Board modifies Sussex County Public Schools’ re-opening strategy

By Terry Harris

At their March 11 meeting, the Sussex County School Board approved a recommendation by Superintendent Dr. Arthur L. Jarrett, Jr. which made an adjustment to their previous School Re-Opening Instructional Continuation Plan 2020-2021. 

The move, which he later described as part of a constantly evolving adaptation to a situation in flux, will increase to four the number of days that students in Pre-K, Kindergartten, First and Second Grades whose parents opt for Hybrid (Face-To-Face) Instructional Platform: Option I will be attending classes on campus. 

“Since we have been able to look at those grades more since the original plan the board voted in on February 25,” Jarrett later explained, “We have ascertained that when those students return on April 26, they will be able to safely attend for four days a week.” 

“I think our students learn best in a face-to-face environment,” Jarrett continued, explaining the shift in the plan.  “So, we have been anticipating the best and safest time to bring the students and staff back in, and as we move forward, we are still looking for the best and most safe ways to advance.”

“As we open with the Middle and High School,” he added, “we will be looking to see when we can open them to a four-day week as well.”

With that adjustment, here is the current plan for Sussex County Public Schools to reopen for on-campus in-person learning.

March 15, 2021 - Phase II-A: Specialty Groups may transition to Hybrid (Face-To-Face) teaching and learning.  These include Rowanty Technical Education Students, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School Students, BREC Academy, Rivermont, Believe-NU, CODE RVA Students, Specialized Youth Services, Richard Bland Community College – Early College and John Tyler Community College.

April 13, 2021 - Phase II-B: Staff Transition to Hybrid (Face-To-Face) In-service.

April 26, 2021 - Elementary School Students Transition to Hybrid (Face-To-Face) learning,

-       PreK, kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2 on campus four days a week, one day online/virtual learning.

-       Grades 3, 4, and 5 on campus two days a week, online/virtual instruction three days a week.

May 3, 2021 - Middle School Students Grades 6,7,8 Transition to Hybrid (Face-To-Face) in-school learning two days a week, online/virtual three days a week.

May 3, 2021 - High School Students Grades 9-12 Transition to Hybrid (Face-To-Face) in-schoollearning two days a week, online/virtual three days per week.

Dr. Jarrett emphasized that returning to face-to-face instruction is strictly voluntary as students and parents can choose either  A) Hybrid (Face-To-Face) Instructional Platform: Option I wherein students will attend school two days per week for Face-to-Face, In-Person Learning and receive Virtual Teaching three days per week or B) Virtual Instructional Platform: Option II which will mean the students will continue to receive ALL instruction from teachers in a completely Virtual Learning platform five days per week.

“We’ll know that we’ll have various other changes going forward,” Jarratt said.

“And the response of our parents is part of what drives what we do as we make decisions and changes,” elaborated Director of Human Resources Adrienne Stephenson. “That, along with CDC recommendations relating to how high the covid numbers are in the county, in large part determines what we will be able to recommend to the board for the classrooms.”

“For example,” she continued, “increasing the number of days that our younger students who opt for Instructional Platform Option I will be able to come on campus for face-to-face learning was largely based on the response of the parents. Fewer of the parents of children in that age group wanted them to go back on campus now, so it freed up more space in the classrooms so we could still follow the guidelines of the CDC and at the same time get more kids back on campus.”  

“We have good mitigation strategies in place,” Jarrett said, “so we are being cautious, but optimistic, and hoping that while going slowly we will be able to offer the option to go back to a four-day in-school week for anyone who elects to take that option with only one day virtual.”

“I want to thank parents for their support thus far,” he added, “and ask that they continue to work with us and be patient.  As we go into this new phase there will be things we have to modify moving forward to continue to make it safe for our students and staff, and each time there is a change we will keep our parents updated.”