The Nelson County public school system is not immune to the statewide school closures issued by Gov. Ralph Northam on March 13 in response to the growing number of confirmed Virginia cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“We understand that we are a factor in the process of mitigating the impact this situation has on the general public,” Superintendent Martha Eagle said in an email in response to the governor’s mandate. “We support the decision and will work to provide continuity of education for our students, work to provide food for the students and families in our community, and will evaluate the situation on a daily basis.”
Nelson County School Board members took measures to ensure the continued safety of students and staff during its March 12 meeting. The board voted to approve several recommended actions including the cancellation of all travel both inside and outside the division and postponement of events scheduled for later in the month.
As far as continuing education for students, Eagle said the division is working to create both online venues and paper packets to distribute to families for the duration of the closure.
“For future planning, we will work this week to see what our educational environment may look like,” she said in an email Monday.
She added teachers still are working to make sure report cards for the third grading period can go home to families.
Nelson County Public Schools also is offering free bagged lunches and breakfast meals to all children up to age 18 regardless of income.
Meals will be available from 7:30 a.m. to noon March 18 and 25 at the middle school.
Meals can be picked up between 10 a.m. and noon March 19, 24 and 26 from Roseland Rescue Squad, Wingina Fire Department, Lovingston Fire Department, Gladstone Fire Department, New Mount Baptist Church, Rockfish River Elementary School, Massies Mill Ruritan Club and Faber Volunteer Fire Department.
A published flyer about the food pickup notes residents should look for a school bus during the distribution events March 19, 24 and 26. Anyone with questions is asked to call (434) 263-6851.
Families will have the opportunity to collect instructional materials and supplies at the same time. WiFi hotspots to download materials will be available at each location.
Among the events that were canceled or postponed was the concert by country music and gospel singer Jimmy Fortune. Band teacher Scott Belcher noted while it was possible to reschedule the event, it would be difficult.
Belcher said this was one of the largest fundraisers of the year for the high school, selling more than 600 tickets.
Eagle initially had recommended the concert continue as scheduled, but board members decided to postpone, citing concerns over the large gathering.
School board members voted not to approve field trip requests in April to Virginia Beach for both the middle school and the high school.
Nelson County High School band and drama students also were slated to travel out of state later in the year, but both trips have been cancelled.
“I hate it for the kids … it’s tough. These are tough decisions to make,” said Shannon Powell, West District school board member.
Belcher told board members he could attempt to recover some of the money that already was spent on the band trip if they postponed. The trip cost a total of more than $69,000 and he said they already had paid for about half.
“Really what it boils down to is do we want to lose $32,000, which is totally unrecoverable, or do we want to try to pick a new date later in the summer,” Belcher said to the board.
Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.