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Board expected to vote again on hybrid plan

The Suffolk School Board is expected to vote once again at its Nov. 12 meeting on whether to have students return to school twice per week.

The board will decide whether to have pre-K through fifth-grade students return to school twice per week Nov. 30, with students in middle and high school returning to school twice per week Jan. 4. The remaining days would still be virtual learning days.

College and Career Academy at Pruden students would also return to school Jan. 4 – one day per week at their base school and twice per week at CCAP.

The division presented its plan, Educate and Innovate, at two different board meetings in October, deferring a vote at its Oct. 8 meeting and then splitting 3-3 at its Oct. 23 meeting, with board member Sherri Story absent due to a family emergency.

Board Chairwoman Phyllis Byrum, David Mitnick and Lorita Mayo voted to have students return to school, while Vice Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, Tyron Riddick and Karen Jenkins voted against having students come back.

Currently, some special education students are attending school in person twice per week, and there are children ages 4 to 12 in the AlphaBEST daycare program at each of the division’s 11 elementary schools.

Because the board had a tie vote, it must hold another vote at its next meeting, according to its policy manual. School Board Policy Chapter 2, Section 2-6.1B states, “In any case in which there shall be a tie vote of the School Board when all members are not present, the question shall be passed by until the next meeting.”

Parent survey results indicated that 8,892 of the division’s 13,800 students would be returning to school under a hybrid model, with the remaining 4,908 staying in virtual learning.

According to the school division’s guide for returning to school, the 7-day average in the Eastern Region’s cases per 100,000 is 8.4 through Oct. 26, which is in the orange level and indicates hybrid learning – orange level for cases per 100,000 range from 10 to 100. As of Nov. 10 for the Eastern Region, it is 11.4 cases per 100,000.

In the city, its cases per 100,000 as of Oct. 26 is 5.5, just above the yellow level, which indicates a return-to-normal schedule.

The percent positivity for both the Eastern Region and the city through Oct. 26 is in the yellow level – 4.2% for the Eastern Region and 3.7% for Suffolk. Through Nov. 10, the Eastern Region’s 7-day percent positivity rate is 5.2%.

The current 7-day positivity rate for Western Tidewater – Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County – is 3.9%. Statewide it is 6.2%.

Currently, no K-12 school in Suffolk is reporting a COVID-19 outbreak.

The board is also set to take up a proposal to offer one-time bonuses for full- and part-time employees. Full-time staff would receive $500, while permanent part-time and long-term substitutes would receive $250 in their Dec. 18 paychecks. The money – $1.1 million – would come from the more than $3.2 million in reversion funds.

The division also is asking the board to approve an increase in substitute teacher pay from $88 per day to $100 per day in order to attract qualified candidates to support its hybrid learning model and to make it more competitive with surrounding school divisions.

The board meeting begins at 5 p.m. Nov. 12, and is scheduled to go into a closed meeting, and resume the public meeting at 7 p.m. The meeting will take place in City Hall’s council chambers.