Meal delivery suspended for virtual students

By Taylor Boyd

Meal delivery for virtual students will not continue once the blended learning schedule begins on Sept. 14. But parents and students will be able to pick up two breakfasts and two lunches at schools on Mondays and Thursdays.

Students participating in the blended learning option may pick up their meals  during the virtual learning part of their schedule.

The Patrick County School Board on Aug. 27 also voted to require students to wear masks or face shields while on the buses.

Director of Operations Jason Wood said that with the social distance guidelines, 21 students can ride on a bus at a time, providing face masks are worn. Otherwise, only 7 students will be allowed on a bus at a time. Masks will be available on each bus, he added.

Wood also said that the school system now has a level response for disciplinary action for students who refuse to wear a mask or face shield.

“According to our handbook policy, Level One response means that students will be given a warning to put their masks back on. If they refuse or become defiant, that’s when it becomes a Tier Two response, and the parents are called to help the student comply and put their mask on,” Wood said.

He added that if the student becomes a repeat offender, then the student will be enrolled in the fully virtual option.

The buses also will follow a strict sanitation schedule to help ensure the safety of students.

School “buses will be cleaned after every route,” said Wood. “So, after the morning route they will be following our sanitation process of spraying the seats and letting the disinfection sit on the bus, air out, and air dry.” He added the same process would be used “after the afternoon route as well.”

If a bus is forced to quarantine, it will undergo contact tracing to see who could potentially be exposed to the virus.

Additionally, school buses will be treated as buildings, and follow requirements that include it being taken off a route for 24-hours. During that time, it will be sanitized and allowed to air out. It potentially would then resume transporting students.

The board plans to meet later this week to reevaluate the mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, because school officials estimated that only about five students have reported using them since the start of virtual learning. Wood said that school officials still hope to provide the mobile hotspots to the most needed areas in the county.

The county has 50 bus drivers under contract, and currently has more undergoing training.

“We’re always looking for substitute drivers,” said Wood, adding that “Patrick County is one of the few school divisions that pay drivers to get their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

If anyone is interested in receiving this training or applying for a substitute driver position, contact the Transportation Department and ask for the Director of Transportation, Derek Smith.

In other matters, the board learned the school division recently rolled out Traversa Ride 360, an app that can be used by parents to track school buses. The app can alert parents if buses are running behind schedule, and when students are to be dropped off.

“We came up with the idea in fall of last year and decided to move forward with it,” Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert said, and added that the app potentially could be used in the future by students so they do not have to wait for the bus in heavy rain or other inclement weather conditions.

While connectivity issues may thwart the widespread availability of the app for some parents, Gilbert noted the app also can be downloaded onto a computer by using the Chrome or Firefox browser.

The application and guidelines for the app can be found on the Patrick County Public Schools website.

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