Bristol, Va. Public Schools updates plan after governor orders schools closed for rest of academic year

Local Coronavirus Coverage

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bristol, Virginia Public Schools has released an updated coronavirus response plan after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered schools across the state to remain closed through the end of the academic year.

This comes after the governor previously ordered a two-week school closure.

“This does not mean that learning has ended for the school year, only that we will deliver instruction in a non-traditional way,” said Bristol, Virginia Public Schools Superintendent Keith Perrigan in a letter to faculty and staff. “Although, we know that our students are best served when our teachers have face to face contact with them, I have no doubt that we can provide an adequate and equitable education to our students during the next several weeks.”

Perrigan released the following plan for addressing the governor’s latest mandate. He pointed out that this is a preliminary plan and is subject to change.

Delivery of Instruction

We will provide information tomorrow about how we will continue to deliver instruction to our students, in an equitable manner, for the remainder of the year. Keep in mind that we students have been exposed to most of the material they are required to learn throughout the course of the year because of the pacing guides we follow. The amount of new material that is required to be learned for the remainder of the year is certainly manageable. We will be making several modifications to our delivery model to ensure equity. We have decided to purchase a division license of Schoology for Teachers and Students to ensure that we increase access to academic resources. We are also working to improve our plan to ensure that all students have equitable access to the remaining curriculum and to the delivery of instruction.

Spring Break

This paragraph will seem strange because with schools remaining closed for the remainder of the year, a discussion of Spring Break doesn’t seem necessary. However, for payroll and school nutrition reasons, we do have to address that part of our school schedule. I currently plan to recommend to our School Board that we cancel Spring Break. Students will not be penalized for not participating in instructional activities during this time. However, if students want to continue working on assignments that are provided by their teachers, they are welcome to do so. Additionally, all hourly staff who choose to work will be able to do so, following their current schedule. Changes to work assignments may be necessary. Hourly employees who choose not to work during the days originally scheduled for Spring Break will not receive compensation, but will not be penalized for that decision otherwise. Employees who earn leave, may use leave time during this period if they so choose. Officially canceling Spring Break will enable us to continue to serve meals to our students and to provide work opportunities and income for our hourly employees. 

Meal Service

Beginning Wednesday March 25, 2020 the School Nutrition Department will distribute a Breakfast and Lunch meal at 12:00 noon to any child age 1-18 who is interested. We will no longer offer two separate deliveries after Tuesday, March 24. We will continue to use the same pickup locations as last week. 

Bristol Virginia Public Schools has reduced operations to Monday – Thursday only. Beginning Thursday Mach 26, 2020 the School Nutrition Department will distribute 2 Breakfast and 2 Lunch meals, at 12 Noon every Thursday. Again, there will be no Friday delivery of meals. Friday’s meals will be delivered on Thursday.

Special Education

We will be working with VDOE for guidance on how we will provide the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for our students with disabilities.  We are permitted to provide services virtually, online and over the phone—however, we need to provide equitable access.  As we receive information/guidance from USDOE and VDOE, we will meet together to discuss our plan. In the meantime, please be thinking of ways that you will be providing services for your students.

VHSL Spring Sports and Activities

The VHSL announced today that all Spring Sports and Activities have been canceled. We are heartbroken for our athletes and other participants.

Other Spring Activities

Our focus continues to be that we will provide traditional spring events to our students, especially our Seniors. All non-VHSL spring activities are currently postponed or on hold. We will make decisions about these activities on a case by case basis.

Additional Leave Granted by Federal Government

Effective March 30, 2020, all regularly employed staff will receive ten (10), paid Emergency Leave Days (converted to hours). Employees are eligible to utilize the Emergency Leave Days if they meet any one of the following circumstances:

  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
  5. The employee is caring for a son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

You will request the Emergency Leave as you would any other leave (Aesop, Executime or ESS).  Any employee utilizing Emergency Leave must have an “Employee Not Working During COVID-19” form on file with the Finance department.  Employees should contact their supervisor to assure this form has been completed on their behalf.

Hourly Employees

During the required closure, and as long as we are not shut down by Governor and Federal Order, BVPS will continue to keep as many hourly staff working who wish to work.  We will be on a four-day work schedule until further notice.  As long as an employee works or takes leave for the four scheduled workdays, Friday will be a paid day.  Other alternative schedules cannot be approved at this time.

BVPS has created the attached spreadsheet to assist hourly staff in their time reporting.  Any specific questions should be addressed to Tammy Jones, tmjones@bvps.org or 276-821-5625.

Future Considerations

We do not anticipate a mandated closure of BVPS.  However, in order to minimize speculation and other “what-ifs”, should there be a mandated shut down of buildings, some hourly staff would be put on layoff status.  Again, we do NOT anticipate a mandated closure of BVPS and will continue to do our best to ensure hourly employees have an opportunity to work if they so choose.

Unemployment Resources

For employees who are choosing not to work at this time, you may be eligible for Unemployment Benefits. Use the call line (1-866-832-2363) or the website (www.vawc.virginia.gov) and click on the blue box on the right “UNEMPLOYED – complete your UI claim”.  Staff would use the “lack of work” option as the reason for the claim and it would be constituted as a layoff.

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