Reopening Frequently Asked Questions for Families

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    Why can we not open using a traditional model in the fall?

    ANSWER: The health and safety of our children and staff has to be our top priority. Given the number of positive cases and the continued spread of the coronavirus, it is simply not safe for us to reopen our schools using our traditional model in the fall. ACPS has a responsibility to follow the guidance from the Virginia Department of Education and the CDC when considering any model we adopt in the fall. The requirements around social distancing severely limit the number of students who will be allowed in a classroom or on a bus, which means that we simply cannot have all our students in school at one time, five days a week in the fall.


    When will ACPS make a decision around which model to use?

    ANSWER: ACPS will formally present its proposed model for the fall with the School Board during their meeting on August 7. However, we intend to share a proposed model with our ACPS community for their feedback on July 31. Throughout this process, we have been sharing the work we have been doing around reopening and our families will have a clear idea of the direction in which we are moving well ahead of seeing the final plan on August 7.


    With other school divisions in the area (Loudoun, Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince William) going 100 percent virtual for the first quarter, would it even be possible for ACPS to do something different?

    ANSWER: ACPS will need to take into account the decisions of the other school divisions in our region as many of our staff live in those areas and commute to Alexandria from them. This means that many of our staff have children who attend schools in other school divisions and who will be subject to their reopening plans/schedules for the fall. That said, each school division has its own population and needs to be responsive to its student population and we need to make a decision that works for our students and families here in Alexandria. With 61 percent of our students eligible for free and reduced price meals, we have one of the highest poverty rates in the region and our students rely on school for a wide variety of services, including access to food.


    We are hearing that ACPS will be going 100 percent virtual in the fall. Is this true?

    ANSWER: No final decision has been made, but we will be sharing preliminary information with you around our proposed model on July 31. If we do start the school year with a fully virtual model for some students, we will also need to plan for a hybrid model at the same time, as it is likely that we will try to move to a hybrid as soon as possible. By placing equity at the heart of the planning process, we may be able to offer different options for different groups of students, including those with disabilities.


    How often will ACPS revisit the decision on the model chosen to ensure things remain safe?

    ANSWER: ACPS has been constantly reviewing our situation and the model of learning we are offering since school buildings closed on March 13. As a result, our learning plans moved from an initial plan (1.0) to the Continuity of Learning Plan (2.0) to offering Summer Learning for All (3.0) - an opportunity that made us unique in the Northern Virginia region. These were developed according to the needs we saw among our staff and students. Should we reopen in the fall with either a fully virtual or hybrid model, we will continue to review the needs of our staff and students in light of both safety and instruction. Our goal is to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our community at all times.


    Whatever model ACPS adopts for reopening, will it be for the entire school year, or will there be a phased approach to reopening?

    ANSWER:It is likely that we will need to adjust our models over the course of the school year depending on changes in the situation. This might be toward a fully traditional model or it might be back to a fully virtual model, depending on the way the virus develops.


    Will the reopening plans change because of the US Department of Education’s stance?

    ANSWER: The reopening plans are being discussed and developed by the Alexandria community. Our planning teams are reviewing potential scheduling for our students based on the feedback we receive from families and staff over the next couple of weeks, as well as, the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education and Center for Disease Control. Our ultimate goal is to make decisions in the best interest of the students.  


    Have you considered opening five days a week with two cohorts that go for three hours each to allow young kids to have instruction and personal interaction every day?

    ANSWER: We have a group of staff reviewing multiple scheduling options to test and determine the model that is feasible and equitable. This will be among the considerations as they continue to go over options.


    How will a partial return to the school building be implemented in each school type: elementary, middle, and high school?

    ANSWER: The planning teams are working hard to develop the plans that will create a safe, healthy and equitable learning environment for every student, at every grade level. We are still in the planning phase for hybrid learning. Students in the models we are testing would be in school for two consecutive days, followed by online learning. However, we will only be asking staff and students to return to classrooms once we have procedures in place to help ensure their health and safety.


    What will be the expectation for elementary students on virtual days in a hybrid model?

    ANSWER: ACPS planning teams are in the process of developing expectations for students and teachers. We will communicate expectations to families and students before school begins on September 8, 2020.


    If a hybrid schedule is chosen, how will ACPS meet the needs of students with chronic health issue(s) ensuring they feel safe and stay safe, while in ACPS buildings?

    ANSWER: Student safety is a top priority for ACPS in planning. If the hybrid model is selected, we would work with each family and their counselor on a case-by-case basis to make sure they feel safe from getting sick when they are attending classes in any of our school buildings.


    If a hybrid schedule is chosen, will parents have an all virtual option for students with health issues and/or emotional disabilities?

    ANSWER: At this point, our team has not set guidelines as to options parents would have with either model that is selected. However, it is a topic of discussion and our planning teams will be coming up with guidelines and a definitive answer. Student safety and their social emotional needs are a priority for ACPS in planning.


    Is ACPS considering ways to get K-3 into school more frequently than older children? If not, why not?

    ANSWER: The Governor’s guidance regarding prioritizing our younger learners is for phase II of reopening schools which is in effect now; however, by the fall we will be in Phase III which encourages opportunities for all students. Our planning teams are reviewing potential scheduling for our students based on the feedback we receive from families and staff over the next couple of weeks, as well as, the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Education and Center for Disease Control. Our ultimate goal is to make decisions in the best interest of the students.  


    Has ACPS considered starting the school year with middle and high school students learning virtually and then using those buildings/classrooms for younger students?

    ANSWER: 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.


    Has ACPS considered two tracks of learning within the same school - giving students and (to the extent possible) teachers the choice of either taking part in 100 percent virtual instruction or 100 percent in-person instruction?

    ANSWER: We are considering two models at the moment, the hybrid model and the 100 percent virtual model. However, our team is testing schedules for students and staff to determine what is feasible and will thoroughly consider all aspects of each model. 


    What options are available for parents who feel that going into school buildings is too risky?

    ANSWER: At this point, our team has not set guidelines as to options parents would have with either model that is selected. However, it is a topic of discussion and our planning teams will be coming up with guidelines and a definitive answer to the question of whether parents will have the option to go 100 percent virtual if the hybrid model is chosen.


    If I choose to send my children to school instead of learning at home, but then I change my mind, could I withdraw them from school and continue virtual school full-time?

    ANSWER: At this point, our team has not set guidelines as to options parents would have with either model that is selected. However, it is a topic of discussion and our planning teams will be coming up with guidelines and a definitive answer to the question of whether parents will have the option to go 100 percent virtual if the hybrid model is chosen.


    Will a hybrid schedule take siblings into account when scheduling to provide child care options for parents?

    ANSWER: This has been a part of the planning and ACPS intends to schedule students from the same family and household to report on the same days to schools. We will try to keep families together and send students to school on the same days to prevent child care issues and to simplify this unprecedented experience as much as possible for our families.  


    How do teachers feel about reopening?

    ANSWER: Responses from the recent staff and family survey show that 63 percent of staff felt “somewhat-to-very likely” they would return to work on-site this fall. The highest likelihood to return were seen among support staff (73 percent), then school based licensed staff (60 percent) and then central office staff (60 percent). We are aware that the survey represents a point-in-time and that views are continually shifting.


    What happens after the proposal is submitted to the school board on August 7, 2020, and before it is presented to the state on August 14, 2020? Can or will changes to the proposal be made after it is submitted to the School Board?

    ANSWER:The plan that will be presented to the School Board and the VDOE in August will be a framework of how we intend to operate in the fall. Much of the more detailed planning and the implementation will still need to take place after the submission date. This situation is unprecedented and any plan will be adjusted as the situation requires.


    Why is ACPS not letting the parents make their own decision about school being virtual or hybrid?

    ANSWER:The model that ACPS selects for the fall will be based on multiple factors, including the survey data from the Reopening Survey. The model selected for the fall will depend on what is practical and the way in which we are feasibly able to deliver the services that our students need in order to continue to learn. This may not look the same for every student group. Equity has to be at the heart of our planning. While it may seem a simple model to offer every staff member and parent the choice of model, this would be almost impossible for planning purposes - and may not be equitable.


    If you decide to give families an option of online or hybrid, will teachers also be given that option? And if so, what are your thoughts of how to handle unequal numbers (more online teachers than students, not enough hybrid teachers).

    ANSWER: ACPS planning teams are still determining what model is feasible and what options could be made available. This contingency is a good example of the complexity involved in that determination and would be part of the consideration as to whether it is feasible to offer choice to families and teachers. In the case that it would be feasible to do so, then principals would assign teachers in a way that would  support the needs of students and the instructional model.


    Is it possible that students could have the hybrid option in the fall, then attend an all virtual option through the winter months (due to cold and flu season), and return to a hybrid option again in the springtime?

    ANSWER: We have not made any decisions regarding hybrid schedules in the fall and then changing to virtual schedules during the winter months. Teams are reviewing different schedules and will provide an update to the School Board on August 7, 2020.  


    If enough students choose the online model, is it possible that the rest of the kids can attend school for more than just two days?

    ANSWER: The model will either be hybrid or virtual and the decision will be based on what is feasible.  At this time no specific model, hybrid or online, has been selected. The instructional cross-functional team is currently reviewing and developing possible schedules for consideration in either model. Again, full details of the final plan will be presented to the School Board on August 7, 2020, and at that time these schedules will be discussed.


    If the state rolls back to Phase II will schools stay closed?

    ANSWER: We recognize that reopening schools is a high priority, but the health and safety of our students, staff, and families must always be considered. As the course of the COVID-19 virus remains difficult to predict, our understanding and decisions will continue to be guided by the CDC and the VDOE. Also, our Health and Safety planning team are aware of the guidelines for responding to COVID-19.


    Will you consider a system where students attend their classes with the same group of children and do not change classrooms during the school day?

    ANSWER: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. For example, this could mean that a group of students and a teacher could stay together during the day to help eliminate transitions and also promote a more stable setting for a number of students especially at the elementary level.


    How are the conversations unfolding with the local teacher's union? Are their issues being addressed and are teachers responding positively to the idea of reopening?

    ANSWER: The President of the Education Association of Alexandria (EAA) has served as a moderator for one of our community chats and has been very involved and supportive of the reopening process. While serving on one of the reopening cross-functional planning teams, she has offered input, advice, and suggestions for consideration. In addition, teachers are serving on the different cross-functional teams and they are sharing ideas, raising questions, and presenting possible solutions for a reopening plan. The teachers are focused on issues of  health, safety, cleaning, personal protective equipment, transportation, instruction, scheduling, school nutrition, human resources, and many other areas.



    What will happen when a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19?

    ANSWER: The first thing ACPS will do is contact the Alexandria Health Department. The Health Department has many resources available to help and ACPS follows all their guidelines. The next step is to identify anyone who was exposed through contact tracing. Then we will be able to determine if the exposure was confined or extended and whether we need to isolate and address a defined area or the entire school.


    How will we communicate positive cases of COVID-19 in the event schools are reopened?

    ANSWER: The Virginia Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control have provided guidelines for responding to COVID-19 positive cases. Per VDOE guidance, letters will be sent to the entire school community outlining a situation and explaining the actions a school is taking and that parents/staff should take when:

    • A symptomatic individual is sent home for COVID like illness
    • There is a positive case with no exposure in a school
    • There is a positive case with exposure in a school
    • There is a laboratory confirmed case of COVD-19 associated with the school

    NOTE: The confidentiality and identity of that individual will be protected at all times in all communications.

    ACPS will also work with the Alexandria Health Department to plan more detailed personal communication needed for parents whose children have been identified as being a close contact of a person with COVID-19.


    If a child is exposed to COVID-19, will the parent be called first, before the school speaks to the child?

    ANSWER: ACPS will take any immediate actions necessary to limit the exposure and then communicate with the parents of children who have been exposed. ACPS always communicates health concerns to the parents and not the child.


    If an art, music, PE teacher becomes ill, would every class they were exposed to have to stay home and quarantine for 14 days?

    ANSWER: If we moved to a hybrid model, we would do our best to ensure that students and staff remained separated as much as possible to avoid this situation. If this did occur - or any positive diagnosis occurred - we would contact the Alexandria Health Department and work closely with them to follow their guidance. The Virginia Department of Health provides guidelines on quarantine times.


    What is the definition of exposure in a school setting?

    ANSWER: The definition of exposure is the same for every setting and every type of classroom. When assessing a person’s risk of exposure to COVID-19, close contact means being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 while not wearing adequate personal protective equipment for ≥15 minutes. If someone is within six feet of a person with lab-confirmed COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more at a time, that person is considered to have been exposed.  


    I share an apartment with three other families. I have two children in elementary school and they have four children in three different schools. If one of the children gets sick, would all four schools close?

    ANSWER: Should ACPS have a single positive case, we will notify the Alexandria Health Department and work closely with them to follow their guidelines. They would provide a recommendation regarding the need to close a school or school facility.

    The extent of the school facility and teaching staff affected will be a factor in determining whether educational services can continue to be provided in-person should this situation occur.

    The VDOE guidance states that sections of a school could be closed instead of the entire school depending on the number of ill persons who have been sent home for a period of isolation and the number of exposed contacts who have been identified and placed into quarantine.


    What will be the expectation if my child feels sick (cold/flu) unwell? Do they need to be kept at home during the days they would have in-person instruction?

    ANSWER: The Virginia Department of Education has advised that any student or staff member who feels unwell prior to arriving at school, should instead stay home and should not enter the school building. This is outlined in Policy GBE for staff, and in the Code of Conduct for students and families.


    What if a student feels sick after arriving at school?

    ANSWER: A child who feels sick after arriving at school should go to the school nurse. The nurse will evaluate the student in a separate room designated for any child who feels unwell with potential symptoms so that they could be kept separate from others. The school nurse will evaluate and decide whether to call the parent or a family member to pick up the student and take them home.


    Will ACPS require flu shots for all teachers and students?

    ANSWER: At this point, flu shots are encouraged for all ACPS staff and students, but not required. ACPS works closely with the Alexandria Health Department and will follow any guidance issued by them, the Virginia Health Department, the CDC and the VDOE.


    How will ACPS make sure enough soap will be available to students for handwashing?

    ANSWER: The division will follow public health guidelines to ensure a safe teaching and learning environment for schools and offices. Before staff and students return to school buildings, the Office of Maintenance and Custodial Services will ensure that soap and supplies are readily available in all facilities. We will only be asking staff and students to return to classrooms once we have procedures in place to help ensure their health and safety.


    What kind of hand-washing protocols are you implementing and how can you ensure that this will be implemented regularly and effectively?

    ANSWER: The health and safety planning team are developing the hand-washing protocols using guidance from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Alexandria Department of Health. These will be shared with staff and the public.


    Will you require COVID-19 testing of children, families, and staff before returning to school? How often?

    ANSWER: At this time, CDC and VDOE do not require COVID testing of staff or students. If someone becomes symptomatic our guidance would be to seek medical input and see if testing is required. If a staff member or student is exposed to COVID-19 then they will be advised to seek medical attention and advice.


    Not everyone with COVID-19 gets a temperature. What other measure will you take to monitor students/staff?

    ANSWER: There is a planning team discussing what kind of screening tools to use if a hybrid model is selected. Temperature screening is just one measure and does not cover everything, and if temperature checks are used, this team needs to further decide whether the check happens before students get on a school bus or once they arrive at school?


    Will you enforce face coverings, social distancing, and temperature checks?

    ANSWER: If ACPS reopens under a hybrid model, students, staff and visitors would be expected to follow all safety guidelines to include wearing the appropriate PPE, maintaining social distance, and complying with our screening procedures.


    If ACPS implements the Hybrid model, will students get their temperature checked as they arrive at school or get on the bus?

    ANSWER: Health screening methods are still being evaluated as part of the reopening conversations.  The few methods under consideration right now include a full self-screening or combination of self and onsite screening methods.


    Will there be a specific type of face-covering required for teachers - cloth, paper, N-95?

    ANSWER: This is still under discussion and depends on the model that ACPS decides to adopt. ACPS is working on a plan to provide the necessary PPE for students and staff if a hybrid model is chosen. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that all staff and students and their families are safe and healthy and our requirements or provision of PPE would be based on this premise.


    Is ACPS planning to invest in plexiglass for reception areas of schools and nurses' supplies or tents for schools?

    ANSWER: Establishing a safe and healthy learning environment is the top priority of ACPS. To that end, the planning teams are exploring all options to make sure students and staff are safe in our school buildings if the hybrid model is selected.


    With so few bathrooms/sinks in some of our school buildings, how can we make sure students can wash their hands?

    ANSWER: ACPS school buildings have been closed since March and that has allowed for the Division to make sure we have appropriate soap dispensers, we are adding hand sanitizer stations, we are stocking up on soap, hand sanitizer, and Personal Protective Equipment. On our end, we are making sure we soap dispensers, sinks and hand dryers are working in school buildings.


    How can we make sure Kindergarten-aged children social distance?

    ANSWER: ACPS planning teams are aware that our youngest learners need special attention. Students will be kept apart to the greatest extent possible in all classrooms and other instructional areas and fewer students will be assigned to classes in a Hybrid model. In addition, guidelines will be given to staff and families around the protocols that will need to be followed should we open with this model.


    Will the division be held responsible for students who become ill?

    ANSWER:  The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority. The school division will consider the public health guidance for schools and the workplace as provided by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health. Our goal is to keep our students and staff as safe as possible using these guidelines while continuing to allow our students to learn.


    If the division makes students return to the buildings, will the division pay the medical expenses for ill students for families without insurance?

    ANSWER: The division will follow public health guidelines to ensure a safe teaching and learning environment for schools and offices. We will only be asking staff and students to return to classrooms once we have procedures in place to help ensure their health and safety. However, ACPS will not be responsible for medical expenses for students who become ill.


    What is the average turnaround time for testing results in Alexandria at this time?

    ANSWER: In theory, test results should come back within a few days. However, due to the national crisis, it can take up to a week depending upon the state and community. ACPS recommends contacting the Alexandria Health Department to learn more.



    What tools will be available to help guide parents through emotional health in helping children adjust to the ‘new normal’?

    ANSWER: ACPS, in collaboration with our City and community partners,  is committed to addressing the social, emotional, and academic needs of children in either a hybrid or virtual model, using social-emotional curriculum, restorative practice, and positive behavioral interventions and supports. During the reopening planning, there has been a consistent focus on emotional health and consideration of resources to support parents to help address questions or concerns they may have about their child’s adjustment to school in either model. We hope parents and guardians will reach out to their child’s school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, school social worker, or classroom teacher with any concerns they may have about their child. These educational and health professionals can provide targeted suggestions based upon the context and specific circumstances.

    An additional resource that parents or guardians may access is the regional Parent Support Line that offers a listening ear, parenting advice, support and tips to help navigate emotional and relational parenting issues. Call 703.324.7720, or text “SUPPORT” or “PARENTING” to 30644, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Support is available in English and Spanish.


    How can our children learn when they are worried about getting the virus by being in school?

    ANSWER:  As part of any reopening plan, ACPS is committed to developing protocols that support student and staff safety based upon established federal, state, and local guidelines. Every effort will be made to establish trusting and caring relationships, foster feelings of safety and community, and reinforce social and emotional skills to reduce student anxiety and increase their availability to access learning in either model.


    How does ACPS plan to deal with things like bullies intentionally trying to spread COVID-19 to kids they don't like?

    ANSWER:  Should a student be diagnosed with COVID-19, the expectation would be that the student would remain at home until they were no longer deemed to be at a risk of spreading the virus to others.  If a student is found to be engaging in behaviors that could be considered bullying or harassment, the process for investigation and the assignment of potential consequences that is provided for in the ACPS Code of Conduct would be followed.  If there were concerns about COVID-19 exposure, ACPS would contact the Alexandria City Health Department and follow their recommendations as outlined earlier in the FAQ.



    Will there be a regular schedule or will the schedule be rotating for groups of students?

    ANSWER: The current schedule options include a rotating schedule of either two consecutive days or alternating days. When a decision is made it will be fully communicated to staff and families before school opens on September 8, 2020, so that all understand how the schedule will work.


    Is ACPS considering providing a full-day of school via Zoom conferencing?

    ANSWER: The planning teams are considering this and many options to deliver instruction for both models. The team will share with the community the best options once their work is finalized.  


    How would the schedules work if school is 100 percent virtual?

    ANSWER: We are still in the planning phase for virtual learning. This level of detail will be determined and shared after a final model is chosen. However, if ACPS determines a 100 percent virtual model is the best option for now, every ACPS family will be fully informed as to how their student(s) schedules will work before school begins on September 8, 2020.


    Will lesson plans and teaching materials be communicated in advance?

    ANSWER: ACPS can improve on the learning model implemented in the spring when we had to quickly put virtual learning into place. We know there needs to be improvement in the teaching and learning model and supports provided this fall. Our Teaching, Learning and Leadership team is working on this and will find ways to communicate with our families about the curriculum.


    How will school work be evaluated by the teacher?

    ANSWER: The planning teams are working on recommendations for staff evaluations. In either model chosen small changes may be needed to our staff evaluation procedures.


    Will ACPS be grading student work?

    ANSWER: Student work will be graded in the fall. There is a full team focused on grading practices and expectations for staff and students. We realize that grading has an impact on student engagement and learning loss. ACPS is working to refine these practices for the fall.


    If the division pursues online learning, how will younger students be supported and can teachers provide differentiated learning plans, including TAG instruction?

    ANSWER: We will need to adapt how we monitor students and ensure they have the supports needed to receive a high quality of instruction. We will be reviewing, adjusting and adapting the model used in the spring to ensure we serve all our students’ learning needs in the fall.


    What resources do you plan to provide to parents to assist with students that are disinterested in or resisting online learning?

    ANSWER: We are developing guidance for parents, as well as, tips for students to be successful in a home learning environment. There will be communication for parents and students. We want students and parents to continue to reach out to their teachers. There will also be counselors, social workers and psychologists available. We want to make this a successful transition for our students and families.


    What supports will ACPS put into place to support students who refuse to Zoom, especially students with disabilities who need to access services?

    ANSWER: We are trying to work out a model where certain populations of students could come into school buildings four days a week. If a student has learning loss or is not engaged, they may be considered part of a special population. We can also use Zoom in a remote learning setting to meet with small groups of students with learning needs.


    Would the division be open to parents homeschooling on a part-time basis? More specifically, could my special needs child remain enrolled with ACPS and receive O/T and certain other specialized services while I provide the bulk of his instruction?

    ANSWER:  At this time, and according to ACPS policy, there is not a part-time homeschool option offered. However, parents who choose to remove their student from ACPS and homeschool may continue to access special education services in a limited manner through an Individual Service Plan (ISP) rather than an IEP.


    In Kindergarten, children need to develop social skills as well as academics, how can teachers effectively do this in either a 100 percent virtual class or in a classroom practicing social distancing?

    ANSWER: We know Kindergarten is a pivotal grade for students. These children have been a priority for ACPS and we are examining all factors to determine the best way to work with our Kindergarten students. Our principals are developing strategies to socialize our young children whether in a virtual format or in-person with social distancing. We will also be developing professional learning for our Kindergarten teachers on social skills building for either model. While we know this is not how you envisioned your child beginning school, we will do everything possible to provide a quality education in either model.


    Will ACPS try to get ELL students back into the classroom?

    ANSWER: English language students have been identified by the VDOE as a priority to get in-person schooling. All the options we are considering provide additional time for these students.


    Will there be tutoring offered via Zoom?

    ANSWER: Yes, tutoring services will be provided for students.


    Is ACPS able to provide us with vouchers so we can pay tutors?

    ANSWER: APCS will be offering online tutoring services for students, but not vouchers for parents who wish to hire their own.


    Can the dual language classes be classified as a special population?

    ANSWER: Dual Language is a model that is offered within our schools and not a student population. Special populations are those students who have higher need than others, such as students with disabilities, for example.


    How will the teacher monitor whether students in virtual learning are focusing on what is being taught during a live session and not multitasking?

    ANSWER: Either model has a virtual component and our staff will be receiving professional development in remote instruction. Teachers will be incorporating ways to check-in and ensure students are comprehending the material and are focused on the live instruction.


    Do we know if all students can take advantage of online learning and do you have a plan on how to bridge any gaps?

    ANSWER: ACPS has worked diligently since March 13, to try and ensure that all students can access online instruction. In addition to issuing Chromebooks to students in grades 2-12 and tablets to students in PreK, Kindergarten, and First Grade, families without access to the Internet can request a Kajeet, a hotspot that can provide internet access to multiple children in a household.  


    I want to raise a concern around childcare "pods" translating over to classroom pods. My worry is that the pods that have formed during the lockdown might be less diverse than the classroom. How will ACPS address this?

    ANSWER: Our goal is to ensure that the quality of learning in the fall is high enough for all students that students should not need this kind of additional tutoring. We know we have room for improvement from the spring, but are confident that we can deliver a high quality of education that fully satisfies our families.


    Will requirements for homeschooling, such as the need for a parent to have a Bachelor’s degree, be more flexible for those who do not want to send their children back to school?

    ANSWER: The Virginia Department of Education sets the guidelines for homeschooling and allows parents who have earned a high school diploma or a higher credential to homeschool their children if they elect to do so.


    If the decision is made to go all virtual what is going to be done to assist high school seniors with counseling for college?

    ANSWER: Since the closure in March, ACPS has used virtual methods to continue to provide high school students with postsecondary planning, including college admissions. School counselors and the college and career counselor at T.C. Williams and Chance for Change Academy remain highly engaged in assisting students with exploring, selecting, and then completing the necessary tasks to meet their goals.  Students should continue to reach out to their school counselor or the college and career counselor with any questions.


    Will ACPS be providing professional development specific to virtual learning?

    ANSWER: ACPS has a team working on professional development for the virtual learning environment. It is our responsibility as a school division to make sure staff has the appropriate professional development and support, needed to feel confident and comfortable with various tools and instruction styles. Our professional learning can begin when staff contracts allow and that is the week prior to September 8, 2020.


    What about substitute teachers? Will they still be trained to teach online?

    ANSWER: ACPS departments will work to develop training for substitute teachers. Anyone wishing to substitute will take the training and then verify they can provide instruction in a remote learning environment before they will be hired.


    Can ACPS align its online learning via a single platform to help simplify things for both the kids and parents?

    ANSWER: ACPS learned from the spring that there is a need to streamline our delivery platform across the division. There is also a need for consistency therefore ACPS will be streamlining resources and digital tools to simplify instruction for students and families. ACPS is also planning to offer additional technical support to families and students through tutorials and webinars.


    How will electives be handled? Such as choir or theater?

    ANSWER: Summer Learning has successfully included virtual music and theater programs. These are examples of how electives will be taught in the fall. ACPS is constantly refining the Continuity of Learning plan to improve upon what works and implement best practices.


    Will you offer an evening live class for children who cannot go online in the day?

    ANSWER: ACPS will not be offering “live” classes in the evenings, however, students will be able to access a recording of the Zoom session from the morning at any time. This way a student will not miss out on a class even if they are unable to make the time at which it is being taught.


    Will you be able to provide devices for low-income families for virtual learning?

    ANSWER: ACPS is expanding our technology infrastructure and will be providing Chromebooks to all students in grades 2-12 and tablets for all students in PreK, Kindergarten, and First Grade. Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted we can set up distribution sites for students to get a device or replace broken devices. Families will receive communication before school begins to ensure their student has the technology needed to start school on September 8, 2020.


    Will there be a requirement that all classes have some percentage of time as synchronous learning, not just assigning work via Canvas etc.?

    ANSWER: The cross-functional planning teams are currently developing schedules that will provide some more explicit expectations beyond just assigning work via Canvas. The planning team is setting up expectations for teachers and expectations for students for the fall. ACPS will provide opportunities for teachers to deliver live lessons, pre-recorded activities, office hours for reviewing assignments and providing student feedback, as well as time for students to work together in small breakout groups. There have been lessons learned that will inform our teaching and learning practices in a virtual classroom.


    Will teachers receive the technology they need to teach, such as microphones and assistance paying for high-speed internet?

    ANSWER: There are no plans to provide additional microphones to staff. All laptops and Chromebooks have microphones embedded within them. If a staff member does not have Internet access at home, they should notify their supervisor. ACPS is considering options for staff without Internet access at home.


    Can we do virtual school, but do the classes and activities in the evening?

    ANSWER: ACPS will not be offering “live” classes in the evenings, however, students will be able to access a recording of the Zoom session from the morning at any time. This way a student will not miss out on a class even if they are unable to make the time at which it is being taught.


    Can math and science be delivered as synchronous classes not asynchronous?  

    ANSWER: The planning teams continue to plan instructional expectations for all grade levels. Synchronous instruction is a vital part of the planning for instruction in fall.



    How will school be different in the fall for special needs students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

    ANSWER: Every student will be considered individually to ensure they are receiving the individual supports they need. From March-to-June we treated every student the same and that was a huge challenge especially for our families with special needs because each family is unique. We learned lessons from the spring and from Summer Learning and the team is making refinements to ensure a better experience going forward. ACPS is putting equity first and that means meeting every child where that child is to help them learn.


    How will special education be administered in the virtual or hybrid model?

    ANSWER: 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.


    How will ACPS ensure students with disabilities are provided their related services, behavioral support, and specialized instruction if students are unable to access Zoom due to issues related to their disability?

    ANSWER: Every student with a disability or an IEP has a case manager who will work with the family and school-based staff to address their unique needs and provide services.The Specialized Instruction team is working to ensure that all instructional models under consideration will support students with IEPs. Special education programming will provide the necessary instruction and accommodations to meet student needs in a virtual format. This will include instruction and support in a variety of formats designed to meet unique and individual needs.


    Since the IEPs written last Spring envisioned students back in a traditional model in the fall, how will ACPS apply them?

    ANSWER: In the spring we had meetings and wrote the IEPs in a way that envisioned students returning to school in the fall because we were operating under a quickly changing environment. If we cannot implement them in a school setting as planned we will identify the goals and work with those issues when we first start to develop instructional plans for students. We will develop IEP plans for each individual student and we will track those goals and services on their IEP. When we can transition students back to school we will transition back to the programming in the IEP. Parents will continue to get progress reports and at the secondary level, we will provide interim progress reports.


    How is ACPS dealing with students who are in the process of being evaluated for special ed services?

    ANSWER: Due to the pandemic, we have struggled to meet a component of the evaluation process that requires a face-to-face assessment since we have not been able to bring students into the buildings. ACPS is working to establish a way to assess students in a very controlled environment that is clean and safe with PPE provided. Since March 13 we have kept a chronological list of students in need of assessment, this list will be used as soon as we can begin testing. In addition, we have done all that we can in the virtual format, our social workers have pulled together all the documentation that we need to move forward, including observations in Zoom classrooms. The last component to address is the in-person assessment.


    How will ACPS conduct IEP meetings and 504 meetings in this upcoming school year?

    ANSWER: Since April, ACPS has developed a very robust IEP development process and we have been conducting full IEP meetings in a virtual format. We use either Zoom or telephone calls with parents and bring in all the required participants. Parents receive the draft documents several days in advance to review, a case manager reaches out to parents to get their input, then we hold a meeting.


    How will you accommodate students with sensory processing issues, but do not qualify for an IEP or 504 simply because they function well in a classroom setting?

    ANSWER: ACPS plan is to use school based personnel to provide support to students with sensory processing issues employing the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, (MTSS) process. This method applies to all students and allows teachers to use data-based problem solving and decision making to target support and help students improve.


    In either model, how will ACPS accommodate students on IEPs that cannot learn well in a virtual environment?

    ANSWER: ACPS understands the disruption that this has caused to student learning and our first priority is to get students back in school as soon as we can do it safely. ACPS is committed to our students and has provided hard copies of learning materials, virtual instruction, one-on-one time with teachers, and playgroups. With 4.0 we are exploring ways to make every alternative available to students within CDC guidelines. ACPS is making every effort to have students with disabilities back in school as soon as possible.


    My autistic child will not participate in virtual learning and has had no schooling since March, how can ACPS help?

    ANSWER: ACPS recognizes the multitude of challenges our families are facing. We are looking at returning students to school in the most need of direct face-to-face instruction. Our priority is to return them to school as soon as we possibly can and are aware that one size does not fit all. ACPS will do everything possible to craft a program that allows every student to access instruction.


    Will there be additional options for special education students that need to be at school fulltime in order to learn?

    ANSWER: Students with disabilities have been identified by the VDOE as a priority group to bring back to the classroom and in-school setting. There are a variety of models being considered and we are looking at alternatives that allow students with disabilities to access in-person instruction more frequently.


    How will you support students with disabilities so they can access and complete instructional material in the virtual environment?

    ANSWER: ACPS has put several things into place already including, office hours and direct instruction using Clever as a platform. We trained students prior to summer school in how to use Clever and have had a high level of student engagement. We will continue to individualize activities for students through materials and programming both virtually and in hard copy formats.


    How will ACPS deliver related services virtually?

    ANSWER: ACPS has been using a telehealth model to provide services to our students in the safest environment possible.


    In either model, will students with autism have one-on-one time with teachers and paraprofessionals?

    ANSWER: The instructional model we have under consideration at this point provides for individual and small group instruction.  We have learned all kinds of creative ways for teachers  to use Zoom. Teachers can teach the entire group and paras and specialists can use breakout rooms to work with smaller groups of students. In addition, Teachers and paras can have office hours to work with students individually. We have used different strategies during summer learning based on lessons learned and best practices.


    What supports can ACPS offer to parents of students with ADHD who are not interested in engaging during the Zoom sessions?

    ANSWER: The student’s case manager will work with the parent to provide support. In addition, there will be specific training sessions for parents so that they may enhance their ability to support their student in a virtual format.


    Will ACPS provide reading and writing specialized instruction in the fall?

    ANSWER: Yes, our primary service focuses on the development of reading and math skills. We will be providing instruction both directly in a co-taught model and we will employ reading and math interventions used in the past to work with students in a virtual format or a hybrid format if we are able to return to school.


    In the spring our principal would not allow parents to be viewed in the Zoom classrooms, this did not allow us to provide support to our special needs student?

    ANSWER: ACPS does not have any division-wide policy against parents assisting in a Zoom call. If a parent is needed in some way to support that student we would work with that parent to ensure that was able to occur.


    How can special needs students be kept safe in the classroom?

    ANSWER: ACPS is working on a robust PPE plan for staff and students based on CDC guidelines. ACPS understands we will have some students who will be medically exempt from wearing certain types of PPE, we are preparing how to handle these situations. ACPS is also working on a transportation plan that includes social distancing.


    How can ACPS safely deliver therapies to certain IEP students in a Hybrid model?

    ANSWER: The 4.0 planning team is working to address ways to keep our therapists and students safe so that the therapists can work with students individually. Since social distancing becomes a significant issue when addressing the needs of some of our students, ACPS needs everything in place and ready when we bring students back to school.  


    How will students that need direct interaction with teachers be instructed in either model?

    ANSWER: Many of our students with disabilities require direct teacher interaction, such as hand-over-hand support, and a need to be in close proximity to accomplish tasks. ACPS planning teams are considering the best PPE for such encounters, including face masks, gloves, face shields, and gowns to create a safe environment. We will also have procedures and processes in place to deliver instruction to students in a virtual format using break out rooms on Zoom to provide opportunities to work with students individually.


    If the Hybrid Model is selected, how can ACPS meet the needs of students with physical or emotional disabilities plus those with chronic health issues and ensure they feel, and are, safe in school buildings?

    ANSWER: ACPS staff will work with each individual family since our students have a wide continuum of needs. Each child’s case manager will work with the instructional support team to identify the best strategies and methodology to work with the student. Safety is the number one priority and focus of ACPS and the 4.0 planning. ACPS has many children with compromised immune systems that may impact their ability to return to school. ACPS is planning to have all the protective equipment and devices in place, and staff in place and ready to work with our students.


    How can IEP Students with compromised immunity learn since even PPE won’t keep them safe?

    ANSWER: ACPS understands there will be parents that choose not to return to school and will need a schedule and structure. We will do that through a virtual format. None of our staff want to be in a situation where we compromise a child’s health. We will work with parents to establish a regular schedule and routines and our paraprofessionals will carry out activities and instructional material for the students.


    Will parents of children with medical issues have the choice to choose all virtual learning this fall?

    ANSWER: Prior to the pandemic, ACPS has accommodated families that wish to homeschool as well as students that wish to engage in virtual learning. As ACPS develops the final reopening plan, health and safety are the first priority.


    What will ACPS do with young students and others who cannot wear masks?

    ANSWER: ACPS recognizes we will have to provide alternative ways of working and supporting some students. Young children and students with significant disabilities will not be able to wear masks nor adhere to social distancing mandates. ACPS has to create an environment that can support that and will have to work with students to maintain handwashing and hygiene practices. Staff will have to have PPE that allows them to safely work with these students.

    We are doing extensive research and identifying best practices in those areas.


    Will students be required to get documents from a medical provider to be exempt from wearing PPE?

    ANSWER: The health and safety planning team is discussing this issue and will provide clear communication to our families on the decision when it is made.






    How many children will be allowed in a classroom?

    ANWER: 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?

    ANSWER: 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.


    With schools at full capacity, how will students and staff be able to social distance?

    ANSWER: 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.


    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?

    ANSWER: ACPS and the planning teams are 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.


    How will students socially distance on buses?

    ANSWER: There are two models for social distancing on a bus.  The first model is one student per bench.  The second model is one student per bench, alternating rows. ACPS is leaning toward having one student per bench in alternating rows, as this model provides the greatest amount of distance between students.  It is important to note that both models significantly reduce our capacity to transport students. In addition, we are keeping the special needs student population in mind as we plan transportation.  


    If we go hybrid, what are the bus plans? Social distancing would mean as few as 10 or 11 students on a bus, meaning extended time to get students to school.

    ANSWER: In the reopening survey, 37 percent of our families said they would need to use school bus transportation to get to school. This is a factor in the planning for the reopening of schools and the planning team is grappling with the safest way to transport our students.



    How will schools handle drop-off/pick-up?

    ANSWER: 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. ACPS will work with the City on any additional traffic impacts and mitigation efforts.


    If we do go to a hybrid model, it would be better if those students that could drive would in order to open up space on buses. Would the high school open up more parking spaces?

    ANSWER: ACPS has limited parking spaces at the high school. We already work with the City to use 170+ of their spaces around the Chinquapin Circle for student parking. While additional parking may not be feasible, a hybrid model may allow for more parking permits to be sold and more spaces in the parking garage to be made available if daily student and staff capacity are reduced.



    Can recreation centers and the high school be used with staff in high-grade PPE and with small groups of kids help fill this gap for the community so there's more time to figure out education in this new situation?

    ANSWER: ACPS staff and planning teams are working with Alexandria’s recreation department and City staff to identify any available space that could be used for instructional purposes. Please keep in mind that even if additional space is identified, staffing of these spaces would still have to be determined. These discussions are ongoing, but if the hybrid model is selected and non-ACPS locations are employed for instruction, the community will be informed before September 8, 2020, exactly where their students will be placed for school. The communication will include all the information families need regarding scheduling and transportation for their student to attend.


    Could ACPS be creative in the use of all City of Alexandria space that may be available? Possibly convert non-school public buildings for high school/middle school use, to allow for more spread in kids in the rest of the schools?

    ANSWER: ACPS staff and planning teams are working with the City to identify any available space that could be used for instructional purposes. It is important to note, current conversations indicate there is not much available commercial space that would be conducive to instruction. However, discussions are ongoing and final decisions have not been made. If the hybrid model is selected and non-ACPS locations are employed for instruction, the community will be informed before September 8, 2020, exactly where their students will be placed for school. The communication will include all the information families need regarding scheduling and transportation for their student to attend.


    Will ACPS upgrade the infrastructure to have better air quality? For example, a HEPA filtration system.

    ANSWER: The Cross Functional Planning Teams are exploring upgrades to our existing HVAC systems such as adjusting filter changing frequency, the frequency of outdoor air exchange and/or portable air filtration in classrooms throughout our facilities. In addition, a significant amount of HVAC work is being pursued through our capital improvement program at several facilities this summer; however, a complete replacement of all of our systems is not feasible.  The Facilities and Operations team is working on developing information regarding best practices to ensure adequate indoor air quality to share with schools and families.


    Douglas MacArthur students will be using the facilities at the former Patrick Henry, if and when students return to school buildings, is this building able to manage airflow?

    ANSWER: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment is being upgraded as part of the swing space renovation project at the old Patrick Henry building, now Douglas MacArthur at Taney Ave. Cross Functional Planning Teams are exploring making division-wide adjustments to HVAC operations to improve ventilation in all of our facilities.


    With certain schools having ventilation issues are you considering opening some schools and going virtual for others?

    ANSWER: ACPS is working to develop HVAC improvements division-wide to assist in ventilation. Each school or space may have different needs and this will be a consideration when preparing facilities for reopening.


    Is Custodial staff being trained to properly & thoroughly clean surfaces?

    ANSWER: All custodial staff (internal and contracted) will be required to attend training on the proper cleaning and disinfection techniques prior to a potential return to school.


    Will PPE be required for students in PreK-2?

    ANSWER: ACPS planning teams will be following all VDOE, Virginia Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Alexandria Health Department guidance on PPE.


    How can parents support the teachers and staff if school buildings reopen? Can we help to provide PPE, hand sanitizer, etc?

    ANSWER: At this time, parents can support the teachers and staff by continuing to talk to their children about following the established guidelines and safety information regarding PPE, hand sanitizers, etc.  ACPS is not currently taking physical donations of any kind, but we are able to take financial donations that can be specifically requested to be allocated to support funding for PPE needs.



    If school is in session for only two or three days a week, where can we get lunches or meals the rest of the days?

    ANSWER: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ACPS has distributed around 37,000 meals each week throughout Alexandria for ACPS students and children over the age of two. There are five Grab-and-Go meal distribution locations that provide breakfast, lunch and snack meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. ACPS also distributes food at “pop-up” sites around the city on the same days of the week. In either model, ACPS will ensure that our families have access to food. If a hybrid model is selected, we will evaluate the best way to get food to students who are learning virtually on any given day.



    What are the before and after-care options for parents who need child care?

    ANSWER: This is being discussed across all Cross-Functional Planning Teams. In addition, ACPS continues to collaborate and have conversations with our external stakeholders such as RPCA and Campagna, and we anticipate more guidance to come out from those conversations very shortly.