Roanoke City middle and high schoolers back in class as challenges remain

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Roanoke, Virginia (WDBJ)-This week in Roanoke, thousands of middle school and high school students returned to the classroom for the first time in months.

Officials say this is part of the reopening plan for the third quarter, and it is progressing well so far. According to the plan, it is hoped that middle school students who go to middle school can return to class two days a week, Monday to Tuesday or Wednesday to Thursday. The school district stated that it has been able to maintain a six-foot social distancing and installed plastic protective panels around student desks.

Data released at the school board budget seminar on Tuesday night showed that just over 1,800 high school students chose to return to class, about half of the number of students. The rest remain virtual.

At the last minute, about 300 students switched from face-to-face learning to virtual learning. Officials speculate that this is due to the increase in COVID cases in the region, but there is no hard data to support it.

A few students switched to another way.

William Fleming High School principal Archie Freeman said: "This situation changes every day because some people are still looking for what is best for them."

The return of more students face to face requires the transfer of teachers from the area and the redesign of bus routes. Chris Perkins said that since January 22, Durham School Services, which is responsible for transportation in the area, has "performed nearly 600 bus replacements." Perkins is the chief operating officer of the region.

But as the students return, some staff are moving away. Currently, 123 staff members have been provided accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"90 is a teacher. In the second nine weeks, there were 12 more." Perkins said.

Perkins said that 207 workers have taken protective measures under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires employers to provide accommodation during the pandemic, such as emergency paid sick leave.

At the meeting on Tuesday, regional leaders said that they are also looking forward to this summer, preparing multiple programs, including summer schools, to help lagging students.

"We have to deal with the loss of learning," Archie Freeman said.

As more and more RCPS students and staff test positive for the virus, the academic burden is heavy.

In the past two days, the school district has reported that 16 students and 12 faculty and staff have tested positive.

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