Budget, bonuses, SOLs and summer school

By Ruthann Carr

Superintendent Chuck Winkler laid out the need and plans for summer school at the Fluvanna School Board meeting Wednesday (Jan. 13).

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on student’s education: virtual school, hybrid schedules, outbreaks, quarantines, masks and distancing all make learning harder than ever.

As a result, many students are falling behind and Fluvanna plans to help them by holding summer school.

If all goes well, the last day of school will be June 11, Winkler said.

The summer session will begin June 21.

“(It will be) extremely targeted, in-person, small group and some virtual,” Winkler said. “All strategies are being worked through now.”

The good news is there will be $1.2 million in COVID funding targeted to help pay for it.

The money is to be used to address achievement and mental health issues, Winkler said. Schools have through Sept. 2023 to spend it.

“There will be a lot of future needs and we’ll continue to adjust. There is talk in Richmond of having year-round school,” he said, adding he’s not sure where that talk will lead.

Standards of Learning tests must be taken in person, which could pose a challenge for students who attend school virtually, Winkler said.

Passing SOLs are required for graduation.

Winkler intends on having in-person testing sessions on Wednesdays so the students taking the exams are the only ones in school.

Students can leave when they are finished with the test if their parent can pick them up. Otherwise, they will stay at school following their same schedule.

Testing students can ride the bus to school and home and the end of the day.

Winkler said he’ll offer at least two testing dates before June for seniors.

Parents can choose not to send their children to school for the test if they are concerned about COVID-19.

However, the longer a student puts off taking the test after learning the material, the harder it is to pass, Winkler said.

“It’s a roadblock to graduation if they don’t pass it,” he said.

James Kelley, (Palmyra) asked Winkler about how he’d make the decision to close schools for in-person learning if COVID outbreaks continue to rise.

A discussion followed.

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) asked Winkler if the Fluvanna’s Covid testing positivity rate reached 25 percent, would he close the schools.

He said he would close if he had 25 teachers out and unable to teach.

Winkler said he felt school was the safest place for many students because of their strict mitigation strategies.

“Other than being at home, I believe wholeheartedly our staff and students are safer in school because we’re doing all we can to keep them safe,” Winkler said. “And, because when they’re not in school, they’re not staying at home. They’re not wearing masks They’re not following those measures at home. They won’t stay home. I can’t control that but I can control what goes on at school. You don’t wear a mask? You’re not coming in our building, period. If we get to 25 percent positivity rate I’m telling you we won’t have enough teachers and I’ll have to close schools.”

Winkler said teachers and staff are included in the 1B vaccination category. Staff will get an email to schedule a time to get the shot.

“I’m hoping they’ll (vaccinations) be available by end of January or the first of February,” he said. “It will be up to individuals to get the vaccinations.”

He’d like to offer the vaccinations on site at school buildings.

The Board briefly discussed giving staff a bonus.

Winkler said he felt sure there was enough in the budget.

They will discuss it in more detail at the Feb. 10 meeting.

Don Stribling, executive director for human resources, operations and student services, said the Equity Task Force is meeting quarterly and each of the seven action teams meet monthly.

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) asked if he could get a list of the people serving on the task force and a copy of their meeting minutes.

“I’d like to see what is discussed,” he said.

Winkler said when the new semester begins Feb. 1, exactly half of Fluvanna students will be attending virtually and the other half following the hybrid schedule.

At the beginning of the meeting during public comments, Kelley read one sent in from a teacher, Michelle Pullman.

“I’m writing to urge you to move instruction back to remote learning or at least until we can all be vaccinated,” Pullman wrote.

She said students are continuing to struggle.

Pullman said she has more students failing now (39 percent) compared to before moving to the hybrid schedule (15 percent).

Jessica Jackson, a West Central Primary teacher, spoke in person.

Jackson said she wanted to compliment her FCPS coworkers on the great job they’re doing keeping each other and students safe.

“We understand there is no us versus them, no double standards, no different rules for students, teacher and administration,” she said.

However, Jackson said she was dismayed and concerned that “some of the school board members feel they’re beyond our school system guidelines. They won’t wear masks because they don’t want to, not because they can’t.”

If they continue not to wear a mask, she suggested ways they could help keep others at the meetings safe.

“School technology can set you up in a different part of the building or at home so you can attend the meeting virtually. Or you can sit in a hallway or in the back of the room away from others. You could buy a vapor barrier to put around you. You could just stay home, or you could resign. I teach 4-year-olds and they all wear masks because they know they are keeping each other safe. I believe you all are role models. My 4-year-olds are better role models.”

The School Board will have a seminar Jan. 20 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the budget and the search for a new superintendent.


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