Virtual learning option approved

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

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JACKSON – With concerns about COVID-19 still prevalent, Northampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee presented a proposal to the county Board of Education that would give parents the choice to enroll their students in the district’s virtual school instead.

Chamblee presented the information at the Board’s regular meeting here on Sept. 13. She explained that students in the district would be able to switch to remote learning through their virtual academy, though she also noted that the number allowed would be capped at 20 percent of students per school.

“This is not mandatory. This is just for those parents that have anxiety that’s COVID-related,” Chamblee emphasized.

She added that if a parent chooses to switch their child to virtual learning, the student must remain virtual until at least the end of the current semester.

Chamblee also explained that instruction for virtual students would still come from their base school, so teachers would be conducting class in-person at the same time virtual students are tuning in for their lessons as well.

Board member Barbara Stephenson asked if it would be a problem for the teacher to do both simultaneously. Chamblee replied that the teachers may have to interact with virtual students during office hours outside of class if there’s a problem, and the district’s technology support continues to be available to help out with technical problems.

“Our [COVID] numbers in Northampton County are rising,” remarked Board member Tony Burnette. “It’s very important that our parents have that option available to them to be able to move their child [to virtual learning].”

Board member Theresa Scott agreed, noting that as a parent herself, she’s glad to have that option.

Board chair Rhonda Taylor said she’d been contacted by some parents who wanted to know more about the district’s cleaning policies before they decided to go virtual or not.

“If the kids are in school all day, when are the buildings getting cleaned,” she asked on behalf of the concerned parents.

Chamblee explained that all the teachers have cleaning supplies to spray and wipe down their rooms between classes. And then the custodial maintenance staff performs a deep cleaning after the school day is over.

“And that’s not the only safety measure that’s in place,” she continued, explaining that the district also provides face masks, hand sanitizer, touchless faucets and toilets, and face shields on each desk, as well as vaccinations for adults. “It’s not one thing. It’s all these things working in tandem to help prevent the spread of COVID and any virus.”

“We are doing everything we can to keep the children safe while they’re in school,” Taylor stated, noting that she’d seen the face shields in the classrooms when visiting different schools.

Board member Dr. Marjorie Edwards motioned to approve the virtual school option as presented with the 20 percent per school cap, and Burnette provided the second. The vote was unanimously in favor.

Following that discussion, the Board also reviewed their mask mandate.

The district’s policy currently requires masks to be properly worn by students, staff, and visitors in all buildings.

Scott motioned to maintain the mask mandate, and Stephenson seconded. Once again, the vote passed unanimously in favor.