Washington County, Va. School Board changes return-to-school plan

Keeping Schools Safe

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — The Washington County, Virginia School Board voted Monday night to change its back-to-school plan.

Under the new plan, students will transition to a hybrid schedule on Oct. 12.

This comes after the board approved a plan last week that had students going to a hybrid schedule beginning Oct. 26.

Students in PreK–3rd grade will return to school four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Students in 4th grade and above will return to a hybrid schedule, with group A going to school on Mondays and Tuesdays and group B going on Thursday and Fridays.

The move came amid pushback from parents who wanted their children to return to school sooner than Oct. 26.

“I feel like the student is the main component here and I feel like their needs are not getting met. They’re not getting what they need. They have been seven months without being face to face with a teacher,” said parent Heather Green whose daughter goes to Greendale Elementary. “I’m having to fill the extra gaps and she’s behind… we just got approved for an IEP so we’re still playing catch up.”

Just before the meeting, parents and students lined up outside central office urging leaders to bring students back to school full time.

“It’s just really hard on our family in general,” said parent Amanda Williams. “We own a business here in Abingdon and trying to run a business and teach our children when we really need a teacher.”

Only people who signed up to comment could go in one at a time. Parents and students listened to the live stream outside.

“I want to go back to school and I don’t want my future to be messed up for these past three  months. I want to back in school because I want to learn,” said Abingdon High School Senior Jake Thacker. “Last year’s seniors… they didn’t have the end of their senior year but we’re not even getting a start to a senior year.”

However, some teachers worried that students returning to school on Oct. 12 was too soon.

“On behalf of those of use who feel that there are still safety concerns that haven’t been addressed fully. We’re also deeply worried about what the hybrid model might mean for students who are already traumatized,” said teacher David Carroll. “Not only will the work load increase for the teachers, thus reducing the quality of the education, but students themselves – they’ll be happy to be back for a little bit and then they may really regret it.”

Inside the meeting- the board debated the pros and cons- at times getting emotional

“The choices I make have to be from the heart,” said board member Megan Hamilton tearfully. “And I want everyone in our community… and this is for myself included to know that I think… we are all working from the place of the heart to do the best thing for our community.”

During and after Monday night’s meeting, several board members and even some teachers said they were disheartened by the level of division within the community about students returning to school.

“I’m really disturbed that people have criticized our looking out for teachers as somehow being a conflict for looking out for students. That just pains me,” said board member Elizabeth Lowe. “We this board- need to get over selves and out of the way as far as I’m concerned and let education happen according to the plan.”

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