Surry students returning to classrooms

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Surry County students began returning to classrooms in recent weeks after months of virtual-only learning.

Pre-K through first-grade students, English language learners and select special education students returned to classrooms on Feb. 22. The next group, up to fourth-graders, returned to classrooms March 1. Fifth- and sixth-graders returned on March 8. Seventh- and eighth-graders are scheduled to come back on March 15, and ninth- through 12th-grade students on March 22.

“I am thankful for the successful transition of students back into our buildings,” Surry Superintendent Dr. Sebrenia Sims said in an email. “School buildings are so cold and sterile without the joy of students in the rooms and hallways. I hope that we never have to experience a situation like COVID-19 that requires us to shut our doors again. I look forward to bringing a degree of normalcy back to the lives of our students, families and community.”

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Under the current plan, students go to class Monday through Thursday. Friday is reserved for independent academic work that students do at their own pace on their own schedule, teacher planning and facility deep cleaning.

If in-person school attendance or bus transportation capacity exceeds guidelines set by the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control, Sims said the division may shift to a different plan to continue in-person learning. Under the second option, the return to classroom dates are the same but students will attend either on Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday while Friday continues to be for independent learning, teacher planning and cleaning.

Under both plans, “virtual learning will be an option for all families until the last day of school,” school officials said.

However, families choosing virtual instruction must have reliable internet access at home, school officials said. Paper packets and flash drives with school assignments will no longer be available to students once their grade level returns to in-person learning due to demands on teachers to handle both virtual and in-person learning.

“We realize that reliable internet access is a challenge for many families in Surry County,” officials said. In a June 2020 survey, school officials found that only 57% of families said they have reliable internet at home. To address that need, the school division offered personal hotspot devices for check out.

Wifi access points are available throughout the county to increase internet access for students. Wifi access will also be available from the outside of the Surry Elementary, Luther Porter Jackson Middle and Surry High school campuses.

Students attending in-person must practice social distancing. Their temperatures are checked each day upon arrival at the school building. Any student with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher is referred to the nurse, who conducts a health checklist to determine if the student can stay at school. Masks are required for all staff, students and visitors to school buildings and while on school buses.

Officials also said students attending school in-person will be held to the attendance policy for a normal school year.  Ahead of Surry’s last scheduled day of school for students on June 17, students on the virtual learning plan must attend all scheduled virtual class meetings and complete all assigned work to be counted present for the week.