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Danville students can return to classroom Oct. 12; Students will be in school buildings two days a week

Students in the Danville school district will have the option to return to the classroom beginning Oct. 12.

The Danville Board of Education voted to approve its Hybrid A/B phase-in plan for in-person instruction as recommended by Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald during Wednesday’s board meeting.

The A/B hybrid plan divides students into A and B groups. Students in group A will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays for face-to face instruction in the school building and have three days of distance learning. Students in group B will attend Thursdays and Fridays and have three days of distance learning.

Wednesdays will be reserved for deep cleaning of the school facilities, teacher planning, enrichment, intervention and some specialized face-to-face student services.

An abbreviated A/B hybrid plan starts Oct. 12, where half of the group A students attend classes on Monday, half on Tuesday, and half of group B students attend Thursday and half on Friday.

This first week of “transitioning” back into the classrooms will allow students, faculty and staff to see how the process will work and make any adjustments before the full plan goes into effect on Oct. 19.

“In my day it would have been called a good ol’ dry run,” said board member Wade Stanfield.

The hybrid model should continue through Nov. 24, as long as local COVID-19 positivity rates don’t cause the board to have students return to all online learning, McDonald explained.

The A/B plan goes into full effect Oct. 19 when students will attend classes in the school buildings on their designated days, and bus transportation will be available.

However, students and their families may still choose to continue with teacher-led distance learning or independent virtual learning.

The school board plans to meet again Nov. 9 and review all options for possible return to in-school instruction for the beginning of 2021.

Board members asked school principals if going back in a hybrid in-person learning model at the end of the nine-week grading period would be difficult. And all the principals agreed that getting students back in the buildings as soon as safely possible would be much better than waiting until the beginning of a new grading period.

Mary G. Hogsett Primary School Principal Suzanne Farmer said grading periods don’t impact the younger students. But teachers want to see their students in-person for accurate assessments of their progress.

Farmer said teachers were concerned about their students because they could sometimes hear parents whispering answers to their children during virtual assessments.

Edna Toliver Intermediate School Principal Robin Kelly said her teachers were more concerned about the academic rigor and participation of students than the grading period, and they wanted students in classrooms too.

Dr. Chris Murray, principal at John W. Bate Middle School, and Danville High School Principal Thad Elmore both agreed that having students back with their teachers before the end of the grading period would enable them to get extra instruction.

“The more we wait, the more behind they get,” Murray said.

McDonald said based on completed surveys by parents, a majority of them want their children to return to the classroom.

She also described how plans were in place for students’ daily temperature checks, how school nurses would isolate children who became sick at school, and how bus routes and bus seating charts were being developed to keep social distancing and accurate contact tracing possible.

Board chair Steve Becker said, “I feel comfortable with the plan as it is.”

In other business, the board:

  • Discussed the process of how public comments could be made during virtual and in-person board meetings.
  • Voted to hire Ross Tarrant Architects to work with the Danville Facilities Planning Committee on it’s four-year cycle review.
  • Heard an update of the board’s strategic plan, which included dropping its therapy dog pilot program.
  • Gave permission to seek bids from healthcare providers to conduct COVID-19 testing for all athletes, coaches and volunteers for athletics.