Walking into Greensville County High School, the echoes of the last year and a half spent in lockdown are obvious. On one of the walls is a calendar with the year still set to 2019-2020 — the time before most people even knew what a “coronavirus” was.
It has not been an easy transition back to in-person teaching in Greensville County. Schools across the Greensville County system are still scrambling to fill vacancies which have remained open for months. 70% of the vacancies that existed at the start of the school year have since been filled, but some still remain, most of which are for paraprofessional positions.
Not only are teachers and staff hard to come by, but so are bus drivers to take students to school. On the first day of school, children from Greensville and Belfield Elementary Schools returned home from school late due to transportation difficulties. Division Superintendent Kelvin Edwards was forced to apologize for the situation through a video posted to the GCPS Facebook page.
During all of this, COVID-19 has never stopped harassing the school system.
“One day, things are going well, and the next day, we get a positive case and we are contact tracing,” said Edwards during Monday’s school board meeting. “And I commend all of our principals and staff because a lot of time is spent contact tracing and that’s a lot of work.”
But not all of the school system’s challenges are pandemic-related — at least not directly. In mid-September, GCPS came under what they described as a “cyber-attack” which put confidential records (which were never backed up) at risk. The exact nature and cause of this attack is still unclear.
On Thursday, Sept. 23, a student at E.W. Wyatt Middle School in Emporia was caught with a B.B. gun on school grounds. Things took an even nastier turn when all county public schools were forced to close the following day after what Edwards described as a “received threat”. It’s unclear how, or even if, the three incidents are related.
The Greensville County Eagles football game scheduled for that night was cancelled, and their next two were played “behind closed doors”, with only essential personnel allowed into the stadium.
For what it’s worth, GCPS has done what it can to provide a better, safer learning environment despite the monumental challenges.
The school system has used some of its CARES Act funds to install temperature-checking equipment. Parents can check on their children’s progress and safety with the “graduation tracker” and “COVID-19 tracker” which have recently been added to the GCPS website.
Still, those hoping for a smooth transition back to in-person school life have been met with a cold slap in the face, and it doesn’t look like things will get any smoother anytime soon.