How are Fluvanna schools faring so far?

By Ruthann Carr

The beginning of the school year has been fraught with citizens urging Board members to listen to their views on masks, teaching history and transgender issues. Many of the Board meetings were heated with some parents vowing to pull their children from the schools if their demands weren’t met.

The Fluvanna Review asked Gretz, who became superintendent on July 1, about how things were going so far.

Are students and teachers complying with the mask mandate?

For the most part, everyone is handling this very well. We’ve tried to take a very common-sense approach to implementing this mitigation with strict fidelity, which required discretion and engagement on the part of the staff. We’re trying to provide the necessary breaks to allow for maximum safety and reasonable comfort to concentrate on learning and building relationships, which is a difficult tension to hold.

The isolated cases of blatant refusal are typically happening in the older grades and are very rare. I’m proud of the way our school community is working to continually improve our use of mitigations.

Are elementary students kept in pods (only interacting throughout the day with their own classmates)?

In as many cases as possible, yes. Students are grouped in cohorts to limit exposure and maximize safety.

How are lunches being held in elementary schools? Do kids eat in their classrooms? Do they go to the cafeteria with as many students in past years?

Lunches in all schools are being served in the cafeterias. Moving into the classrooms, as we did last year, doesn’t afford us the necessary six feet to avoid potential (COVID) exposure, since students are unmasked while eating. There really is no way to serve all students and achieve six feet of social distance. The only way to accomplish the distance we maintained during lunch last year would be to limit attendance the way we did last year, which would dramatically impact learning and violate the mandate to keep schools open to as many students as want to attend, five days a week.

How many students have contracted Covid-19? How many teachers? How do you hear about a case among students or teachers? Does the school test and find cases, or are they self-reported?

FCPS COVID Dashboard (shows) 15 students and 5 staff (contracted COVID).

Cases are self-reported to the schools and then the workflow begins for communication, documentation, and contact tracing.

What is the leave policy on teachers and staff if they are either told to quarantine or have COVID-19? Do they have to use their sick leave and when it runs out are they docked pay?  I’ve read that some school systems won’t dock pay if the teacher/staff was vaccinated – what is FCPS policy?

Last year, COVID leave was part of the emergency relief act that expired in December 2020.  After vaccinations were made available, the leave was not extended.  With cases increasing, even amongst vaccinated people, we are reviewing this policy.  This is on the School Board agenda to discuss at the next meeting.  Since there is a financial implication for the division and the employee, it’s a matter that we need to think through carefully. We certainly want to take care of our employees and don’t want anyone to experience loss of income.

How critical is the bus driver shortage? How does it affect students? Are you offering a bonus for new bus drive hires? If so, what is it?

There is currently a national shortage of drivers, and Fluvanna is experiencing the shortage at a crisis level. We have had to double and even triple our bus runs to accommodate all the needs with such a small number of drivers, who have done an amazing job under very difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the process of getting the required license is a lengthy one and the DMV remains backed up, so those who are in line to drive for us are having to wait several months.

We are exploring ways we can incentivize driving, including any benefits we can include for teachers who may want to drive. I am not typically a fan of signing bonuses simply because of the message it sends to our current, dedicated employees who remain committed every day but would not see the bonus that people just coming on board would. It may be necessary and we’re considering it, but we wouldn’t want to do anything that devalues the folks already on our team.

Do you know how many students 12y+ in FCPS have been vaccinated?

No, we don’t currently have a mechanism to measure that and do not currently plan on asking for that information out of respect to the privacy of families. We are working with our local health district to schedule vaccination clinics at the schools, including vaccinations for 5–11-year-olds as they become available.

How is enrollment? Are there more or less than predicted?

Enrollment figures show 3271 students as of Aug. 31.

 (FR note: Budget forecast in February projected enrollment of 3247)

Are significantly more families home schooling this school year?

Fall 2019 – 194 students

Fall 2020 – 266 students

Fall 2021 – 230 students

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