generic school bus

Culpeper County Public Schools is gradually working on a return to normal. On March 22, the school board approved an amended mitigation plan allowing for more in-person learning beginning April 12. Ultimately, the school system’s goal is to offer five days of in-person learning come fall.

So far this year, students could either have two days of both in-person and virtual learning or participate fully remotely.

Changes to be implemented come April 12 allow elementary school students who wish to return to in-person learning to do so when possible. The plan should allow 120 students on a wait list to return. 

While elementary schools will stick to two days of in-person learning, middle and high schools will begin offering four days of in-person learning. 

Middle schools will shift to four days of in-person learning for students who currently attend two days per week. Remote students will return to in-person learning when possible. This will require many students to adjust their schedules. 

High school students will be provided the opportunity to receive four days of in-person learning. 

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Brads explained that these rearranged schedules are only possible with the new mitigation plan that was also adopted during the school board's meeting.

Amended mitigation plan

The new mitigation plan reduces physical distancing from six feet to three feet while still requiring students who are five or older and teachers to wear face masks. 

"The actual distances between seats may vary depending on the room size, the configuration of the room, furniture size and shape, and the type of activity taking place," the mitigation plan states. 

Citing guidelines calling for adults to maintain six-foot social distancing, school board member Barbara Brown cast the lone vote opposing the new mitigation plan. Dr. Russell Houck, executive director of student services, noted that those guidelines do not consider that about 85% of the schools’ staff is vaccinated.

In the new mitigation plan, students can remove face masks:

  • For 10 minutes or less while seated to clean, adjust or change a mask, clear their nose, drink and eat.
  • For outdoor instructional activities including reading, writing, discussions, field experiments and more.
  • During elementary schools’ outdoor recess, which will be structured to maximize physical distancing and minimize face-to-face instruction. Activities will be modified to maintain six-foot distancing. 
  • During indoor or outdoor physical education classes, where activities will be modified to maximize distance. 
  • For outdoor band and choral activities with six-foot distancing measures in place. Students playing a wind instrument or singing will not face another person.
  • Outdoor theatrical performances and dress rehearsals. 
  • For speech therapy in which proper distancing is maintained between the student and speech pathologist. 

"Whenever masks are removed, students, teachers, and staff are to watch closely for coughing or sneezing. Prompt cleaning of hands, desks, and equipment is necessary if sneezing or coughing occurs," the mitigation plan states. 

Transportation changes include allowing two students per seat on buses. Three students may sit together if they are "close contacts." Students must walk if they live a quarter-mile away from their school opposed to the current plan requiring students to walk if they are a half-mile away.

Assemblies will also be allowed with three-foot social distancing while capping the venue's capacity at 50%. 

Houck said the schools “learned a lot in the last eight months and we’re applying some of those lessons” in attempts “to get one more step closer to normal.”

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