Roanoke County Public Schools continues to work closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in monitoring the status of the virus and is following current guidance from the VDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Stay up to date with the Coronavirus- see the CDC special website dedicated to Coronavirus and the Va. Department of Health special website for Coronavirus.
Update message for parents (March 2, 2021)
Dear parents, families, and students:
After several weeks of winter weather, it is beginning to feel a little more like Spring this week. I know we all welcome the warmer temperatures outside and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
As promised in my February 7 message, RCPS staff has been working with principals to explore options for further schedule expansions. The goal of this assessment has been to determine if conditions are right for expanding in-person learning days for remaining students currently on the hybrid schedule. This assessment was presented to our School Board this evening at their work session and we want to provide important details to our students and families.
We began this school year with much uncertainty and many unknowns. The RCPS Expandable Schedule Plan adopted by our School Board provided a starting point to have as many students as possible return to school for in-person learning and for as many days as possible under the conditions presented at that time. Our commitment throughout this school year has been to move forward in a safe and responsible manner, following guidance provided by CDC, Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). Thanks to the hard work and support of families, students, teachers, administrators, and staff, Roanoke County Public Schools has been successful in keeping schools open for in-person learning throughout the year, even with major schedule expansions along the way. With the experience that our schools and students now have, and with favorable changes coming together related to the pandemic, the time is right to enter the last phase of the Expandable Schedule Plan.
First, here are the details of the new expanded school schedule:
Students in Grade 5 will have a virtual learning day to give 5th grade teachers time for transition.
Students in Grade 5 currently on a hybrid schedule will begin attending 4 days per week.
Students in Grades 6-12 will have a virtual learning day to give teachers time for transition.
Students in Grades 6-12 currently on a hybrid schedule will begin attending 4 days per week
*Classroom teachers in Grades 5-12 will continue to teach students learning 100% online, requiring a 4-day schedule for students, rather than five. Students currently on the hybrid schedule may change to 100% online by notifying the school no later than March 15. Students currently learning 100% online may change to the new in-person schedule, on a space-available basis, by notifying the school no later than March 15.
Why Now? The Governor and the Virginia Department of Education are encouraging school districts to further expand in-person learning opportunities as we enter the Spring, and have made it clear that all school districts will be returning to full-day, in-person learning for all students next school year. COVID metric for our area are trending downward and have decreased to the moderate level. The availability of vaccinations for staff, as well as senior citizens, decreases risk of serious illness. Most students are achieving academically, but pediatricians across Virginia, including locally, continue to report dramatically increased cases of mental health concerns in children and adolescents. CDC and VDH guidelines encourage 6-foot distancing to the extent possible, but it is acceptable to go as low as 3-foot distancing, if needed, to have more students attend in person, as long as face masks are properly worn. Finally, our schools now have months of experience in implementing mitigation strategies and knowing that students cooperate with the requirements. On balance, the risk of COVID is still present, but the risk has become outweighed by evidence that the time is right to make this change.
How will RCPS fit all remaining students, currently on a hybrid schedule, into classes? Expanding in this manner will require several changes in our current plan and we want to make sure parents and families clearly understand these changes.
- Face masks will continue to be required on buses, and in schools, and must be properly worn.
- On some buses, students will be seated two per seat, rather than the current one per seat.
- Parents who can drive students to school are asked to continue doing so. Thank you—this has been a huge help!
- In classrooms, students will be seated at 6-foot distances to the extent possible, but, in many classrooms, students will be seated at 3-foot distances, wearing face masks.
- Classroom seating will not be arranged with distances less than 3 feet between students.
- Lunches will be altered in such a way that students will not be eating in classrooms with all students unmasked at the same time. The way in which this is done will vary by school.
To be clear, when cases do arise in our schools, the VDH requirements for quarantining remain the same, and are based on 6-foot distancing, even when masks are worn. Therefore, more students have the potential for being quarantined when a case arises since there will more likely be students seated within 6 feet of the student who tested positive. As cases continue to decline, however, the incidences of needing to quarantine will decline as well.
We understand that the changes required to expand in-person learning will cause concern for some parents, students, and teachers. We do not make this decision lightly, and the expansion is only being done after careful consideration of CDC and VDH guidance, various points of view, and the data. The VDOE has reassured school divisions that the prevailing VDH guidance is that 3-foot distances are acceptable as long as face masks are worn and worn properly. This guidance, within the context of changing conditions, has tipped the scale in favor of moving forward with this plan at this time.
We also understand that many parents, students, and teachers will be thrilled to have most students back in school for in-person learning four or five days per week, depending on the grade level. Again, we have concluded that the time is right.
We do want to echo the pleas of public health officials who caution that, while schools are safe places to be, everyone needs to continue to observe public health guidelines in the community to ensure that the numbers continue trending downward. The ability of school divisions to maintain expanded in-person learning depends on it.
Thank you to all parents and families for your extensive support of your children and our schools. Please also join me in thanking our RCPS teachers and staff for their hard work and flexibility. If you have specific questions about how the expanded schedule will affect your child, please contact your child’s school.
Hopeful and Sincerely,
Ken Nicely, Ed.D.
Roanoke County Public Schools
Update message for parents (Feb. 7)
On Friday, Governor Northam made an announcement and issued a letter to Virginia superintendents and school boards regarding in-person learning for the current school year. In his letter, the Governor expressed his appreciation to schools across the Commonwealth. “I know you are working hard to keep students and staff safe, while delivering instruction in new and unforeseen ways. This has been a unique and difficult academic year, and Virginia is grateful for your service to students, parents, and your communities,” wrote the Governor. We appreciate the Governor’s acknowledgment that two-thirds of Virginia’s school divisions, including Roanoke County Public Schools, have demonstrated the ability to safely open schools for in-person learning while following the recommended safety mitigation strategies to protect students, teachers, and staff. Those safety measures include physical distancing, face masks, contact tracing, and active screening. Taken together, these mitigation strategies have worked and Roanoke County Public Schools is proud to be among the school divisions that have been open for in-person learning all year and have stayed open all year without any school closures. This has been no small effort, and has been successful thanks to teachers, staff, students, and families working together.
For the 40 Virginia school divisions that currently are not offering any in-person instruction options, the Governor announced that he is urging those school divisions to take steps toward making in-person learning options available by March 15, in accordance with the public health and safety guidance, beginning with identified vulnerable populations such as younger students through grade 3 and students with daily special education and English language learners. Even though Roanoke County Public Schools has met and exceeded these expectations since August, we have continued to maximize in-person learning opportunities while following the mitigation strategies and consulting weekly with our local public health officials. All students in Grades PK-4 may now attend in-person five days per week, thanks to the creative ways our teachers and principals have used spaces and staff. All students in Grades 5-12 have had the opportunity to attend in-person on the hybrid schedule, and opportunities have been expanded for identified populations to attend four days per week.
COVID vaccination programs for all staff have begun, and the Governor and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) have encouraged school divisions to further expand in-person schedules, once all staff members have had the opportunity to receive both vaccine doses. We will be working with our principals and state officials to explore expanded opportunities for Spring as well as optional summer programs for identified students. The Governor and the VDOE have announced that attendance waivers will not be granted for the 2021-2022 school year, and we fully expect to open the new school year with daily in-person instruction for all grades which will be made possible with relaxed physical distancing, while likely continuing with other mitigation strategies.
COVID metrics are starting to head in the right direction, vaccinations programs are expanding, and the Governor and other state and national officials have affirmed that what we are doing is working. We ask everyone in our community to continue to do their part to help stop the spread and keep our kids in school. Please keep wearing your face masks.
Thank you again to our teachers and staff for caring for our students, problem solving, keeping our students safe, and continuously going the extra mile. Thank you to our parents and families for standing in the gap, driving your children to school, making sure schoolwork is completed, and supporting our teachers. . Thank you to our students for your positive attitudes, flexibility, steadfastness, and resourcefulness. Patience and resilience have certainly been required by all but we are moving forward.
Ken Nicely, Ed.D.
Roanoke County Public Schools
Update message for parents (Jan. 9)
Dear parents and families:
We want to begin by wishing each of you a happy new year. As I stated in my December update just before Winter Break, we remain hopeful for brighter days ahead. With COVID-19 vaccinations beginning in our area and heightened awareness of the importance of wearing facemasks in public, there is reason to be optimistic that community spread will begin to decline in the new year and we can continue slowly and safely working toward more daily in-person student attendance. We continue to communicate weekly with the regional health department to understand current data and guidelines. Both our regional health department and state health and education officials are encouraging in-person student attendance as long as our mitigation measures continue to be followed, including 6-ft physical distancing and masks. To that end, we are maximizing in-person attendance, using available space and staff, while following public health guidance.
As promised in my December 18 message, plans have been developed to have more students attend in person beginning in late January, following public health guidelines. These plans were presented to our School Board on Tuesday at their work session and, now that a few more details have been finalized, we want to provide this update. I want to thank our School Board for their support of our plan and for their commitment to the health and safety of students and staff. Dates and agendas for School Board meetings are found on the School Board page of the RCPS website and you are invited to watch meetings, live or recorded, at this page.
Here are the details of the new expanded school schedule:
- Beginning January 25, all 4th graders on the hybrid schedule, will begin attending 5 days per week, Monday-Friday.
- On January 21-22, 4th graders will not attend school in order to give our teachers time to prepare and relocate classes as needed.
Since in-person 4th graders will attend 5 days per week, 4th graders who are participating in 100% online learning will be assigned new teachers dedicated to online students.
- All students in grades K-12 currently participating in 100% online learning have the option of switching to in-person learning beginning January 25, based on available space. Please contact your child's principal no later than January 15 to make that request.
- Students in grades 5-12 who are receiving English Language or daily special education services, or who are failing a class, will attend in person 4 days per week, beginning January 21.
SUMMARY OF NEW EXPANDED RCPS SCHEDULE
Jan 15: Deadline for notifying school if you want to switch from 100% online to in person
Jan 18: Martin Luther King Holiday (Monday)
Jan 20: All Monday hybrid students attend on Wednesday
Jan 21: No 4th graders attend in person
Jan 21: Students grades 5-12 on vulnerable list begin attending in person (M,T,Th,F)
Jan 22: No 4th graders attend in person
Jan 25: All 4th graders on hybrid schedule begin attending daily (M-F)
Thank you to all parents and families for your extensive support of your children and our schools. Please also join me in thanking our RCPS teachers and staff for their hard work and flexibility. If you have questions about how the expanded schedule will affect your child, please contact your child’s school.
Hopeful and Sincerely,
Ken Nicely, Ed.D.
Roanoke County Public Schools