Roanoke City Public Schools and VCE Launch New “Screen Smart” Program

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It’s no secret that screen use by educators and learners has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. Technology is allowing many in our community to continue working, learning, and connecting virtually in a time when gathering in person is not always feasible.

However, as students went back to school this fall, Superintendent Verletta White saw an immediate need for action to address increased screen time for Roanoke City Public Schools’ students and staff.

The Screen Smart Program focuses on two main strategies: first, reducing screen use for entertainment, and second, taking regular movement breaks throughout the school day.  Both of these strategies have many benefits for students from improved social and physical health to increased academic achievement.

RCPS educators and families are being provided with tips and resources to implement these strategies in the coming weeks.  For example, the entire RCPS community is being encouraged to take part in at least one Screen-Free Saturday.  To participate, students, families, and staff commit to not use any screens from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.  Instead, they do other fun and creative activities like spending time in nature, creating art, or making up skits, obstacle courses, or games.

In addition, the RCPS community is being encouraged to take regular movement breaks when working and learning on screens.  These breaks are meant to be just three to five minutes long and can be any physical activity from jumping jacks or stretching to simply stepping into a different room to connect with a family member or coworker.

“Roanoke City Public Schools is committed to helping our students, families, and staff maintain healthy relationships with screens,” says Tim Hahn, Director of Student Services. Director of Athletics, Health, and Physical Education, Mr. F.L. Slough says that the “Screen Smart” program will support students and parents with the promotion of mental and physical fitness.

“The RCPS Screen Smart Program is all about strengthening digital wellness in a time when we are relying more heavily on technology for work and play” says Rachel Burks, Agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program.  “We are excited to work alongside Superintendent White, Student Services, and the Health and P.E. Department to develop this new program for Roanoke City Public Schools.”

The RCPS Screen Smart program officially launches this week.