Across Virginia, school superintendents huddled with state Education Secretary James Lane via conference call Tuesday afternoon to discuss how to handle their school closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered Virginia public and private schools to stay closed for the rest of the academic year.
Northam made his announcement four days before his first round of mandated school closures was due to expire, on March 27. His decision was another step in Virginia’s mounting response to the virus that has killed nine people in the state.
Within hours, Culpeper County Public Schools Superintendent Tony Brads recorded a video and shared it with parents and school staff to explain how the new closure will affect students and families. To see it, visit youtu.be/Y7oznJ72Iok.
“We do not have all of the answers related to this unprecedented event at this time, Brads said in the video, posted on YouTube and the school division’s website, culpeperschools.org. “Rest assured, we will provide updates to our students, families, and staff members based upon guidance from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as soon as possible. We know this is difficult for everyone to process, especially our graduating seniors.”
The Education Department will update local school officials on awarding standard and verified credits, grades, grade-point averages, credentials and requirements for seniors as well as all other students, Brads said.
Culpeper teachers are completing grades, and will mail them in the coming week, the school division said.
Culpeper schools and division staff members were already reviewing graduation requirements, the progress toward graduation for seniors, and potential distance-learning opportunities to help students meet all necessary requirements, he said.
“This effort to work with our students during the closure is intended to maintain good practices, study habits, and educational engagement. Teachers should consider the educational value of all work they post for students,” Brads said. “While work completed related to these resources will not be graded, feedback to students is appropriate and expected. We encourage all students to take a break from screen time and keep reading.”
Individual schools will continue handling how they communicate learning opportunities to students and families, Brads said.
That may happen via posting of resources on the division website, online opportunities, email, Google Meets, and phone calls, he said. Division staff members are communicating with Germanna Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College about options to continue dual-enrollment courses.
Brads said employee compensation for all salaried staff will continue as normal. Full-time and part-time employees subject to hourly calculations will continue to receive their compensation based upon previous normal work hours, he said.
“It’s important for employees to know that they should not be concerned about their compensation or benefits during the school closure,” Brads said. “We are diligently working with the county on the fiscal 2021 budget process with a goal of meeting key timelines in order to prepare employee contracts for the next school year.”
All Culpeper County Public Schools facilities are closed to the public, he said.
Non-essential CCPS employees will not have access to their offices, classrooms and workspaces, he said.
For the public, the school division has created a very detailed coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions section on a web page, sites.google.com/ccpsweb.org/covid19response/homefaq.
If the FAQ does not answer your question, please call the school division staff at 540-825-3677, Brads said.
In cooperation with Culpeper Human Services, the school division has been providing pick-up meals to students at four locations, and all students will continue to be eligible for meals at no charge to them or their family, Brad said.
In response to parent and staff feedback, the number of daily pick-up times Emerald Hill, Pearl Sample and Sycamore Park elementary schools were reduced on Monday, but more meals are being provided.
The drive-through meal service is now taking place once each day, Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Students receive lunch for the day and breakfast for the following day.
Culpeper Human Services provides meals during the same time window at its Galbreath-Marshall location.
In all cases, students must be present to receive meals.
The division will continue to offer child care for Culpeper’s “essential personnel” such as nurses, doctors and first responders “indefinitely, provided the need exists and we are able to staff the program,” Brads said.
Lastly, Brads stressed the critical importance of anti-viral health habits.
“Even with social distancing, remember to keep groups or gatherings to 10 or fewer people,” he said. “Again, be mindful that even though an individual may seem healthy and is not presenting with any symptoms, that individual may be a carrier of the virus. Please pay special attention if your friends or family members are in groups that have greater risk factors.”