BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a new task force to address the next steps for schools across the Commonwealth Monday afternoon. News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais spoke with one member of that task force in Bristol.
Bristol, Va. City Schools Superintendent Keith Perrigan is one of the Southwest Virginia representatives on the task force aiming to offer insight on the state’s reopening plans.
“So, we’ve been working actually for several weeks trying to come up with a plan that will enable our students and our staff to return to school in the fall, we’ve maybe got a couple of weeks before we’ll send our report in but we’ve been working really hard trying to make sure that whatever manner it is that we come back to school, that we’re well prepared and our students and our staff know what to expect,” he said.
Different scenarios are under scrutiny for the time being.
“I think we’re probably looking at six different options for returning to schools…the first three would be returning to school at the normal time and either doing a normal return to school, every student in every class comes to school as normal, returning to school completely remotely, in other words, starting next school year exactly the way we finished this one, with students learning online, and then the third option would be to start on time but to to it in a hybrid, so in other words, students with last names A through F may come on Monday, G through L would come on Tuesday and so forth,” Perrigan explained. “The other three options would be moving the start of the school year further into the fall and doing one of those three things as well.”
Perrigan said he has a certain vision for the next academic year.
“So, one of the things that I’ve advocated for as part of my work on this committee is that we are able to make those decisions either by division or at least regionally,” he said. “We are willing to do whatever it takes to regain as close to normal access to our students as we can.”
He added that he hopes the COVID-19 pandemic will have subsided enough come Fall, that they can reopen.
“Remote learning has been fine for the last few weeks of school, but we know that our students have not gained the learning and the knowledge that they need to be completely successful at that next level and so we’re really anxious to get our hands back on our students but we want to do so in a safe and healthy way,” Perrigan said. “We certainly don’t want to push the envelope, but if our region is ready to reopen this fall, I would certainly advocate for that.”
Perrigan said that he doesn’t think Virginia has the capacity to do daily or even regular testing of every faculty member at every school in the Commonwealth, but he said COVID-19 screening questions could be asked of every student and faculty member.
“We’re going to have to have some really tight sanitation protocols that we’ll have to be following,” he said.
Debbet Pearson is a grandmother of several students in that school system and she told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that she does not like the idea of reopening.
“I know that they need to be in school but right now is not the time,” she said. “I mean, they didn’t close the world down for nothing. It’s real, the virus is real, and everybody should take it seriously.”
Tristan Burke is a father of two little girls in the same school system and he disagrees.
“I think they should go back to school as long as the schools continue to do cleaning everyday like they’re supposed to be and like they’ve been doing,” Burke said. “I believe that the kids will be more than capable of going back to school. I think they will enjoy it better socially and academically so the children do not fall behind.”
Perrigan said he is confident school reopening guidelines for the Commonwealth will be available soon.