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In-person schooling going “relatively well” in Roanoke City, officials say

Roanoke, Virginia – Seven days into in-person instruction, Roanoke City school leaders sat down for an update. Their assessment so far: things are “pretty good.”

Pre-K through fifth grade students are now back in class two days a week on a hybrid schedule. Most other students are still learning virtually, as they have since the start of school.

The transition comes as health experts in the Roanoke Valley warn of increasing COVID-19 numbers. Roanoke City Schools is listed among the districts with the “highest” risk of COVID-19 transmission, according to officials from the Roanoke-Alleghany Health District.

Despite the increased numbers, Superintendent Verletta White says RCPS is better prepared now than it was during the start of classes earlier this year.

“We have more health measures in place. We have more sanitizing stations. We have more hand washing stations,” she said.

White says the district is working on getting middle and high schoolers back in their buildings more, largely through small-group instruction.

“So the question is, how do we do that safely? We’re looking at our space, we’re looking at staffing,” said White.

That’s a contrast with Roanoke County Schools, which announced last week it would be curtailing small-group instruction, in response to new CDC guidelines.

Roanoke City also faces serious challenges beyond the virus itself. Testing data show many elementary schoolers have gone backwards on academic progress. That’s particularly true of first grade reading, where RCPS saw a 22.7% increase in the number of students falling below the benchmark.

“And that’s the reason why we have to put in place short term efforts and long term efforts to provide intense remediation,” said White.

Those efforts are underway. White says she expects to see improvement over the course of this school year.

Marco Harmon

I was born and raised in Roanoke, VA. I studied Communications Studies at Roanoke College, and I’ve been part of the news industry ever since. Visiting my favorite downtown Roanoke bars and restaurants with my friends is how I spend most of my free time when I'm not at the desk.

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