HHS gears up for school year, proposal for guidelines

By Tammy Minnigh • Contributing Writer
MONTEREY — Learning in the pandemic was hard for most students, but middle and
high school students in Highland County Public Schools struggled less than elementary
“We didn’t see quite as much variance as they saw at the elementary school level,” said
Tim Good, Highland High School principal.
Part of that is due to the nature of learning for older students. “Younger students are
learning to read, while at middle school and high school levels, they can read to learn,”
Good said.
While his students might not have shown as much growth as in other years, the high
school didn’t have as much slide as elementary did. “I felt really pleased in where we’re
at,” Good said. “Students dedicated themselves, and teachers did a great job.”
“I don’t have any more students in summer school than any typical year,” Good said.
Nine middle school students attend Highland’s extended summer school program, which
runs three half-days a week for eight weeks.
“I did have more high school students that were not successful at completing all of their
classes,” Good said, but he explained the block schedule gives students more chances to
retake classes if needed and stay on track for graduation.
Good saw the most trouble at the end of the fall semester when COVID-19 cases caused
the school to go all-virtual for the last several weeks of the course. “It was hard,” Good
Four high school students are retaking classes this summer to recover credits.
There were some positives from virtual learning, such as preparing students for the
workforce after graduation. Many businesses are using virtual training for employees,
and students are already learning in that format. Educators also learned that some
students do better in alternate school programs, and they will explore more options in the
Teachers will focus on any gaps in learning when school starts and offer remediation
during school hours and after school as needed.
“You can’t make it all up in a couple of months,” Good said. He plans to expand learning
opportunities wherever possible to catch students up who need help and challenge
students who are ahead.
“My main focus is to be excited and ready to go,” Good said. The school is waiting to see
what guidelines will be in place, but Good hopes to get back as “normal as possible.”
Clubs and fun activities will be back, lending to the social side of school. There are seven
in-school clubs for middle and high school students, which meet once a month or more
and focus on things such as weight training, the local radio station, and the largest club,
FFA. History teacher Dr. Jamie Slaughter is developing an Outdoor Club that will meet
after school and on weekends.
Sports last year didn’t happen on the regular schedule and faced many COVID-related

“It was the busiest I’d ever been, and we played the fewest games,” said athletic director
Mike Warf, who was in charge of ever-changing schedules, policies, and practices. “It
was a mess. All the timing was off.”
Still, the limited sports were essential to him and the student athletes. “Anything they did
was better than nothing,” Warf said. “I’m glad we got to do what we got to do.”
While guidance from Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia High School League may
change if COVID cases increase, the school plans for volleyball and cross country in the
fall; basketball, and cheer and dance for the winter; and baseball and softball for the
spring on regular schedules.
Warf hopes spectators will be back in the stands, cheering for the athletes. “They’re
anxious for some normalcy,” Warf said. “I know I can’t wait.”
How “normal” the school year will be is still undecided.
At the end of July, the Virginia Department of Health updated its guidance with the
Virginia Department of Education. The Centers for Disease Control currently
recommends all unvaccinated persons over the age of two wear masks in schools. The
CDC strongly recommended that everyone in elementary classrooms wear a mask,
regardless of vaccination status.
VDH and VDOE also strongly recommend middle and high schools require anyone who
is not fully vaccinated to wear a mask indoors.
Superintendent Dr. Tom Schott, Good, and elementary principal Teresa Blum will
formulate a plan for masks and other COVID mitigation to present to the school board,
who will vote on policies during their next meeting Thursday, Aug. 12.
Schott will post the proposal to the school’s website on Aug. 6, so citizens and parents
have time to review it.
Schott said anyone can call or email him before the meeting with questions or comments
but encourages everyone to attend the school board meeting in person or virtually. “It
would be best if they call in or come in so that the board hears directly from them,”
Schott said.