FAQ on the Reopening of Schools Process & Considerations
Models and Timing
What are the two models ACPS is considering for reopening on September 8, 2020?
One possibility is that we remain 100 percent virtual when school reopens. Since March 2020, when we quickly converted to virtual instruction, ACPS has received feedback from students, parents and teachers about what works and what does not. We would incorporate these lessons learned into a new fully virtual model when school reopens.
Another option is to create a hybrid or blended model where students attend in-person classes but also receive instruction remotely. Any in-person instruction in our school buildings would adhere to social distancing and social gathering guidelines.
When will the decision be made?
The final plan for the reopening of schools will be shared with the School Board on Friday, August 7, 2020. Full details of the final plan will be shared with the school community starting Wednesday, August 12, 2020.
Fairfax, Arlington and Loudon have plans for consideration out to the public already. Why is it taking Alexandria so much longer?
ACPS wants to work with our community and have a thorough vetting process as we approach reopening our schools. This process to gain maximum input and ensure all concerns are considered ahead of time is complex due to the many aspects entailed by reopening. This thorough vetting process doesn’t allow for an earlier determination. The decisions we make must be educationally sound and equitable. While we know it will be impossible to have a plan that meets every family’s needs, we hope to provide a plan that will allow students and staff to have access to a safe environment that ensures students continue to progress in their academic growth and achievement.
Health and Safety
How will schools handle COVID-19 positive cases? Will parents of the students and families affected be notified?
The VDOE and CDC have provided guidelines for responding to COVID-19 positive cases. This is one of the items the Health and Safety planning team will be developing guidance on how ACPS will incorporate these guidelines. They are also tasked with issues in the following areas: cleaning and maintenance, personal protective equipment, transportation, security and school nutrition using the guidelines from the VDOE and CDC.
What will be the protocol for allowing children back to school if they or a family member test positive?
We will follow guidance from the Alexandria Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as we develop the protocol.
Will there be enough time for symptoms to appear between sessions in a hybrid schedule?
We do not have any guidance as of yet in regards to how quickly symptoms can appear. Our planning teams include medical doctors, nurses and an epidemiologist. As we continue discussions regarding health and safety, we will engage these experts and this will inform decision making.
Will you enforce rules for wearing face coverings, social distancing and temperature checks?
Our discussions are centered around safety measures and parameters to include screening protocols, social distancing and wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment while in our facilities using guidelines from the VDOE and CDC. Specific details will be shared once discussions are finalized.
What are the discipline options if students/staff don’t follow protocols?
Our goal is to work collaboratively and engage with parents, students and staff to encourage adherence to all established protocols using the guidelines from the VDOE and CDC. Proactive intervention and support, rather than discipline, will be the focus as we understand this will be an adjustment for all.
With schools at full capacity, how will students and staff be able to social distance?
We are currently reviewing available capacity, by school, based on recommendations pertaining to the amount of space needed to appropriately social distance. Social distancing can be achieved by limiting the number of students in each space (based on social distancing standards) and arranging desks/furniture in such a way that encourages social distancing. In addition, there may be a need to use larger non-traditional spaces for instruction (i.e. multipurpose rooms, gymnasiums, etc.) to assist with social distancing at some schools.
How many children will be allowed in a classroom?
The number of students allowed in a classroom will heavily depend on the size of the classroom. Since classroom sizes vary across our school facilities, there will not be a standard number that can be applied to the division as a whole.
How can we keep children apart?
Students will be kept apart to the greatest extent possible by employing social distancing in all classrooms and other instructional areas. There will be guidelines given to staff and families around the protocols that will need to be followed should we open with this model.
How will schools handle drop-off/pick-up?
Drop-off and pick-up times will be determined as the reopening plan evolves. These are all questions that the Cross-Functional Planning Teams have been asked to address.
Has ACPS considered starting the school year with middle and high school students learning virtually and then using those buildings/classrooms for younger students?
ACPS is considering this and all options for increasing capacity while following social distancing guidelines to reopen in the fall. Student and staff safety are paramount in the decision-making process. We will be sharing a final plan once these questions have been answered in early August.
Would you consider having the students stay with their class in one classroom all day and the teachers rotate from room-to-room?
This option is also being considered by the planning team as a possible way to incorporate a safe and healthy learning environment into our preparations for reopening.
Will ACPS consider going 100 percent virtual, but allow teachers to teach from their classrooms with access to all their materials?
ACPS is in the process of gathering input like this to make a decision on the best course forward, but no decisions have been made at this time.
Has ACPS considered using open outdoor spaces for lessons to maximize the number of kids who can be taught at school daily and keeping social distancing rules?
ACPS is considering outdoor spaces for instruction along with all other options that would help us adhere to social distancing guidelines while also providing in-person instruction to the largest number of students. ACPS will continue to keep the safety of students and staff as the priority during all deliberations.
Will before-care and aftercare be operating?
This item will be discussed across all Cross-Functional Planning Teams. In addition, we will continue to collaborate and have conversations with external stakeholders (RPCA and Campagna) to better understand how the aftercare decision will impact their operations.
Delivery of Instruction
The American Academy of Pediatrics is advocating in-classroom learning, citing huge mental health concerns from distance learning based on evidence from the spring. Why is ACPS even considering 100% distance learning?
ACPS is familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics study. The health and safety of our students and staff are our priorities as we consider the two likely models for reopening schools on September 8, 2020. Our team will consider the traditional opening. However, we need to follow the social distancing and social gathering guidelines set out by the Virginia Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that it is unlikely that we will be able to open on September 8, 2020 using our traditional model.
What will 100 percent virtual education and what will a hybrid education look like for special education students?
As part of ACPS planning for the reopening of schools, Specialized Instruction staff are meeting to determine the scope and service delivery options for students with disabilities. To do this, the team is undertaking in-depth research and considering many service options for students with disabilities to address their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals and instructional needs. Specialized Instruction will present multiple options to meet student needs in a fully virtual or hybrid format.
What does ACPS plan for students on their 'off day' if a hybrid model is selected?
ACPS is still developing how instruction will be delivered in either model. It is likely that there will be planning days built into either type of schedule for teacher planning and to provide interventions and supports for some students.
Will students in grades K-2 get Chromebooks this fall?
Students in grade 2 will be issued Chromebooks in the fall. ACPS will also provide tablets to K-1 families that need them.
Will there be an additional option for Special Education students that need to be at school full-time in order to learn?
There are many factors to consider when determining how a student with special needs will return to school. The decision will be made in the context of a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) coupled with overall school division schedules for student attendance and space in individual schools.
Will football be played this fall?
ACPS will follow the guidance of the Virginia High School League guidance on sports. We are waiting to hear what those guidelines will be. It is unlikely, however, that contact sports will be permitted.
What options are teachers and staff being given?
ACPS is not changing the requirements for work. Employees will either work on-site or work remotely - depending on the model that is chosen for school in the fall. If an employee cannot work, the employee will be required to take sick leave.
Will there be substitutes available?
Regardless of what option is chosen for delivering instruction in the fall, ACPS will continue to process requests for a substitute in the same way. As in the past, requests are subject to review/approval by the school principal or administrator.
Can college education majors or masters in education students be employed as temporary assistants to increase the teaching workforce by assisting in the classroom or overseeing remote lessons for kids in an unused classroom?
At this time, ACPS is not considering bringing on temporary assistants for in-classroom or for remote learning. However, we would welcome applications for teacher substitutes that can be filled out online at the ACPS website.
How to Get Involved
How do citizens and staff sign up to get involved?
There will be plenty of opportunities for the school community to have their say. The week of July 20, ACPS will be offering seven community conversations to get feedback around the reopening planning process and optional models for the fall. You can find out more at the ACPS-at-Home website.
Are there parents and teachers on the cross-functional work teams?
Each planning team has parents, teachers as well as ACPS leadership and community experts in fields relevant to the topic of discussion. They have been selected for their ability to bring this perspective to the planning process.