Highland School Board Discusses Virtual Learning Virtually

The Highland County School Board’s December meeting was well attended, although most of that attendance was virtual, due to safety concerns related to COVID-19. At various times, between 30-40 people were logged in online to watch the Board, and school administration, who were the only ones allowed to participate in person, conduct the meeting.

The primary topic of business was the decision to remain in virtual learning mode until after the Christmas break. The target date for a return to in person learning is January 4th.

The decision to move to solely virtual learning was made on Tuesday, December 1st, in keeping with the procedures approved by the Board before the school year began, that a positive test among staff, student, or immediate family member of either, would result in schools being closed. Three parents commented online regarding the closure, disagreeing with the need for closing, as well as the amount of time before the return. The Board reiterated that these policies and been approved before the return to school. When it was noted that the original notification had set a date for a return on December 23rd, which was longer than the two weeks called for in those policies, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott clarified that the Virginia Department of Health had made the recommendation for the longer closure. He also noted that on the day of the meeting, Monday, December 7th, a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

Admin praised the staff for the seamless switch to virtual learning, with special praise given to Robin Brendel for her training of teachers in using the Canvas virtual leaning platform. Board member Kenny Hodges asked if teachers were available to students who needed assistance by phone. Each teacher has had a phone installed in their classroom for this purpose, and admin agreed to make sure these numbers were made available.

In other business, the Board approved the recommendation to allow out of district students to continue attending Highland County Schools. They also approved an increase for substitute bus driver pay to $50 per trip, and in increase for substitute teacher pay to $88.00 for non-degreed substitutes and $99.00 substitutes for degreed, per day. These increases will take effect in the 2020-21 school year.

The Board’s next meeting will be on January 7th.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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