Surry schools to start virtually

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Surry County Public Schools will start the year with virtual learning, the school board decided Aug. 3.

In a social media announcement, the school division said that “this decision was guided by a concern for the health and safety of our students and staff, as COVID-19 rates increase both nationally and locally.”

The school system said more information about the move will be provided when available.

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The first day of school in Surry is set for Sept. 8. The board’s decision will directly affect about 740 students and 200 full-time contracted staff. No athletics or extracurricular activities will be offered under the current reopening plan, but students will receive take-home technology — iPads or Chromebooks depending on grade level.

Several reopening scenarios were considered. In addition to 100% virtual learning, school officials had also considered three days of in-person teaching and one day of virtual learning, as well as dividing students into two groups who would attend school on an A/B schedule. Surry had also considered traditional in-person instruction without social distancing measures, although mitigation strategies such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing would have been implemented.

Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims sent surveys to families in June to get feedback on the options. Forty-six percent of families who responded said they were comfortable with virtual instruction, while 37.5% were uncomfortable with that approach.

Survey respondents also indicated that access to reliable, high speed internet was also a challenge. The school division recently announced that it plans to install 10 Wi-Fi hotspots around the county. The project is possible thanks to a $13,000 donation from sustainable power company sPower.