In a narrow 3-2 vote Friday, members of the Patrick County School Board decided to begin classes virtually on Aug. 11 and re-evaluate on Aug. 27.
The initial plan included two options — a virtual option and a part-time classroom option, with two groups of youngsters attending classes at least two days each week.
But the events of the past seven working days prompted Patrick County Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert to recommend beginning with an all virtual option.
During that time frame, four people in the school community tested positive for COVID-19, school officials have said.
Several other people in the school community are in quarantine after potential exposure to the virus and/or developing symptoms, according to discussions at the meeting. Additionally, an outbreak also was reported at a local long-term care facility.
Board members debated virtual versus in-class instruction, with all reaching an informal consensus that in-class is the preferred method.
However, the pandemic has prompted concerns about potential staffing shortages, quarantine measures and closures if or when students and/or staff become ill or test positive for the virus, and other issues.
“We don’t have the right perfect plan, no matter which way we go,” Brandon Simmons, chairman of the Patrick County School Board, said during the discussion.
Walter Scott, of the Smith River District, made a motion to hold all classes virtually.
Simmons seconded the motion that also was supported by Shannon Harrell, of the Blue Ridge District.
Amy Walker, of the Mayo River District, and Ryan Lawson, of the Peters Creek District, voted against the measure.
Walker said she is concerned about depression and other mental health disorders.
Lawson favored using the first week of school as an orientation period to ensure that everything is in place for students and staff.
See the Aug. 2 edition of The Enterprise for additional meeting coverage.