “We believe this will improve their opportunities for success and allow us to supervise and monitor their work better.”
Cassell said Waynesboro’s hybrid model will look different than the hybrid systems other school districts are using. The plan is to get as many students back into the buildings as possible in a safe manner, he said.
Things such as the number of students in classrooms will be evaluated case-by-case based on how many desks can fit into a classroom with proper distance between them, he said.
“There are no definite rules in this,” he said. “In general, school divisions have decided that you open, and you stay open with the schools that are not having any issues because this is not going away this school year. We’re in this until June or July, almost certainly. We have just got to get the students back into the building as often as we can.”
Besides reopening, the school board announced a new solar energy project partnership with Secure Futures, which will be performed on Wenonah Elementary School and Berkeley Glen School, which will save the schools around $955,000. Other Waynesboro schools received this treatment last year, but these two did not because of the state of their roofs, but this is no longer an issue, Cassell said.
Ben Craft is an education and sports reporter for The News Virginian. Follow him on Twitter @craftybenjamin.
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