School board members weigh in on their vote

By Taylor Boyd

School board members discussed the reasons for their vote on a motion to allow students to return to the classroom on Sept. 14.

Board chairman Brandon Simmons, of the Dan River District, was among the majority voting for the option at the Aug. 27 meeting because the all-virtual option was not working for many students.

“With the online-only, the problem is that it is not reaching enough kids in the system to give them a good education,” Simmons said. “There’s just too many problems with this virtual school.”

Simmons said that he would continue to support the blended learning option, reconsidering the all-virtual option only if the number of COVID-19 cases in the county forces the division to do so.

Walter Scott, vice chairman and of the Smith River District, said he prefers students return to the classroom full-time, and the blended option is a step in that direction.

There are many “worse things than the coronavirus for kids,” Scott said, adding that youngsters learn better in school. He would only vote to return to the all-virtual plan if necessary.

Scott said he hopes parents have returning students practice wearing masks at home. Masks are required on buses and in schools.

Shannon Harrell, of the Blue Ridge District, said that she voted for the blended schedule because “case numbers are down since that Aug. 17 meeting” in which the board last considered the blended option.

Harrell also said “there’s many students that the virtual isn’t working for. Whether its internet issues or just not being able to connect.”

She said the blended system gives parents a choice of whether they want to send their child to the classroom or continue with the all-virtual model.

Harrell said she would vote to return to an all-virtual model under certain conditions. For instance, a spike in the number of cases in the county, health officials recommend an all-virtual option, or if there are staffing issues related to the virus.

Amy Walker of the Mayo River District, said that she wants youngsters to return to class more than just two days a week, and feels like the current blended schedule is baby steps to that end.

Being in school is important for a child’s development and their ability to learn because most learn better in a classroom setting, she said.

The “things kids are missing out on outweigh their chances of catching the virus,” Walker said, adding that she would only support returning to the all-virtual only option if there was a sizeable number of COVID-19 cases in the school system or county.

Ryan Lawson, of the Peters Creek District, voted present on the motion to offer the blended option because he said he felt that there are still too many COVID-19 cases in the county to go back to school safely.

He also said the number of positive cases may be higher than the number presented at the meeting because the county’s urgent care facility has run out of tests.

Lawson said he also believes that the blended schedule will be more difficult for families and teachers than the all-virtual model.

“I don’t believe that teachers are going to be able to handle those virtual and blended at the same time,” Lawson said. “That’s pretty difficult. It’s a lot to ask of the teachers.”


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