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If pandemic fades, Mecklenburg officials envision moving forward with graduation

SoVaNow.com / March 25, 2020
The Virginia Department of Education offering guidance for parents and students in the face of school closings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said the VDOE’s website has been activated with informational links following a Tuesday teleconference with the Commonwealth’s 132 school division superintendents.

The good news for high schools seniors, according to Nichols, is that the Department of Education is doing everything possible to ensure that high school seniors who were on track to earn a diploma later this spring are able to graduate, despite the closure of schools for the remainder of the year.

Nichols added that as long as the governor’s order limiting the size of public groups is lifted before July 1, the Class of 2020 will have a graduation ceremony.

James Lane, superintendent of public instruction for Virginia, said during Tuesday’s teleconference that high school seniors in three categories will be able to graduate on time:

» Seniors currently enrolled in a course for which they need a standard or verified credit in order to graduate (verified credits are earned by passing a required course and also passing the associated Standards of Learning test);

» Seniors who have successfully completed a course required for graduation, but have not earned the associated verified credit; and

» Seniors who have not passed a required student-selected SOL test.

School division superintendents were also told by state officials to be flexible in determining if other students should be allowed to graduate. Those students are:

» seniors who have not earned a required career and technical education credential;

» seniors who have not completed a fine or performing arts course or CTE course;

» seniors who were unable to complete sequential course requirements, and

» seniors who have not completed a course in economics and personal finance.

The General Assembly will have to approve waivers for seniors who have not completed training in emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the use of automated external defibrillators and seniors who have not completed a virtual course, before they will be allowed to graduate. Lane expressed confidence to the Superintendents that waivers would be forthcoming in a timely fashion.

How to handle the academic needs of returning students was also discussed, according to Nichols. The VDOE has offered several options for “providing students in other grades with equitable opportunities and instruction covering required course content — either while schools are closed, over the summer or during the 2020/2021 academic year — without disrupting their academic progress.” The options are to:

» utilize distance/remote, face-to-face or blended learning or learning modules while school is closed;

» hold summer school during the summer of 2020;

» extend the 2019/2020 school year or adjust the upcoming 2020/2021 calendar to allow for instruction in core content not covered before March 13 when the schools closed for the year; or

» incorporate learning modules into an extended 2019/2020 or 2020/2021 school year.

Nichols said whichever option Mecklenburg County chooses, the local division like others around the state must be mindful of the needs of all learners, including early learners, English learners and students with disabilities, as the needs of these students are being carefully scrutinized by the federal Office of Civil Rights.

Nichols said he realizes that the economic limitations that exist in this area, as well as the lack of access to broadband, may limit how the school division ensures students continue their academic progress during the pandemic. He anticipates a School Board discussion about using school buses to deliver food and educational materials to students in the county who lack transportation or other resources, as well as a discussion about how best to meet the academic progress of returning students.

One positive that may come from this pandemic is that it is forcing the schools in Virginia to move forward now rather than later with technology-enhanced learning opportunities for students. “We’ve talked about it, but keep putting the decision off [about how to better utilize technology with our students] to a later time,” Nichols said.

Nichols encourages students and parents who are seeking more guidance on how to keep student learning on track at this time to go to the state website at http://www.doe.virginia.gov. There are a number of links available that provide coronavirus information as well as learning opportunities.

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This is the time for the board of supervisors to do something to get affordable and reliable high speed internet to the county. A lot of rural areas can't get high speed internet. And the internet services that are offered to this area are too expensive. $80 for 20gb of internet service through Hughes Net and in other areas unlimited high speed internet is half the price. It's time for Mecklenburg to flatten out the technology curve.


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