When 10-year-old Barrett Eisner found out Monday that schools would be closed the rest of the year, he was not happy.
“I almost started crying,” the Schoolfield Elementary School fifth-grader told the Danville Register & Bee on Monday afternoon. “I just feel really sad about it. I enjoy being around with my friends and doing stuff together.”
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that public and private schools across the state would be closed the rest of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For Danville parent Monica Anderson, Northam’s mandate on schools poses a lot of unanswered questions.
“My concern is for kids that depend on [free] breakfast and lunch,” said Anderson, whose son attends Dan River Middle School in Pittsylvania County. “A lot of parents depend on it for their children.”
Also, what does that mean for student promotions to the next grade, she wondered aloud Monday.
“Are we just going to pass kids on?” she said. “What does that look like?”
Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Mark Jones did not return voice messages left at his office Monday.
Danville Public Schools Superintendent Stanley Jones told the Register & Bee in a prepared statement that he was trying to ascertain how the governor’s decision will affect the school division.
“I am working with community leaders, state officials, and staff to determine how this decision will impact Danville Public Schools, specifically with regard to the educational programs, closing out the current school year, and school operations,” Stanley Jones said in the statement.
Officials, it turns out, are not yet sure how school will be conducted the rest of the academic year. Stanley Jones said, however, that they plan to continue school instruction.
“It would be appropriate to say that schools will develop plans for the continuity of education services, similar to plans we prepared for last week,” he told the Danville Register & Bee via text message Monday afternoon. “The difference going forward is that we will do so with guidance from the [Virginia Department of Education]. We will develop a plan to continue school this year and to close out the current school year. The specifics of that plan are still being developed.”
Northam’s decision to close schools is unprecedented, Stanley Jones added, “and therefore the implications on day-to-day operations and decisions are not fully realized.”
The school division will continue delivering meals and is working on plans to continue with instructional programs and other services to students, he said in the statement.
News of the school shutdown surprised Latrice Eisner, mother of Barrett Eisner and another child at Schoolfield Elementary and another at Westwood Middle School.
“I’m still kind of in shock right now,” she said Monday.
While Barrett Eisner was upset, her other children were ecstatic.
“The other two were dancing,” Latrice Eisner said.
As a parent, she is glad officials are taking everyone’s health seriously. But she is concerned about how the closure will affect her oldest child.
“It’s very scary,” she said, adding that she has a special-needs child who requires case workers and experienced teachers.
Her child who goes to Westwood Middle School receives instruction from teachers through the free web service Google Classroom, which allows students and teachers to share files, and she picks up learning packets and study guides for her younger two children from Schoolfield.
School work since the closure has included homework, lessons on the computer and reading, Barrett Eisner said.
Anderson’s son has received assignments from Dan River Middle School in the county.
“My son’s teachers have been sending classroom assignments to parents,” Anderson said. “They send it through Google Classroom. He’s been able to get his assignments that way and complete them.”
Latrice Eisner, treasurer of the Parent Teacher Association at Schoolfield, is worried about the state’s Standard of Learning tests.
“I can’t possibly fathom how they’re going to make it work,” she said.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.