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Culpeper public schools open for 2021-22 classes on ‘a banner day’

Monday, the first day of 2021-22 classes, was a satisfying one for Culpeper County Public Schools, Superintendent Tony Brads says.

“Think about when we closed (in March 2020) and think about when we opened with hybrid programming,” Brads told the School Board when it met Monday night. “This is the first time in 527 days that we attempted to have as many kids as possible in school. That’s a long time ago.”

It has been two years since Culpeper County started a school year at full capacity, he said.

In addition to its traditional facilities, Culpeper began classes Monday in its brand-new Culpeper Technical Education Center, the county’s third high school, Braid noted.

“This board opened a new school today—a very exciting day!” he told the board, which held its work session in CTEC. “We opened CTEC, the first students arrived at 8 a.m. on schedule, showing up here on a transfer shuttle from one of the two high schools. So it was a banner day for Culpeper schools.”

Brads offered his kudos to staff members and teachers for doing their part to welcome kids back to school Monday.

“Our buildings are in phenomenal shape. The grounds are in phenomenal shape,” he said. “I want to thank everyone very much for their efforts.”

He acknowledged that the school division experienced issues Monday with how some children were brought to school or gotten home.

“Of course we had transportation challenges today; we always do,” Brads said.

Many parents chose to bring their children to school Monday for their first day of classes instead of using buses, which increased traffic congestion at school buildings, he said. Those parents included bus drivers, Brads said.

“We had a whole lot of folks, actually bus drivers who said, ‘I’m a bus driver, but I want to bring my child to school today,’ and we made it happen,” he said.

The vast majority of the county’s public-school students—7,572 in all—returned to in-person classes Monday, he said.

That total is 421 students fewer than were enrolled at the end of last school year—“not a huge gap,” Brads said.

He attributed the difference to the board’s recent expansion of opportunities for parents to register their children for online classes during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

As additional parents succeed in registering students for virtual classes, Brads said he anticipates those sign-ups will add to the division’s total enrollment.

The school division built its 2021-22 budget on an enrollment estimate of about 8,000 students, Finance Director Jeff Shomo said.

The School Board will continue holding its work sessions at CTEC, Brads said.

Look for further coverage of the meeting this week in the Star-Exponent.

Culpeper Star-Exponent staff writer Clint Schemmer contributed to this report.

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