Frequently Asked Questions: Virtual Plus +

FAQ
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    What is Virtual PLUS+?

    Virtual PLUS+ is the most feasible model for ACPS to adopt for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

    As the most feasible model, it provides teaching and learning within virtual classrooms while providing additional support that students, staff and families will need to navigate the new content being taught, to build relationships with one another, and to stay connected to the school community. Our “PLUS+” includes:

    • Enhanced and formalized social, emotional and academic learning supports 
    • Child care options with community partners
    • Continued meal distribution
    • Expanded technology resources

     

    Is this the complete model or will it be expanded?

    ACPS will continue to reevaluate how to expand services to build on this Virtual PLUS+ model. The Virtual PLUS+ model may have services added between now and Sept. 8. This may include additional supports for specific groups of students. We will be announcing these once the logistics have been worked out.

     

    What is the difference between the Virtual PLUS+ and the 100% virtual model that other school divisions across the region are using?

    Virtual PLUS+ is a robust online learning experience that will engage students 100% virtually and provide additional supports for students, staff and families. The virtual academic program will include a structured bell schedule, live instruction with teachers, and additional academic supports for some of our most vulnerable students, including one-on-one or small group tutoring. 

     

    Why are we doing a poll now if you already know that you will be using the Virtual PLUS+ model in the fall?

    We want to refine the “PLUS+” and make sure that the supports we are planning to provide for the fall are the ones that families really need.

     

    How long will the Virtual PLUS+ model be in effect for ACPS? Is it for the entire year?

    Currently, ACPS will be using the Virtual PLUS+ model for the first quarter. The situation will be reviewed and analyzed every nine weeks. An assessment made at that time as to whether it would be feasible to transition to a hybrid or different model.

     

    Why did ACPS not adopt a hybrid model for the fall?

    There were two key reasons why ACPS deemed the hybrid model not feasible on Sept. 8:

    1. Complexities with adhering to the CDC and state guidelines and effectively operating our systems: The health and safety of our students and staff are our top priority and we need to be sure that we have sufficient time to be able to implement all CDC and state guidelines into every aspect of a school day across all our schools with fidelity. Key factors in the decision include: movement between classrooms; limitations on bus seat arrangements; the need to add bus routes and drivers; the need to add staff and time to clean buses and facilities; time needed to check and upgrade HVAC systems and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff and students.
    2. The practicalities of staffing our schools: Our surveys showed us that only 63% of our staff were likely to return in a hybrid model. Staff who are high-risk would find it hard to return in a hybrid model, as would staff who live in other school divisions and have children who attend schools in other school divisions that have already declared they will be 100% virtual.

     

    What is the thinking behind the Virtual PLUS+ model?

    Equity is the framework in which we make every decision and this was no different. The ACPS Equity for All 2025 Strategic Plan places racial equity at the heart of every decision. The “PLUS+” in the Virtual PLUS+ model enables us to provide additional supports for specific groups of students who may need it this fall. The PLUS+ ultimately stands for equitable supports for those who need it.

     

    What services will be available for kindergartners, students with disabilities, English Learner students or those who were already identified as unable to keep pace with their peers academically under the Virtual PLUS+ model?

    All students will have access to technology under the Virtual PLUS+ model. The virtual academic program will include a structured bell schedule, live instruction with teachers, and additional academic supports for some of our most vulnerable students, including one-on-one or small group tutoring. However, we are aware of the needs of specific groups of students and establish additional supports.

     

    If the recreation centers can provide child care safely as they have this summer, why is it not possible for ACPS to provide some in-person instruction to our most vulnerable children?

    Our Cross-Functional Planning Teams conducted a feasibility analysis including the evaluation of constraints, community/staff input, and alignment with our ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan to determine the most feasible reopening model for our schools. 

     

    How many hours per day will my child have access to live teaching? And how many days per week?

    ACPS is planning for students to have four days of live instruction. Monday will be an independent study and asynchronous learning day for students as well as a planning day for staff. 

     

    Are we concerned about the impact of screen time on children? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, five year-olds should not have more than an hour of screen time per day, two hours per day for older children.

    We recognize that this is a concern. Adopting the Virtual PLUS+ model is not a choice, but is the only option that is feasible for our school division at this time. We will be conducting interactive time using electronic tablets for students in grades preK-2 and other learning activities for our youngest learners.

     

    How will Spanish immersion work at Mount Vernon Community School and John Adams Elementary School, particularly in the early grades? Has consideration been given to halting this program until we are back in school buildings?

    The Spanish immersion program will continue online. The principals at those schools will be working closely to develop ways to ensure that our younger children get the supports they need to be able to thrive in this program. 

     

    What is the timeline for the release of information around the Virtual PLUS+ model?

    The plan will be presented for approval to the School Board on Aug. 7. There are two public hearings on Aug. 6 and 7, ahead of the Board’s vote. The plan will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education on Aug. 14. In the meantime, from Aug. 7 onward, aspects of the plan will be shared out with parents, staff and students as they are completed. This will include the technology plan, technology access for parents and students, technology support information, student schedules, food access plans, and the curriculum for all grades for the fall.

     

    Are there metrics on community spread and positivity rates that you are watching that could make it feasible to get children back in the classrooms?

    ACPS works closely with the Alexandria Health Department and closely monitors the data around the number of cases and community spread in Alexandria. We will continue reviewing the situation regularly.

     

    Will ACPS also be subscribing to paid versions of educational apps such as ABC Mouse, Room Recess, Abcya, and Renzuli, which could enhance/increase a young child's educational progress when not in virtual school?

    ACPS is looking to streamline its technology platforms for the fall to help alleviate parent and student confusion. Our Technology Services Department will be sharing the names and list of the platforms we will be using within the next two weeks. You will be able to access all of them under one simple portal called Virtual PLUS+ Access.

     

    How big will the online classes be?

    Online classes will be the same size as a traditional class. ACPS class sizes are limited under Policy IHB (PDF) and Regulation IHB-R (PDF).

     

    Can schools allow the children who are grouping up, whether in homes or child care centers, to be placed in the same class? If those children can be in the same class (based on grades) then providers can stream the live lessons on one TV.

    The goal of the Virtual PLUS+ model is to ensure that equity is at the heart of our fall instruction. While this kind of scenario may sound practical, it does not always ensure equity. To ensure equity, we need to ensure that every student gets what they need and not just what may be convenient. Some students may need additional supports, while others around them may not.

     

    What kind of child care options might be available to parents?

    We are exploring options for child care with our partners. This includes the City’s Recreation Center program and Campagna as well as local child care providers. 

     

    What options are there going to be for peer interaction in a safe way?

    We will be looking at virtual recess and lunch breaks. We will also be exploring virtual after-school activities.

     

    How will Virtual PLUS+ handle grading and SOLs?

    We will resume grading practices for students beginning this fall. The VDOE has not waived any SOLs for the 2020-21 academic year at this point; however, we will keep our staff and families updated on any changes once received. 

     

    I am curious about vocational high school classes. For example, Automotive Technology requires cars to repair and tools to make repairs. Culinary Arts requires a kitchen and food tasting. Will these courses be canceled or will those students focus on academic aspects until these classrooms can be opened?

    Most programs are able to adapt to a virtual model. There may be some hands-on experiences, however, that will need to wait until students are back in the classroom. These are unprecedented times and unfortunately there will be some compromises.

     

    Does Virtual PLUS+ mean that students with special needs will have in-person sessions?

    While we are unable to start the fall with students in school in-person, we will review the situation frequently and look to transition as soon as it is feasible. However, we are aware of the needs of specific groups of students and this will be part of the review.

     

    Will the first quarter academic calendar be modified to remove the early release for parent-teacher conferences? Has any thought been put in to remove the “snow days” built into the calendar?

    These are all details that are being worked out right now. More detailed plans will be shared between Aug. 14 and Sept. 8.

     

    When will schedules and teacher assignments be provided so parents can make child care arrangements?

    Master schedules are currently in the process of being developed and schedules and teacher assignments will be sent out as soon as work has been completed. These are usually shared in mid-August and, while they may be slightly later than usual this year, they should arrive in plenty of time for the start of school.

     

    How will the school division ensure that students in TAG programs get what they need?

    The Virtual PLUS+ model ensures that equity is at the heart of our fall delivery of instruction. This model is designed to ensure that every student gets what they need to be successful this fall. Our staff will provide necessary supports and enrichment when needed.

     

    By what date do parents need to decide whether they will either complete registration or withdraw their children from ACPS schools?

    The deadline for home schooling applications for the 2020-21 school year is Aug. 15, 2020.

     

    Will teachers have the option to work from their classroom?

    Our planning teams are aware of this request and are looking into it as an option. 

     

    What does ACPS mean when they talk about  a standard bell schedule?

    A bell schedule specifies the start time and duration of one or more instructional periods on each school day. During Virtual PLUS+ a typical school day will run from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for elementary students, from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for middle school students and from 8:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. for high school students.

     

    How will ACPS better engage all students in an online class in the instruction?

    The Virginia Department of Education is holding Districts accountable for attendance and student learning. ACPS will be taking attendance and students will be graded. In addition, ACPS is applying lessons learned from both the Spring and Summer sessions and believe Virtual PLUS+ will be an engaging learning experience for students. 

     

    Will there be a uniform curriculum and expectations across the City? 

    In the Spring we went into a virtual world without any experience, now we have six months experience and starting with Virtual PLUS+ the expectation is to teach new material, for kids to learn and for us to assess that learning with tests and grades. In order to create a consistent and equitable learning environment, the division is preparing a common curriculum across the school division, so regardless of where you are in Alexandria, what school you attend, you will be learning the same thing as everyone else in your grade on the same day. We will be providing that training for teachers on the curriculum and the pacing of delivering instruction when they return on August 24. 

     

    Will ACPS consider having breakout sessions with smaller groups of students during classes?

    Live instruction is integral to Virtual PLUS+ and break out sessions are being built into the schedule every day at elementary, middle and high school. For example, a teacher may provide group instruction for 30 minutes and then rotate through small group break out rooms. When students are not being engaged in their large or small group, they would be spending asynchronous time for the remainder of the instructional block.

     

    Will there be a uniform expectation for teachers to communicate with parents and students? 

    ACPS is developing consistent communication expectations for teachers to implement with students and parents. 

     

    Will there be more than one hour a day of instruction for students at all grade levels?

    There will be more and consistent times for synchronous learning under Virtual PLUS+. There will be multiple hours of live instruction for students at elementary, middle and high school. Teachers will engage the entire class as well as work with smaller groups of students in break out rooms during the school day. 

     

    Will electives such as orchestra be offered under Virtual PLUS+?

    Virtual PLUS+ elective offerings will include orchestra and band. 

     

    What screening measures is ACPS using to assess spring and summer learning losses? 

    Much has been written about the learning loss that happened last spring when schools had to quickly pivot to online learning. In an effort to capture any resulting learning losses, ACPS will be using a brief test, called MAP that takes less than 30 minutes to administer. The resulting data will inform families, staff and students of current student academic strengths and weaknesses. It will also help us identify any needed supports for students. 

     

    Where are the specific supports for Special Education students outlined? 

    As we start the 2020-21 school year in a virtual setting, ACPS will provide services to students with disabilities as outlined in each student's Individualized Education Program in a virtual environment. For those students who access instruction in the general education setting, they will receive specially designed instruction aligned with the Virginia SOLs and students who access their instruction in an adapted curriculum setting will receive specially designed instruction aligned with the Virginia Alternative SOLs.

     

    As we develop IEPs will there be opportunities for families to pick up assistant technology they may need, magnifiers for reading, noise cancelling headphones?

    Most of our students that use specific AT devices took them home with them last Spring. We will always consider what a student needs to access learning. In addition, ACPS is working to bring special education students back to the classroom, It is our hope to phase students back into the school setting and many who would need those tools will hopefully be back in the classroom with us.

     

    How soon will Special Education services be available to students? 

    The preponderance of instruction will be in a virtual setting on a virtual platform. ACPS goal is to make sure every student with an IEP has a strong beginning to virtual instruction. The majority will access their IEP through the general education curriculum and direct instruction from their teacher. Students with disabilities will then go to a Zoom breakout room with their special education teachers. ACPS will be using small group stations to promote co-teaching and to ensure students receive their special education services in their general education setting. In addition, students who receive speech and language services, occupational or physical therapy, will be able to access those services through a robust teletherapy model. 

     

    How soon will Special Education students be able to access in-person learning?

    ACPS is working diligently to get students with disabilities back into face-to-face instructional settings. We are planning to do this in phases, starting small with strict protocols that will ensure student and staff safety. ACPS expects to begin the process in late September and early October with our PreK-2 students and city-wide students. We then hope to phase in grades 3-5 students on citywide services, as well as direct reading and math services, then we would like to begin phasing in our secondary students.

     

    How will students be tested for Talented and Gifted programming under Virtual Plus?

    During Virtual PLUS+ any new students referred for TAG services will build a digital portfolio during the first semester for review as part of the TAG identification process. Details about the portfolio components and scoring will be forthcoming and communicated out during the first quarter of the school year. All testing related to new referrals for TAG will take place when in-person learning resumes.

     

    How will Differentiated Educational Plans for TAG be communicated?

    Homeroom and Honors teachers will share DEPs with parents online through email or on Canvas during the first week of October and then at the end of each grade reporting period throughout the school year. 

     

    How will instruction for TAG students be differentiated under Virtual Plus?

    Each school will determine the schedule for TAG students receiving General Intellectual Aptitude (GIA), Specific Academic Aptitude (SAA) and Young Scholars services. GIA and Young Scholars instruction may be delivered as part of the regular classroom instruction or in a break out room on Zoom. TAG 4th and 5th grade reading and math services will continue to be delivered by the TAG teacher.

     

    What is ACPS' current thinking on learning pods?

    It is every family’s prerogative to do what they believe is best for them, but learning pods can cause inequalities and exacerbate the achievement gap. ACPS is putting in place a common curriculum and common set of assessments so that regardless of where a student attends school they will be engaged in high quality instruction. ACPS is doing this because if we did not have a common delivery of instruction it would lead to significant inequities. 

     

    Is ACPS considering supporting learning pods for K-5 students?

    Through Virtual PLUS+, ACPS will be providing live small group instruction in a virtual setting that is equitable and based on what each student needs. This model is live teaching that is virtual, that everyone can access and includes small group learning experiences to support all our students. 

     

    When will details about Virtual PLUS+ be available to the public? 

    On Friday, August 7, ACPS School Board approved Virtual PLUS+ as the most feasible model to deliver instruction beginning on September 8, 2020. We are moving as quickly as we can to work through the details and when we do we will communicate them to our students and families.

     

    When will families get their students class schedules?

    We usually begin this process in April and deliver schedules to homes a couple weeks before school begins. This year, we are working at a rapid pace to get schedules to our families as soon as possible. 

     

    What will a typical school day look like for students and parents?

    See the sample schedules. ACPS is preparing a video to describe what a school day during Virtual PLUS+ will entail for elementary school, middle school or high school students. 

     

    Who will be eligible for the Social Emotional Academic Learning supports that ACPS will offer during Virtual PLUS+?

    Every student in every grade will have access to SEAL every day. Supports are being built into the first 20-30 minutes of each school day. ACPS believes it is important during this global pandemic to connect with each student before teaching and learning begins. 

     

    Who will be eligible for more robust SEAL supports? 

    It is important that our students have time to adjust to this new, virtual way of learning. After the first couple of weeks, ACPS will screen students to identify those who may need Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports.

     

    Will ACPS use a Social Emotional Assessments to identify student needs?

    ACPS staff have identified a screening tool that has been developed by the University of California in Los Angeles that has COVID-19 specific questions to identify Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder. We have received permission to modify this screening tool for elementary and secondary students. ACPS will also continue to use the RULER assessment. 

     

    Will ACPS provide headphones for all students?

    ACPS is investigating hardware and software tools that will help our teachers and our students to teach and learn virtually.

     

    How will families know about the helpline?

    Information about the Virtual PLUS+ Helpline will be shared via our usual communication channels. Information will also be included in the Virtual PLUS+ Back-to-School Packets that will be sent home to families on August 31. The helpline is meant to support parents with any questions they have as we embark on Virtual PLUS+.

     

    Will ACPS consider using trailers or “cottages” to expand learning space and accommodate students in K-2 for the second semester?

    ACPS will continue to explore every feasible option to accommodate students and allow for in-person education. ACPS will be reassessing what is feasible every nine weeks with the goal of returning staff and students to the classroom as soon as it is possible to do so safely.  

     

    How will we identify families who participate in Free and Reduced Price Meals? 

    When school begins in September, regulations will require families participating in the free meals program to show ID card to access meals. ACPS is currently considering a card that will provide the needed information. Information on this card or provided via this application form will be confidential and protect the privacy of participating families. 

     

    Are we planning on creating data based workbooks to help when we reassess every nine weeks that allow us to focus on inequalities and make sure there is alignment with the ACPS Strategic Plan? 

    Virtual PLUS+ is going to require a paradigm shift for staff regarding how we teach, what student engagement looks like and how we learn in this different environment. We will have some baseline data and we will be sharing data and analysis in specific areas to help as we consider transitioning every nine weeks. Progress will be monitored throughout the school year.

     

    Who will be able to access child care services during Virtual PLUS+?

    ACPS will be using similar criteria used for eligibility for the summer camps when families most in need of these services were given the first spots. After that, the program was opened to others in our community. Our most vulnerable families include those whose parents’ livelihood could be impacted without child care options. We also looked specifically at students with special needs, English Learners as well as those performing below grade level. It is important to note that some of our families do not want their children in a school or at a child care location due to the pandemic. We will be using the survey data to assess the areas of need.

     

    Will ACPS have difficulty with the logistics of working with 30-40 partners to provide child care?

    These are the same partners we already work with on our before and after care programs, on our sports and recreation programs. We also work with our community partners every summer with all camps we offer in the City of Alexandria, that partnership and collaboration is not new and will enable us to implement our child care options in a timely manner.

     

    Will there be fees that families for care will have to pay or that ACPS will need to pay?

    ACPS is collaborating with our partners and with the City, we are also looking into grant programs so that we can offer it free or offer help to families who cannot afford the fees. ACPS is turning over every stone to make sure we are serving the most needy families and students and that child care is affordable for our families to take advantage of.

     

    Will ACPS provide our buildings for child care?

    In addition to spaces with off-site child care providers, ACPS is examining how much space can be provided or set aside for child care in our buildings. Even though students are not being instructed in the schools the buildings are still being accessed and used for onsite registration, meal distribution, and construction projects. We have a number of small groups utilizing our facilities. In addition, adhering to CDC guidelines on social distancing and cleaning will also reduce capacity. Unfortunately, space will be restrictive at our partners locations and within ACPS buildings. ACPS has created a matrix, a framework to expand child care with the goal of filling the gap for our most vulnerable families and students. The survey of our families' needs that closed on Sunday, August 9 will help us determine what the needs are and how much of it can be addressed.

     

    When will ACPS begin to offer the child care services?

    Our goal is to have it in place the first day of school on September 8, 2020. Once we know the need then we can assess what, how and when we can deliver.

     

    Some staff have children at home, what will be the professional expectations for these staff?

    ACPS has staff working in other school districts and many have children at home and that is one of the reasons the Virtual PLUS+ model was the most feasible at this time. The expectation is that staff will be able to work their full contract hours from their home environment.

     

    Did we ever receive data on how many families signed up for the Comcast free IE program? 

    Unfortunately, Comcast will not share any data specific to ACPS families. However, they have shared with us that they had 700 Alexandria households connected as of late 2019 and that they have seen a substantial increase in both applications and enrollment from March-June of 2020.

     

    What is the difference in cost - including taxes and tags - between providing Kajeets and providing Comcast internet service for students?

    We pay approximately $30 per month for the Kajeet which is a managed solution with an educational filter. Comcast is approximately $10 per month for families that qualify for their program, which makes it unavailable for many of our families. We are pursuing a sponsorship with Comcast that will allow us to pay the monthly fee for Internet Essentials ($9.95 per month + tax). However, one must be eligible. In order to qualify they: for their program which includes the following: A) Are eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others. B) Live in an area where Comcast Internet service is available.C) Are not an existing Xfinity Internet customer and have not subscribed to Comcast Internet within the last 90 days. D) Have no outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than one year old. Households with outstanding debt that is more than one year old may still be eligible. This last requirement has been waived through 12/31/20 but will be reinstated after that date. Last spring, many of our families did not qualify or felt uncomfortable sharing identification documents.

     

    Why is the middle school daily schedule 30 minutes shorter than the elementary school schedule?

    Each schedule was developed with the input of the respective principals as well as division leaders and experts in the content of the specific level.  During a standard school year, there are differences in how the school day is structured between elementary and middle school in terms of the number of classes students attend per day, elective course options, and recess.

    As such, the elementary schedule is longer and incorporates movement breaks, recess, and flexibility for small groups and asynchronous work as part of the larger instructional blocks.  This extra time takes into account the developmental needs of our elementary students to have more opportunities for pauses and space throughout the course of their day.   

     

    Why was Monday selected for the planning day instead of Friday? 

    We looked at all of the plans of our neighboring school divisions and chose Monday given that many were also using Monday as their planning day for their school schedules this year.  Alignment to our neighbors was important given the large percentage of ACPS staff that live in other school divisions.

     

    Parents are requesting that guidelines for the week's assignments be shared a few days in advance rather than the night before, will this be possible?

    Curriculum specialists are designing weekly learning objectives so parents can be aware of what is expected to be taught for the week. We are also utilizing the planning day so teachers can update canvas and post assignments.

     

    Will packages of supplies and/or learning packets be provided in the fall? Supplies were helpful, but parents would appreciate more guidance on how to use these supplies.

    We are not mailing learning packets this fall. We are working to determine a schedule for supply packets for staff and students.

     

    Was a decision made regarding looping?

    Principals examined looping where possible and the best decision for their students and schedules.

     

    Will Canvas link to Clever? Some students found particular apps helpful (Epic, Kodeable, BrainPopJr) and want to have continued access.

    Clever is our student portal to access their learning applications, so students go to Clever to gain access to their Canvas courses.  Clever is the homepage on the student devices and students will continue to have easy access to it.  

     

    What will happen with science labs?

    Our science specialist is working on virtual lab resources for teachers.

     

    What controls are ACPS putting in place to prevent kids from sharing testing answers?

    Teachers will ask students to remember our code of conduct and to leave their cameras on during assessments.

     

    Will there be opportunities for physical activity for secondary students?

    Students will still take physical education in sixth through tenth grade. 

     

    Are you still developing a hybrid model that we can pivot into when it's feasible? Will you use a phased-in approach that prioritizes vulnerable students?

    Our cross-functional planning team developed a hybrid model. We will continue to work and study when a hybrid model would be feasible. The team will use the data available to make the most feasible decision which includes a phased approach.

     

    Will the childcare options be available to ACPS teachers and staff?

    ACPS staff have the same opportunity to access available childcare options as ACPS families. These resources are listed on the ACPS website.    

    One piece of feedback I've heard from multiple families is the concern that the elementary schedule will be too rigid and will not provide the flexibility families need to work at their own pace and balance other demands. They say it will be hard to keep their children focused from 8:00-2:30 during multiple synchronous time chunks where attendance is taken coupled with breaks in between. They feel it is too much screen time and it will be hard to get the kids re-engaged following breaks. Will the synchronous sessions be recorded and can students watch them at a time when a family member can provide support?

    Principals and instructional specialists are working to develop instructional plans that mix synchronous, asynchronous, and small-group instruction in a given block, as well as including opportunities for breaks and movement.  We are also asking teachers to record lessons or segments of lessons to provide families with a level of flexibility.

    We know that we will need to be flexible with students and families as we all adjust to the Virtual PLUS+ model.  Families should reach out to their classroom teacher, student support teams, or school administrators if they are finding the schedule to be challenging in order to problem solve and consider adjustments or supports.

     

    As I asked you previously - can you let us know if there will be opportunities for broadband to be provided in public housing/section 8 complexes throughout the city?

    Last spring we had limited success with deploying mobile hotspots to public housing/section 8 complexes. However, we are continuing to explore solutions that would cover broader areas than single households. In addition, where possible, ACPS is assisting childcare partners with internet access.

     

    When will the board be told about the financial implications of a virtual learning environment (ie I imagine the IT department and FACE will need more money than was previously allocated)?

    The School Board receives monthly financial reports that detail expenditures throughout ACPS. Included in these reports is a transfer report which details the movement of funds to support areas of need as well as Virtual PLUS+ expenditures.

     

    Will teachers be allowed to teach in their classrooms while students are virtual? There are a lot of manipulatives/texts/materials teachers use throughout lessons.  Is this a possibility if the teacher prefers to do that?  If teachers do not prefer to do that, will they be allowed to get into their classroom to pick up needed materials to teach lessons?

    The ACPS team is considering allowing teachers to use their classrooms to teach during the school year, however, we do not yet know if this will be possible. The necessary guidance on facility access has been provided to principals. Principals are working with the Office of Maintenance and Custodial Services to organize access for staff who need to come to the site to collect materials/supplies necessary for telework and Virtual PLUS+ instruction. Our facilities will be occupied for some childcare options as well as custodial staff and capital improvement staff adhering to the CDC guidelines which limits occupancy in our school buildings. 

     

    There are several ACPS students who are being told they'll need to babysit their younger siblings while the parents go to work.  How are we going to account for attendance if kids absolutely cannot watch live classes due to these constraints and can those synchronous classes be recorded for them to watch later?

    We are asking teachers to record lessons or segments of lessons to provide families with a level of flexibility. As far as attendance is concerned, ACPS is discussing how to best track students virtually and we are focusing on using Clever or Canvas.

     

    There are a few elementary parents who have expressed frustration that they have 2 or more students simultaneously in the same elementary school and lunches are being proposed at different times.  Their claim is that it will be very difficult to manage from a home perspective.

    During a standard school year, lunches are necessarily scheduled at different times, both because of space constraints within the school cafeteria, but also because of the need to schedule multiple teachers for students across the school.  There are a number of teachers that work with all grade levels such as physical education, music, and art, necessitating the need for staggered lunch times so that all students are getting all of their subjects. 

    If families are struggling to accommodate multiple lunch schedules for their children they should reach out to their school’s SST or school administrators to see what solutions might be feasible.

     

    Do we know where we are with childcare options?  It appears Fairfax County is offering opportunities for children in need of child care: Here's another example of a California school district providing child care within schools socially distant overseen by a substitute on hand to supervise the students learning from their teacher virtually.  Baltimore is doing the same thing for the neediest students.

    Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will expand its Virtual PLUS+ program to include up to 350 full-day spots for vulnerable students in the fall, thanks to new funding from the City of Alexandria.The Virtual PLUS+ partners will provide free, full-day supervision with the City’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) on-site at either an ACPS school site or RPCA facility with full internet access.

    This free, full school-day program will consist of technology access, food access, and supervision of access to online classes, in line with the ‘PLUS’ in the Virtual PLUS+ model that ACPS has adopted for the fall. The Virtual PLUS+ model puts the safety of ACPS students, families and staff at the forefront and takes into account the enormous logistical constraints posed by the pandemic. Its goal is to ensure that equity is at the heart of the plan and that the needs of the most vulnerable families are served.

    Students attending Title I schools will be identified for this free, full-day program using a needs-based eligibility rubric that will take into account the many intersecting factors that may increase a child’s vulnerability. While all Title I ACPS kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be able to apply for the ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program, a rubric will be used to ensure the highest-need students are served. Applicants will receive three points for each of the following categories they fall into: 1) belong to racial/ethnic group, 2) eligible for free/reduced meals, 3) English Learner, 4) have an IEP, 5) did not meet PALS benchmark or reading below grade level; 6) experiencing homelessness; 7) in foster care; and/or 8) in a single-parent household where parent/guardian is an essential worker or two-parent household where both parents/guardians are essential workers. An additional three points will be allotted to students at 21CCLC sites who were deemed eligible using similar criteria in 2019-20 school year and were active participants of the 21 CCLC program. Students with the highest rankings will be selected to participate in the free ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program. If more students are determined highly eligible and space is available, a lottery system will be implemented for random selection among those students scoring the highest on the eligibility rubric.

    This free, full school-day program will consist of technology access, food access, and supervision of access to online classes, in line with the ‘PLUS’ in the Virtual PLUS+ model that ACPS has adopted for the fall. The Virtual PLUS+ model puts the safety of ACPS students, families and staff at the forefront and takes into account the enormous logistical constraints posed by the pandemic. Its goal is to ensure that equity is at the heart of the plan and that the needs of the most vulnerable families are served.

    In addition, ACPS will offer after-school enrichment programs at multiple sites through community partners. This after-school portion of the day will focus on providing hands-on activities, social-emotional support, and recreational and socialization opportunities. ACPS will also provide after-school enrichment programs for middle school students at select RPCA and community sites. 

    ACPS is also working with other community partners to explore additional free supports for a small number of students. The school division is already connecting families of pre-K students with free child care options based on family needs.

    In addition to the free programs, multiple Virtual PLUS+ partners, including The Campagna Center, the City’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, and the YMCA will be offering income-based child care across the city, promoted through the Virtual PLUS+ Child Care page on the ACPS-at-Home website.

     

    What's our status of providing SAT to TC students?  

    ACPS will only provide assessments that are deemed absolutely necessary to meet state, federal, and local mandates for the 2020-2021 school year.  Because ACPS is operating in a virtual model during the fall of 2020 to ensure student and staff safety in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not feasible to offer the SATs. If a student wishes to take either an SAT or ACT test this fall, they should seek out available testing sites through either The College Board or ACT websites. ACPS officials and high school leaders are in discussions with the College Board about School Day Testing opportunities. ACPS is also considering what surrounding divisions are planning for School Day Testing. These discussions will continue until determinations are made. 

     

    As I shared during the meeting a lot of parents and teachers want to know what is the communication expectation (including frequency, expected topic, via what means, etc)?

    Curriculum specialists have designed a week at a glance so staff and parents can see what is expected to be taught for the week.

     

    How will this communication need be held accountable/assessed?  Is there an expectation that all efforts will be made to contact parents that aren’t typically engaged and if so – what different methods will that be versus what’s done in a traditional year?

    Schools, including Support Support Teams, will be reaching out to the families of students who are not engaging in Virtual PLUS + to find solutions to any barriers that may exist.

    In terms of teacher communication, regular teacher communication remains an expectation, whether through email, phone, or virtual meetings or office hours.  Should families have concerns about communication from their student’s teacher(s), they should reach out to the teacher, and then the appropriate school administrator.  

     

    Most parents realize they’re going to have to be more engaged so it would be especially helpful to understand how they’ll have access to the curriculum/standards/pacing as well as how do they know if their students are progressing/need extra support.

    Curriculum specialists have designed a week at a glance so staff and parents can see what is expected to be taught for the week. Teachers and staff are expected to continue to provide feedback to families as they would during normal times.

     

    And if they need that extra support – where can they access it? Tutoring has been mentioned but is that accessible to all grades including elementary school?  

    SEAL time in schedules will allow for students to get support for interventions, social and emotional needs. Also, I/E blocks offer a time for students to receive extra support.

    ACPS Secondary Students (in grades 6-12 currently have access to 24/7 online tutoring via our tutor.com tutoring service). We have over 45 subjects available, including test prep for SAT, ACT, and GED. The subject list includes 15 AP courses, which are very popular with our ACPS students. Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies subjects are available in Spanish between the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. daily. Please visit https://www.acps.k12.va.us/Page/2928 for more information on how to access free 24/7 tutoring and for a complete subject list.

     

    Will curriculum/scheduling/assessments be universal via grade throughout the division?

    The expectation is that the pace and general content of the curriculum will be consistent across the entire school division.

     

    What professional development will be offered to: staff, families, and partners to support a virtual education?

    Professional learning for staff began on Aug. 27 with a focus on Canvas, Clever, and Zoom as these will be the backbone of VirtualPlus+. Also, staff will engage in professional learning on the common curriculum and pacing of the curriculum.

    In addition, ACPS is embarking on a webinar series designed to help families navigate the challenges for a virtual school environment. All the webinars will be in multiple languages and will be recorded, captioned, and posted on the website to be watched at our families’ convenience. 

     

    Regarding T.C.….what do we do about classes where the 2x2 block schedule is tough due to year-long practice that supports the learning for that particular subject (such as a foreign language, music/instruments, math)?

    The semester-based classes will be in addition to year-long classes. Each day, the Titan Virtual PLUS+ schedule will have time from 8:30-10:00 a.m. dedicated to synchronous and asynchronous learning, enrichment, and test preparation. This time can be used to keep skills fresh and content readily accessible. 

     

    Given T.C. has such a robust CTE program – how are we offering those classes in a virtual world?

    The Career and Technical Education (CTE) department recognizes that the 2020–21 school year will undoubtedly be uncharted territory as we continue to adjust to the reality of COVID-19s. If there has been any silver lining over the past few months, it is that the resilience, innovative spirit, hard work and outstanding commitment to continue offering a robust CTE program to students have become evident for others to see and replicate. CTE professionals throughout the country have stepped up and met the needs of students in new and innovative ways by creating and sharing solutions where none seemed to exist before.  

    Even prior to the pandemic, many school divisions were pursuing the delivery of CTE through remote instruction as an important tool to provide equitable access to more learners, with significant success. Now more than ever is the time to be bold and forward-thinking with instructional strategies and methodologies. Benjamin Franklin once said that, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”

    The CTE stakeholder community is unquestionably innovative, and is confident that this planning work will produce new successes and new opportunities for our CTE students and program areas. Vendors are communicating with our school division regularly with online product options that will complement and reinforce the robust CTE courses that exist in ACPS. These online products will enable students to experience virtual design simulations, equipment demonstrations, and laboratory experiments. Online Work-Based Learning experience options have been developed and ready for use in the classroom as virtual visits take the students into workplaces that they would never have been able to visit face-to-face.  Just this week, a state association presented plans to have accountants visit classrooms virtually to discuss careers for accountants and even internship and mentorship opportunities.

    The VDOE Recover, Redesign, and Restart 2020 document (page 92-95) lists an abundance of relevant resources that are available for effectively teaching all CTE courses; CTE's Vital Role in Economic Recovery video highlights the current major benefits of Career and Technical Education. In addition, High Quality CTE: Planning for a COVID-19 Impacted School year captures the breadth of the issue, resources, and examples important to maintain CTE program quality within any of the possible educational environments.  

     

    I already mentioned the need for smaller Zoom break out sessions (especially in elementary school) so any continued information surrounding that would be much appreciated.

    This will be part of each teacher's tool box when they are teaching virtual classes and it will be up to the instructors to determine when and how best to use the breakout rooms with their students. 

     

    Regarding: Assessment as I mentioned in today’s meeting my future questions will include:

    • How often will students be assessed?

    Formative and common assessments will be aligned with the pacing calendar. 

    • How will this information be used? (ie are we grouping students according to the results so that they have an opportunity to get support in smaller groups)

    Assessment data will be used for reteaching purposes, tutoring, grades, and regrouping within a class as necessary.

    • What will the grading process/assessment be?

    Students will be graded on assessments and other assignments in accordance with our grading policy.

    • How are we communicating to parents the results of their assessments?

    Assessment results will be communicated through PowerSchool for secondary students and through each elementary schools’ communications systems, such as a Friday Folder.

    • How overall are we assessing this virtual education in relation to the metrics designed in the strategic plan? Tutoring offerings? How will we assess this “new framework”?

    Schools and departments will use their improvement plans to both align, measure, and formatively report out the implementation of the Areas of Focus for the 2020-21 school year. Overall, the division will also be identifying and discussing with the Board in future sessions a system of measurement and reporting for the Strategic Plan focused on moving to a more responsive and continuous improvement stance than what has been in the past.

    • How will we periodically get feedback from families/students/staff so we can course correct along the way?

    We will continue to seek feedback from our families, students, and staff as we have throughout the spring and summer to identify emergent needs and to inform areas of improvement and refinement. This will be done both through formal mechanisms such as division level surveys as well as everyday informal mechanisms, such as open two-way communication between staff, families, and students. 

     

    I noticed in Friday's presentation area private schools applied for CARES Act funding.  Which ones and how much money did they receive?

    Blessed Sacrament School & Early Childhood Center: $42,471.82

    Bishop Ireton: $141,080.31

    Immanuel Lutheran School: $31,022.90

    St. Rita’s School: $39,332.60

    St Mary’s Elementary School: $127,784.78

    Commonwealth Academy: $29,176.29

     

    Is there an opportunity to provide book distribution to our neediest students?  Do we have someone overseeing Elementary Language Arts who could oversee this effort? I’m confident other partners would participate but we need a coordinator/plan.

    ACPS just held a free book distribution for Polk and Ramsey students. This was done with a grant from Reading is Fundamental that the librarian at Polk received. ACPS was able to purchase around 700 books for students in grades K-5. In addition, a donation from Pree Ann Johnson allowed us to provide more than 1,000 books to ACPS students and families.

     

    With regards to food distribution.  Some neighbors have been helping folks out who don’t have cars and picking up food for friends.  How will we navigate this moving forward? 

    They would need to have access to the family's digital passcode or the family's ID number.  They would present this when they go through the distribution line in order to pick up the meals.

     

    We might not know this one yet but when we eventually are prepared for some students to return in person – will we be able to prioritize our most vulnerable students (special ed, EL, academically behind) and our youngest learners (K-2)?

    ACPS is working to develop a process for a phased-in return to face-to-face instruction for students with disabilities. It is our hope to initiate this process in late September through October beginning with PK-2 city-wide class-based students.

     

    Have we considered having hubs throughout the city where students with internet/tutoring needs can come to receive internet/support while remaining socially distant?

    ACPS Secondary Students, in grades 6-12, currently have access to 24/7 online tutoring via our tutor.com tutoring service). We have over 45 subjects available, including test prep for SAT, ACT, and GED. The subject list includes 15 AP courses, which are very popular with our ACPS students. Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies subjects are available in Spanish between the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. daily. Please visit https://www.acps.k12.va.us/Page/2928 for more information on how to access free 24/7 tutoring and for a complete subject list.

     

    What's the predicted need (student # wise) for daycare and/or other services (ie learning hubs/tutoring)

    We expect that approximately 350 students will potentially qualify for our free support program. 

    Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will expand its Virtual PLUS+ program to include up to 350 full-day spots for vulnerable students in the fall, thanks to new funding from the City of Alexandria.

    The Virtual PLUS+ partners will provide free, full-day supervision with the City’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) on-site at either an ACPS school site or RPCA facility with full internet access.

    This free, full school-day program will consist of technology access, food access, and supervision of access to online classes, in line with the ‘PLUS’ in the Virtual PLUS+ model that ACPS has adopted for the fall. The Virtual PLUS+ model puts the safety of ACPS students, families and staff at the forefront and takes into account the enormous logistical constraints posed by the pandemic. Its goal is to ensure that equity is at the heart of the plan and that the needs of the most vulnerable families are served.

    Students attending Title I schools will be identified for this free, full-day program using a needs-based eligibility rubric that will take into account the many intersecting factors that may increase a child’s vulnerability. While all Title I ACPS kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be able to apply for the ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program, a rubric will be used to ensure the highest need students are served. Applicants will receive three points for each of the following categories they fall into: 1) belong to racial/ethnic group, 2) eligible for free/reduced meals, 3) English Learner, 4) have an IEP, 5) did not meet PALS benchmark or reading below grade level; 6) experiencing homelessness; 7) in foster care; and/or 8) in a single parent household where parent/guardian is an essential worker or two-parent household where both parents/guardians are essential workers. An additional three points will be allotted to students at 21CCLC sites who were deemed eligible using similar criteria in 2019-20 school year and were active participants of the 21 CCLC program. Students with the highest rankings will be selected to participate in the free ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program. If more students are determined highly eligible and space is available, a lottery system will be implemented for random selection among those students scoring the highest on the eligibility rubric. 

    This free, full school-day program will consist of technology access, food access, and supervision of access to online classes, in line with the ‘PLUS’ in the Virtual PLUS+ model that ACPS has adopted for the fall. The Virtual PLUS+ model puts the safety of ACPS students, families and staff at the forefront and takes into account the enormous logistical constraints posed by the pandemic. Its goal is to ensure that equity is at the heart of the plan and that the needs of the most vulnerable families are served.

    In addition, ACPS will offer after-school enrichment programs at multiple sites through community partners. This after-school portion of the day will focus on providing hands-on activities, social-emotional support, and recreational and socialization opportunities. ACPS will also provide after-school enrichment programs for middle school students at select RPCA and community sites. 

    ACPS is also working with other community partners to explore additional free supports for a small number of students. The school division is already connecting families of pre-K students with free child care options based on family needs.

    In addition to the free programs, multiple Virtual PLUS+ partners, including The Campagna Center, the City’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, and the YMCA will be offering income-based child care across the city, promoted through the Virtual PLUS+ Child Care page on the ACPS-at-Home website.

    What's the cost and how will these costs be covered (budget? CARES Act?) If we're going to be utilizing nonprofit services, we're likely going to have to pay them as the majority of nonprofits are hurting financially due to cuts in grants so they're not going to have spare money we can rely on.  Also there isn't a philanthropic base in Alexandria that would be able to cover that so hopefully we're accounting for this in our costs.

    For the free program explained above, the approximate cost for all sites would be 1.2 Million through December. 

    ACPS is seeking funding to support the cost of full-day services offered by Virtual PLUS+ Partners who are being asked to extend their traditional programs beyond the after school hours of 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to a full-day program. Specifically, the amount requested covers the cost of staffing full-day services at a 10:1 student-staff ratio, as well as, the cost of one supervisor position per site. Staffing rates are calculated using a rate of $20 per hour, including FICA and Medicaid costs. In instances where sites are also designated as 21st Century Learning Community Centers, federal Title IV funding is available to support afterschool enrichment and academic support from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Funding requested for 21 CCLC sites, therefore, is limited to the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In total, the cost of the proposed ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program for school-aged children is over $1.2 million. 

    Fortunately, we have approval from the state to use our 21st Century After School Grant Money (Title IV) to help offset the total cost.  Because we are offering it at our Title I locations and because it is free for students, we can utilize that funding.  That offset from this grant is approximately $743,000.  In addition to that offset amount, our Title I team has confirmed with state connections that we can also use Title I money in the amount of approximately $200,000 dollars.  

    Although we continue to work with partners to officially confirm sites and program capacity numbers, currently with these offset amounts, we are still in need of approximately $288,000.  

     

    Which facilities will we use and at what capacity and have the sanitation work been prepared for what will be needed for them?

    We are still in discussion with partners and our Facilities Department.

     

    What communication are we using to let families know if they need childcare we can cover it?

    ACPS plans to use multiple outreach methods to reach our Title I and Title IV families including text and email. We will also employ our parent liaisons and our Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team to help with informing families. In addition to those methods, we will continually  update the Virtual PLUS+Child Care webpage so all families can access all information. 

     

    When will these families receive notification?

    If a family qualifies after enrolling and applying the scoring process, they will receive an information packet the week of August 31.  

     

    How are we prioritizing which families get to use it?

    While all Title I ACPS kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be able to apply for the ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program, a rubric will be used to ensure the highest-need students are served. Applicants will receive three points for each of the following categories that applies to them: 1) belong to racial/ethnic group; 2) eligible for free/reduced meals; 3) English Learner; 4) have an IEP; 5) did not meet PALS benchmark or reading below grade level; 6) experiencing homelessness; 7) in foster care; and/or 8) in a single-parent household where parent/guardian is an essential worker or two-parent household where both parents/guardians are essential workers. An additional three points will be allotted to students at 21CCLC sites who were deemed eligible using similar criteria in the 2019-20 school year and were active participants of the 21 CCLC program. Students with the highest rankings will be selected to participate in the free ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Childcare Program. If more students are determined highly eligible and space is available, a lottery system will be implemented for random selection among those students scoring the highest on the eligibility rubric.

     

    Who is coordinating the partners?

    This is a collaborative collective initiative involving: Facilities, Student Services, Technology, Teaching, and Learning, along with the Office of Community Partnerships and Engagement serving as the “lead”.  

     

    Which nonprofit partners are we working with and what need are they fulfilling?

    We have a list of “child care” School Day and Afterschool Program Virtual PLUS+ Partners (Rec, Campagna, Community Lodgings, ARHA) and additional “child care”  partners such as YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Casa Chirilagua, etc.  We also have a growing list of “supplemental” partners, such as Alexandria Soccer Association, Local Motion, etc. that are being connected to this initiative.  

     

    Who will be staffing and staff training these initiatives (ie ACPS or nonprofits)?  If they are nonprofit folks how are we ensuring our neediest kids are receiving high caliber support? Is ACPS providing everyone with the necessary training of participating in a virtual world?

    Staffing is provided by our partners. ACPS is providing additional training and support in multiple ways.  

     

    Given we just had a disrupted school year - are we still on track to have the dual enrollment/NVCC partnership take place (and if so - when is that launching)? As well as other partnerships including VA Tech and coordinating the HS project?

    ACPS continues to be in discussions with Virginia Tech and NVCC as we explore additional partnership opportunities and strengthen and review current partnership initiatives. These partnerships are critical to the school division and we still intend to launch these efforts.