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The Roanoke Rapids Graded School District will operate under virtual learning for the first six weeks of school and will continue reevaluating as those first weeks progress.

That decision was made by the school board on a 4-3 vote Thursday night.

RRGSD Superintendent Dain Butler said in a statement the modified virtual learning plan is for all students in Pre-K through twelfth grade for the first six weeks of school.

Roanoke Rapids Early College students will begin virtual learning August 10 and the remainder of students will begin virtual learning on August 17.

The school system will continue to operate on its currently approved 2020-21 calendars for the early college and other schools throughout the district.

If there is a teacher workday or holiday, those dates will be observed and no remote learning will be scheduled. “It is the intention of the district to continue meal services for our families during the closure,” Butler said. “Families and children can continue to access our school mental health services through Rural Health Group if they are in need of mental health and wellness support and our school counselors will also be available to assist remotely.” 

Plans for school reopening, Butler said, “have been constantly evolving based on the latest information regarding the pandemic and the state mandates. Since our last release, we have been in ongoing communication with health officials while we’ve reviewed feedback from our community, teachers, and students.”  

Factored into the recommendation is that the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the region. “In order to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our students, staff, and families from this pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to begin the school year completely virtually.”

Over the next six weeks the school system will be looking at three things: 

Local COVID-19 numbers and continued consultation with Halifax County’s health director.

Impact of COVID-19 statewide

Trends in children and whether the school system is seeing an increase in children across the state and country with positive COVID-19 cases since some schools have reopened in
person for 2020-2021.

“These and many other factors will drive our decision-making in reopening schools at the end of the six weeks,” Butler said. “I want to be clear that virtual learning in our traditional program will look different than it did at the end of the last school year. Last year, we were responding to a crisis and our primary goal was to offer a sense of normalcy for students. Looking ahead, our students who are learning at home will have a more structured virtual learning experience with greater tools in place to keep students engaged and learning.”

The system’s board of trustees approved more than $600,000 to issue every K-12 student a Chrome device. “Each school administrator has released a plan that is age appropriate for our students and can be viewed on each school’s website. Additionally, students will be held accountable for both mastery and completion of assignments. Grades will be given in a similar fashion to face-to-face instruction. Timely feedback will be provided by the teacher regarding accuracy and mastery of the material.”

Butler said the system will continue to communicate with families as it begins “this very different school year.  RRGSD is committed to fulfilling our mission of offering rigorous customized learning opportunities in a safe and supportive learning environment.”

Said Butler: “I also want to publicly thank our RRGSD Board of Trustees school for their careful consideration of the local data and their willingness to make the hard decisions for the well-being of our students and staff.”  

More information will be forthcoming shortly, including Chromebook distribution times, and how the system plans to ensure all students have access to a daily nutritious breakfast and lunch.  

Tammy Colston, Kathy Keeter, Ed Liverman and Mike Salanik voted in favor of the plan while Joey Briggs, Henry Ford and Mike Williams voted against the measure.