Virtual PLUS+ News Release - August 7, 2020

News Release

Alexandria City School Board Votes to Approve Virtual PLUS+ as the Most Feasible Model to Reopen Schools This Fall

  • The Alexandria City School Board has voted to approve the Virtual PLUS+ model, a comprehensive plan for social, emotional and academic learning and family support, for the fall.


    The Virtual PLUS+ model includes enhanced support in five key areas, further extending the educational program that is already intended to mirror the traditional school day. The five key PLUS+ areas are social, emotional and academic supports; technology enhancements; child care options for our most vulnerable families; continuation of meal distribution; and a live multilingual phone helpline.


    Following the announcement last week by Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. that the 2020-21 academic year should begin virtually, ACPS shared with the School Board further details of its robust program which bolsters the whole child and ensures an equitable learning environment while respecting the constraints the global pandemic places on education. Following the presentation, the School Board voted to approve the Virtual PLUS+ model to reopen schools this fall. 


    Unlike during the spring semester, students will be graded on completed work and will receive synchronous lessons in each subject area four days a week. Technology will be expanded to ensure all students across all grades have devices and internet access prior to Sept. 4. Information about community-supported child care options, with academic support, will also be shared with families. Food access will expand to include snacks and dinner, and a multilingual phone helpline will be established.


    These priorities were identified following months of planning, research and community consultation that kept the division’s 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All, at the forefront. The five key areas were deemed to be the most likely to hamper access to education, should they fall short.


    Dr. Hutchings said, “These enhancements will underpin the already strong educational framework we have in place for the fall semester.”


    “Our goal is to ensure all ACPS students are provided with an engaging and equitable academic experience in these difficult times and that no barrier exists to meaningful participation. Our team has worked methodically and strategically to determine the feasibility of our reopening plan using the Virtual PLUS+ model which I believe is the only feasible solution and alternative to in-person learning at this time.”


    The “PLUS+” in the Virtual PLUS+ model refers to:


    Virtual PLUS+ Learning 

    • Aligned to traditional in-person learning experience, with staff working their full contract day and planning time embedded into the schedule
    • Attendance taken daily
    • Students graded on completed work
    • Scheduling guardrails across schools, including the same number of lesson blocks across grade levels, and a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes of synchronous instruction per subject at all schools in ACPS 
    • Social, Emotional and Academic Learning (SEAL) lessons for all students combined with structured opportunities to build relationships 
    • Screening of all students for academic as well as social and emotional needs
    • Expanded staff access to educational tools and professional learning on a variety of virtual platforms
    • Commitment to exemplary programs such as International Baccalaureate (IB), STEM, Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA), Dual Language, and Advanced Placement (AP)


    Virtual PLUS+ Child Care

    • Community-supported child care options shared with most vulnerable families 
    • ACPS program of supports for child care sites (curricular, social-emotional, technology access, liaisons, supplies, food) 


    Virtual PLUS+ Food Access

    • Meals will continue to be distributed under the current model
    • ACPS will set up a family meal card system
    • Food access will expand to include snack and dinner components


    Virtual PLUS+ Access

    • All pre-K through second grade students will receive either a tablet or a Chromebook
    • Internet access provided to all ACPS families, if needed 
    • Online and in-person technical support
    • Streamlined technology platforms with one primary access point for instruction, schedules, technical support, and Social, Emotional and Academic Learning (SEAL) resources 


    Virtual PLUS+ Helpline

    • A multilingual helpline (Aug. 19-Sept. 30) will serve as a central place for families to access supports


    ACPS will continually monitor the effectiveness of the Virtual PLUS+ model and will reassess at the end of the first quarter and every nine weeks subsequently. The model is designed to offer maximum flexibility as the local and regional landscape changes.


    Next week, the proposal will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education for approval before the school year begins on Sept. 8.