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Albemarle School Board schedules Thursday special meeting for possible Stage Four recommendation

The Albemarle County School Board could hear a recommendation to move to Stage Four of reopening as soon as next Thursday.

A special meeting on the topic was scheduled at the end of the board’s work session Thursday evening.

“If we’re not ready to make a recommendation, then we can just cancel the meeting,” schools Superintendent Matt Haas said at Thursday.

The division will restart in-person classes for some elementary students Monday after the growth in COVID-19 case numbers slowed recently. Stage Four would mean all students would have the option for in-person classes at least twice a week, with elementary students going to school four days a week.

Division leadership have previously said they believe in-person learning is more beneficial for students.

Initial plans for Stage Four presented last month entailed using staff members who typically teach music, art or physical education, as well as talent development teachers, media specialists, teaching assistants and interventionists, as general classroom teachers. Figuring out how that specifically will work has been left up to the school principals.

About 61.7% of elementary school families picked hybrid instruction, while 54.7% of middle and high school families did so, and participation rates vary across the schools, according to the division’s survey results. About 75% of students at Virginia L. Murray Elementary will be learning in-person, compared to about 49% of those at Agnor-Hurt and Woodbrook elementaries.

At the middle school level, Jouett Middle School will have the lowest percentage of students in-person, with 45% picking the option. Henley Middle School has the highest at 63%.

About 45.6% of students at Albemarle High School picked the hybrid option, 52.7% of Monticello High School did so and 68.5% at Western Albemarle High School did so.

After Haas makes a recommendation, the School Board will vote on the proposal at a following meeting and Stage Four would begin two weeks later, according to a timeline published earlier this month. If plans for next week’s meeting hold, Stage Four could begin by March 1.

The division is planning a soft start for Stage Four, which will begin the week before the stage starts in earnest. The soft start would include in-person classes for elementary students as well as sixth- and ninth-graders on Wednesday and Thursday. The first two days of the week would be asynchronous learning days, giving teachers time to plan. Stage Four would then start in full on March 1.

During public comment, one teacher asked the board to hold off on Stage Four until all staff members receive the vaccine, while a parent urged the board to move forward.

“We’re very close,” said Erin Wise-Ackenbom, an AHS teacher. “It means life and death to many people.”

Since Sept. 8, there has been one outbreak of COVID-19 in the county schools, the only one identified in the Blue Ridge Health District. Two students and one staff member at Scottsville Elementary tested positive in that outbreak.

Overall, 31 students, 52 employees and five contractors have tested positive, according to the school division’s dashboard tracking cases among those learning and working in-person.


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