Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases in the school division and city, Lynchburg City Schools will welcome around 500 more students into school buildings at the start of the second semester next week.
Amy Pugh, deputy superintendent for LCS, told the Lynchburg City School Board at its meeting Tuesday night the division gave families the ability to switch between the remote-only learning and hybrid learning models for the second semester of the school year, which begins Jan. 19.
According to LCS data, as of Monday, an additional 203 elementary school students, 157 middle school students and 114 high school students are set to return to classrooms next week. In the division’s hybrid learning model, students are separated into cohorts and attend school in person two days per week and learn remotely the remaining days.
In the current semester, 4,218, or about 55%, of LCS’ more than 7,500 students are in hybrid learning and 3,360, or around 44%, are participating in remote-only learning. Heading into next semester, 4,692, or about 62%, of LCS students will be in hybrid learning and 2,859, or about 37%, will be in the remote model.
Pugh said this data does not include pre-kindergarten students and students at alternative education settings. Some schools still have hybrid learning spots and are working with families on a school level who still may want to make a switch to or from hybrid learning, she said.
Crystal Edwards, LCS superintendent, said Tuesday the division continues to monitor COVID-19 cases in its schools and in Lynchburg. As of Wednesday, the division has reported 16 cases of COVID-19 this week and a total of 122 positive cases since September.
As of Wednesday, 5,040 Lynchburg residents have tested positive for the virus since March. Virginia has seen 412,545 total positive cases.
With in-person comments suspended due to COVID-19 concerns, many LCS parents, staff and community members wrote comments to be read by the school board at Tuesday’s meeting, outlining their concerns about in-person learning.
Lynchburg resident and parent Anna Smith was among the more than 10 community members who wrote to the board expressing her concern for both students and staff participating in the in-person learning model. Smith recently created an online petition urging the school board to pause in-person learning and advocating for staff compensation.
“Fortunately parents of students have the option of face-to-face education giving the option to stay home for remote learning without ramifications but those who work for LCS don’t,” the petition says. As of Wednesday, the petition had garnered 126 signatures.
Other parents disagree and instead want their students in school full time. Edwards said Tuesday the division is not forcing any students to enroll in hybrid learning if their parents choose not to, and is leaving the choice up to individual families.
“If you decide to stay remote, we’re going to do the best we can with you because we know you’re making good decisions for your kids,” Edwards said. “If you decide to send them in hybrid, we’ve got our arms open, we’re waiting, because that’s the best decision that you’re making for your kids.”