As students and parents across the county close in on the end of the school year—one that has played out very differently from the way anyone likely predicted—there is one question they are probably asking on a daily, if not hourly, basis: what is going to happen in the fall?
While Gov. Ralph Northam told reporters earlier this month he remains optimistic that Virginia students could be returning to school as early as August, provided current measures continue to slow the coronovirus outbreak that prompted schools across the nation to shutter last March, some Goochland parents said that still have many concerns about how that return will play out.
In response to a question posted by The Gazette on the Goochland Moms Facebook page, some cautioned that the lack of access to high speed internet in many areas of the county is an issue that will have to be worked if schools remain closed, while others were concerned about reopening schools too quickly.
“I’m frightened of my children sitting in enclosed spaces with shared air for hours a day as recent contact tracing evidence is showing that as very dangerous regardless of social distance,” said Peggy Finsk. “If I have the choice, I probably won’t send them unless this whole thing is under control (meaning, a thorough understanding of contagiousness, effective precautions, asymptomatic and symptomatic identification, treatment, and contact tracing) which I am hopeful for but wary to expect.
To Goochland resident Wes Royer, the best approach might be one tailored to individual families’ needs. “Parents who are not trained professional teachers and may already have jobs cannot be expected to be ad-hoc home-school teachers much longer,” Royer said. “And realizing that not all families have access to affordable high-speed internet access, another option could be to offer a hybrid approach where parents can elect to send their kids to school or continue virtually, streaming or web-conferencing in-person classes to remote students. Universities and community colleges figured this out several years ago and have continued with less disruption, and now public K-12 may need to do the same as both an emergency option and as a new normal. In short, we need more than one approach; we need smart options.”
Goochland County School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley told school board members on May 12 that the decision to reopen schools is one that will be ultimately made at the state level, and that any steps Goochland takes will be made with the safety of students and staff as the top priorities.
Raley told school board members he understood how much anxiety and uncertainty residents are feeling, and noted that conversations about next steps are happening on a daily basis.
Among his own top concerns, Raley said, are internet capabilities for students while schools remain closed, as well as being able to provide the needed personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies once schools open.
Regardless of what the next few months hold, Raley said, the ultimate objective remains getting students and teachers back in the classroom.
Learning will continue no matter where it takes place, he said, “but I do look forward to the time when we are all back together again.”