Teachers are getting a 2% raise
At their regular meeting on Tuesday night, the Rappahannock County School Board unanimously decided to move forward with a plan to resume in-person classes starting on Jan. 5. Wakefield representative Chris Ubbin was absent but the four board members in attendance voted unequivocally to adopt Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley’s proposed approach.
In a survey sent out to both parents and teachers, respondents were asked to weigh in on the decision. The majority of both parents and teachers favored the return to in-person lessons. Dr. Grimsley shared comments from teachers as well as parents.
Some parents were eager to “go back to the way it was before COVID,” while others preferred waiting to “observe how flu season works with the current schedule.”
Teachers also responded with a variety of perspectives. “My only students that are making the progress expected of them at this point are those attending 4 days,” wrote one teacher.
Another responded: “I think we should do what we are doing until January and look at things again to see how we can finish out the school year. There are a lot of schools trying to do too much too soon and then they have to start back at square one. We seem to have found a plan that is working for Rappahannock. … We are in this together!”
Grimsley made it very clear that the reopening would be contingent on Rappahannock meeting the benchmarks set forth by the Virginia Department of Health.
Recently the VDH released an improved COVID-19 dashboard geared towards helping school divisions statewide make informed decisions about reopening amid the pandemic. The dashboard compiles local metrics with assessments of transmission risk.
“We’re going to do this very cautiously,” Grimsley said.
The second semester plan will bring students back into the public schools in phases starting with the most vulnerable learners. If all goes according to plan, kindergarten through second grade will start in January, third through fifth graders will return starting in February and students in sixth through twelfth grades will return in March.
Currently, RCPS is following a “hybrid model” of schooling, wherein all students attend schools two days a week. One half of the school attends on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half attends on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are reserved as a universal remote-learning day to allow for deep cleaning between groups and to give teachers an opportunity to focus on lesson planning for remote and in-person models.
“Obviously you’re going to need the flexibility to move with the data in either direction without another board meeting,” said School Board Chair Wes Mills.
Here’s what else you missed at Tuesday night’s School Board Meeting.
Youth mental health
During September, Dr. Carol Johnson, Executive Director of Special Education for RCPS, reported that calls to suicide hotlines spiked among area youth. “Fortunately, here in Rappahannock County we are ahead of the curve in addressing these needs for our students. … The addition of our school social worker and behavior specialist put us in a good position to help our students,” Dr. Johnson said.
Dr. Johnson added that September was Suicide Prevention and Awareness month and over the past few weeks RCPS Social Worker Kathy Sickler has been meeting with high school students to talk about early warning signs and make sure students have appropriate supports in place.
Wellness Center counseling
Wellness Center head Susan Stoltzman delivered a report with the news that a licensed mental health provider is currently available to students at both the elementary and the high schools one day a week. Stoltzman said that the plan is to increase the availability of that service in the coming months.
Commit To Be Fit report
In year three of the Commit to Be Fit program funded by the PATH Foundation, Rappahannock County Schools focused on mindful minutes, integrating movement into school curricula and changing the community culture. The program engaged with the community to motivate Rappahannock residents to walk more through its “Step On Hunger” initiative.
Holly Jenkins explained that “Step On Hunger” challenged the county to collectively walk 2,800 miles — the distance between Rappahannock and San Francisco. “We thought it would take months to reach that goal,” Jenkins said. “But it only took 12 days.”
In fact, Rappahannock residents walked all the way to Australia and donated 1,500 pounds of food to the Rappahannock County Food Pantry.
“We were blown away by the engagement from the community. It was really wonderful,” Jenkins said.
Learn more about the Commit To Be Fit initiative at www.rappc2bf.com
Additional CRF funds
The Virginia General Assembly recently doled an additional $128,000 in Coronavirus Relief Fund money to Rappahannock County Schools.
The funding will be put towards HVAC upgrades in both elementary and high schools to improve filtration and decontamination.
Teachers get raise
The School Board decided Tuesday night to reward all RCPS teachers with a two-percent raise for their hard work during the pandemic, effective in December. “We will never truly be able to pay teachers what they are worth,” Grimsley said. “Our teachers work harder than any other people I’ve seen.”
The After School Enrichment Program run by the Headwaters Foundation is returning to RCES on Tuesday, Oct. 20 and will continue through the semester until Dec. 17. The program will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays directly after school until 5:30 p.m. The cost for the semester is $40, but scholarships are available.
If you would like to register your child or if you have questions, reach out to Program Director Brooke Lange at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (540) 227-5170.