Norfolk Public Schools shares more details on district’s reopening plans


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk School Board learned more details Wednesday about the district’s plan for virtual learning this fall.

Last month, the board voted 6-1 to reopen virtually. Wednesday night’s meeting went over a number of components of their plans for students.

Topics covered included students’ virtual schedules, food distribution, technology distribution, child care options as well as the transition to face-to-face classes.

According to presentation materials, the district conducted a survey with staff and teachers about their comfort level with face-to-face learning.

About 34%, which was a plurality, voted they were very uncomfortable, while only 6% said they’re very comfortable with face-to-face learning.

School officials said this time around will be more consistent, but flexibility is key.

Officials presented schedules for each grade level. The start and end times for each grade level will remain the traditional times. Assessments and several other efforts are in place to keep students moving forward.

“We will provide after-school lessons via Zoom and Canvas to support,” said Dr. Lynnell Gibson, NPS chief schools officer.

Staff who aren’t assigned students will have their roles redefined until face-to-face learning is possible.

“Para-professionals, counselors, building-based specialists, school administration central office personnel and the like will assist teachers when students are not showing up or when data indicates they’re not understanding concepts being taught,” said Dr. James Pohl, Chief Academic Officer.

The division will hand out electronic devices and internet hotspots via drive-thru or socially distant walk-up service.

Parents and guardians who cannot make it to the school will be offered door-to-door distribution services using our buses,” said Dr. Michael Cataldo, chief information and instructional technology officer.

NPS is also working to create a network of childcare providers in the community. Some of those services will be offered on-site at NPS facilities.

“We just want to be able to provide support for families. We know that is a need, and we are trying our best.”

NPS says 5,000 students are enrolled in its Virtual Scholars Academy. This is the semester-long commitment of virtual schooling for parents who prefer to keep their students online even when schools transfer to blended learning. The deadline to sign up is Saturday. You can find more information here. 

In last month’s meeting, Vice Chair Rodney Jordan cast the only “no” vote on the approved plan because he wanted students to get some-in person instruction in September, if safe to do so.

“I think that the health data will determine whether or not we would utilize that option but I think we should be prepared,” Jordan said.

Data from the spring semester shows more than 4,700 students had a least one incomplete grade. Teachers reported more than 12,000 incomplete grades last semester.

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