GCPS Superintendent Dr. Kim Evans, standing, delivers an update on the school division during Tuesday’s Emporia Rotary Club meeting. Also pictured from left are Rotarians Mike Romandetti, Rustin Jessee, Steve Browder, Thelma Atkins-Riley.

Greensville County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kim Evans was on hand Tuesday to update the Emporia Rotary Club on the current state of GCPS.

Evans said that COVID-19 slammed the brakes on what began as a promising year for GCPS.

“2020 began as a year of vision and clarity,” Evans said. “Our data points were moving in the right direction. We were looking to move toward accreditation.”

The goal for Evans and her staff was always to continue to provide students with the opportunity to learn and improve. But the challenges of virtual learning in Greensville County quickly became apparent -- high-speed broadband access is not widely available, many students, especially grades K-5, do not have devices for instruction, and many students rely on meals provided by the school on a daily basis.

“This right here is a whole different ballgame,” Evans said. “We had to assess our teachers – they were now taking the tests – to find out how comfortable they were with a virtual platform. Fortunately for us, we did have some staff members who were comfortable leading our teachers to build their skills so that they could be more comfortable with the virtual platform.”

The past eight months have not been without their setbacks and losses. Since March, four GCPS staff members have died due to COVID-19. Evans said that the losses have taken a huge emotional toll on the staff, as well as the students. But her and her staff continue to care for the social, emotional and mental health of the students and staff.

Evans said teachers have also had a problem with student attendance in virtual classrooms. She asked parents to partner with teachers and staff members to make sure students are remaining engaged and following through on all of their assignments.

Another focus of the division has been student literacy. Evans said GCPS recently hired a new director of literacy. The goal of the teachers is to capture literacy issues at a lower level so students can be set up for success at the higher level. GCPS is currently taking book donations to help increase the fluency and phonics of students.

The Greensville County School Board recently announced that virtual learning would be extended through the end of the first academic semester on Jan. 21. It was also announced that the winter sports season was cancelled.