It's been a good school year so far for Roanoke City Schools compared to other systems in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, but last week and the week prior showed an increase in the number of cases.

The following is a release to parents, students and faculty members sent out late last week: "Due to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in eighth grade, as a precautionary measure, all eighth-grade students will begin virtual instruction. Plans are to return to on-site instruction on Monday, Feb. 8. Teachers will notify students via email about their schoolwork, so it is important that your child check his/her school email daily.

"Those students who have been virtual will keep their same schedule for Zoom meetings. Zoom meetings will count as attendance during this virtual time. You can help us keep this virus from spreading by keeping your child from gathering with other children until they return (Feb. 8) to on-site instruction. Eighth-grade students will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities during this period. If your child develops symptoms, we do recommend that you have them tested. If they test positive, please inform the school so we can confirm a return date.

"We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause, but the safety of our students and our staff is our first priority. We are closely monitoring this situation and appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this together. If you have further questions, notify your child's teacher or [Handley Middle] school principal, Lynn Robinson."

Superintendent's report on COVID

In his report during last Tuesday's board of education meeting, Superintendent Chuck Marcum said, "This past week, we had the most COVID-19 issues that we have had this year throughout the system. I was concerned this would be the case due to family gatherings and travel during Christmas break." He went on to say data shows the state as a whole seems to have peaked, and numbers are starting to go down. He said, "Hopefully, that will be the case next week for RCS. I will be meeting with our leadership team to review our COVID mitigation plan to see if we need to make changes."

Here are the statistics Marcum shared at last week's meeting.

Week of Jan. 19-22

7 - positive students (1- HHS, 6 - HMS, 0 - KES)

7- positive staff (5 - HHS, 2 - HMS, 0 - KES)

36 - student close contacts (12 - HHS, 24 - HMS, 0 - KES)

7 - staff close contacts (2 - HHS, 3 - HMS, 2- HHS)

6 - student symptoms (2 - HHS, 3 - HMS, 1 - KES)

1 - staff symptoms (1 - HHS)

System total second semester

9 - student positives (3 - HHS, 6 - HMS, 0 - KES)

9 - staff positives (5 - HHS, 3 - HMS, 1 - KES)

57 - student close contacts (26 - HHS, 25 - HMS, 6 - KES)

12 - staff close contacts (6 - HHS, 4 - HMS, 2 - KES)

10 - student symptoms (7- HHS, 3 - HMS, 0 - KES)

1 - staff symptoms (1 - HHS. 0 - HMS, 0 - KES)

August - December

29 - student positives (20 - HHS, 4 - HMS, 5 - KES)

16 staff positives (2 - HHS, 6 - HMS, 7 - KES, 1 - C.O.)

In other news from the superintendent:

RCS are preparing to commemorate 50 years of desegregation in the school system. The students will interview black and white students and teachers who made the transition from segregated to desegregated schools to learn about their experiences. Interviews and materials will be stored in the Handley High School archives and Randolph County Historical Museum archives. Marcum said, "I appreciate Mrs. Merredith Sears taking the lead on this project that will help to document a very important part of our history."

"I was honored to speak to the 2020-21 Leadership Randolph County class on Jan. 14. My remarks were centered around the outstanding job our teachers, staff and administrators are doing to mitigate the COVID-19 virus. Mr. Todd Cole did an outstanding job speaking to the group as he discussed some of the exciting things going on at HHS. He was very complimentary of the work that his teachers and staff are doing," said Marcum.

The school system continues to make progress on facility projects in the schools. They have an approved contract with Alabama Roofing to put new roofs on several of the Knight-Enloe Elementary School buildings and the HHS Auditorium. There was a pre-bid conference last Wednesday for the HMS Stem Lab and HHS renovation that includes converting the old shop into the Tiger Bean Cafe. Bids for these two projects will be opened on Feb. 11. Marcum hopes to have a recommendation ready to bring to the board at the February meeting. The goal is to have these two projects completed in time for the 2021-22 school year.

Marcum is excited about an initiative Mayor Jill Hicks and the city council are working on to clean up Roanoke. He has committed to the mayor that they will do everything they can in RCS to make this project a success. There will be a citywide pick-up trash day throughout Roanoke, and Marcum hopes to have classes, clubs, athletic teams, etc. participating in this endeavor. The streets in Roanoke are full of litter. The plans are still being finalized for this project. He will share more information as it becomes available. "I hope this is the first step in improving the appearance of our city," the superintendent said.

Marcum thanked Tommy Wood, owner of Emerging Home Care, for his work in providing teachers and staff the opportunity to take the COVID vaccine last Saturday at HMS. Roanoke is one of the few systems in the state to be presented this opportunity this early in the process. Dr. Eric Mackey had commented that he felt it would be later in February before most schools had access to the vaccine. Marcum said," I pray this is the first step in getting this awful virus behind us."

January is National School Board Appreciation Month. The superintendent thanked each of the board members for their willingness to serve. He said, "It is obvious to me that our board members' first priority is to provide the best for our students. I am blessed to work with each of you. The success our school system enjoys would not be possible without our school board."

Personnel actions

In personnel matters, the board:

  •  Increased the previous contract for Glenda Ziglar to provide speech-language therapy to students with identified disabilities. The increased will not exceed $20,000.
  •  Approved Jacqueline Ray as a substitute teacher.

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