Frequently Asked Questions: Phased Reentry Plans
(Updated December 14, 2020)
How will we meet the needs of kids who need access to the special education teacher, EL teacher, and/or the general education teacher throughout the day but could be split into virtual and in person? How will EL, SPED and other services work in a hybrid model?
The schedule for Virtual PLUS+ and the hybrid model will be very similar and services for EL and Special education will continue as they currently are. For EL students in the International Academy model at T.C. Williams and F.C. Hammond, additional adjustments may be made and shared.
How will the same groups be formed from different homerooms? EL/SPED/TAG? How will Elementary TAG teachers be used in a concurrent teaching model?
TAG services will be delivered in the concurrent teaching model.
Will Mondays remain a planning/asynchronous day? Have we considered using Wednesdays as planning/cleaning days with the 2 days virtual/in-person?
Mondays will remain our planning day. We would like to keep schedules as consistent as possible for staff and families. We have discussed switching to Wednesdays for mid-week cleaning but determined this was not necessary as we will have thorough cleaning daily throughout our building. Staff will have the option to work from home on Mondays or work from the buildings.
Students need consistency to be successful. We finally got them into a nailed down routine and we are now going to change to hybrid with the possibility of needing to switch back to virtual depending on metrics. How can we support our students through this transition to make it as least disruptive as possible?
One of the advantages of our hybrid design is the decision to retain students' current virtual learning schedules to provide consistency. This is an intentional feature of our hybrid approach because we recognize the additional adjustments that students will experience due to emergent public health and safety concerns. Providing students with advance information about the extensive changes to the school and classroom environment students is a support that we believe will be important to helping students navigate the transition to in person learning. Ensuring opportunities daily two-way communication is essential to responding to students’ questions, needs and concerns related to the new school environment. Schools will utilize multimedia formats daily to continuously inform students and families on how to access student services resources and community-based partners available to support students’ social-emotional, academic and physical health needs as part of the transition to in-person learning.
How can we learn from neighboring districts what best practices they have utilized?
We have been reaching out to our neighboring districts to seek advice and pros and cons on concurrent teaching. Our neighboring districts have been forthcoming with sharing their experiences.
What will in-person learning look like for students and teachers?
Classrooms will be set up to maintain 6 feet of distance, as recommended by the CDC and Alexandria Health Department. It is important to note that there has not been a recommendation to reduce the social guidance distance to less than 6 feet, as by doing so you increase the risk of spread as well as who would be determined as a “close contact” when there is a positive case within a classroom. Technology will be leveraged to provide opportunities for small groups so that the 6 feet of social distancing can be maintained throughout the school day. As a reminder, while furniture in special education classrooms will meet distancing requirements, our students with disabilities may not maintain the 6 feet of social distancing in classrooms consistently throughout the day, due to the specialized needs of those students. To this end, additional PPE is being provided to those teachers/instructional staff members who work directly with this population of students.
Will there be a maximum number of students per classroom?
There will be a maximum number of students per classroom within every school. Please keep in mind that these numbers could vary within a school based on square footage of the classroom and furniture type within the classroom (i.e. desks versus tables). The Facilities and Operations team is currently completing field verifications to update capacity figures by the end of December.
What will hybrid teaching look like for teachers without classrooms?
We will be working with principals on plans for teachers without classrooms to find the best solution.
Will teachers be provided with additional technology to accommodate hybrid learning?
Classrooms will be equipped with a web camera, a mini tripod and a second monitor.
For students that are joining virtually, will cameras be mandatory?
Due to concerns of our students' home environment and privacy this will not be mandatory.
Will students, both in-person or virtual, be in front of computer screens all day?
Students who remain at home will follow the current Virtual PLUS+ schedule. Students in person screen time will be teacher dependent.
Preparations for Hybrid
Will we continue to adjust our plans based on metrics?
Please review our FAQ on Health and Safety Metrics Related to the Return to In-Person Instruction.
How will buildings be prepared to keep our staff and students safe and healthy?
The Facilities and Operations Department has completed a return to school operational guide. We encourage all to review this guide, which provides answers as to how we will employ health and safety procedures to all aspects of support operations.
How can we have students participate in planning for a hybrid model?
We received many comments and suggestions from students during our community chats with students. We have incorporated these into our plans and will continue to work with school leaders to engage as appropriate.
Hybrid and Concurrent Models
What is concurrent teaching?
Our plan is for teachers to teach a group of students in-person in their classroom, and also virtually at the same time. This is called “concurrent” teaching. The teacher will either be in the classroom or at home.
What are the benefits of concurrent teaching?
It allows for flexibility in case we need to move back to being 100% virtual at any point. It also allows the majority of students to remain with their current teacher.
Can my child stay with their current teacher?
The concurrent teaching set-up gives us the ability for the majority of our students to remain with their current teacher. This is for students who will be 100% virtual and for students who go to school in-person two days a week.
Why will we be using a hybrid model upon our return? Is it because we are short on staff? If you foresee a staff shortage, can you begin recruiting extra staff now so that we can return in person?
From an instructional standpoint, there is an advantage of a hybrid model as it allows us to get groups of children and staff back in the school to help with a reduction of the learning loss. It also allows families to make a choice as to what is best for their own situation and student. We know there will be adjustment issues just as there was when we went to virtual 100%. By minimizing the number of children returning at one time, it allows us to practice safe social distancing while giving students the opportunity to learn in person, at least part of the time. Once we have a clear understanding of how many students and teachers are available for in person learning versus virtual learning, we can assess the need and make assignments.
For families with multiple children at the same school, under a partial week in-person model, will students in the same household attend school on the same day?
We do plan to take siblings into consideration when assigning days for each student.
If there is not a 100% guarantee for my kids to be safe from COVID, do I need to send my child back?
We understand that some families will not be comfortable and that is why we are allowing each family to choose what is best for them. The Family Choice Form allows you to choose to stay in a 100% virtual learning environment or return to a hybrid model until we can return fully. The Family Choice Form was emailed out on December 2, 2020 and was also in the ACPS Express newsletter. Please see more details below under Family Choice Form to answer more questions.
Will students who are currently attending ACPS Virtual PLUS+ community partner sites still be able to continue studying there under a virtual model?
We are working with our Virtual PLUS+ partners to continue those programs.
Will students who choose hybrid remain at their home school?
ACPS planning is based on keeping students in their home schools.
My daughter has asthma, and I cannot send my child in person. Will I need to withdraw her from the public school system for the time being if in person will become mandatory?
Absolutely not! No one would need to withdraw due to a health concern. When filling out your Family Choice Form, please choose the virtual model for your student.
If I decide not to send my kids to school for in-person learning and they continue to learn online, will they receive the same support as in-person? How will this be done?
Teachers will have virtual office hours for all students. We want every student to have access to their teachers.
How is ACPS going to get to full in-person learning for students, when it looks like there is only a 50% return rate from the teachers? Did I read the chart correctly?
The hybrid learning plan will be carried out utilizing the resources available as best possible.
If more families indicate a preference to return than spaces are available, how will you choose which students return?
This process is a complex puzzle to piece together and we will do our best to accommodate each family as much as possible.
Will transportation be available and how will buses be cleaned?
Yes, student bus transportation will be provided in the hybrid learning model. Buses will be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis.
In the hybrid models, will staff be in buildings teaching concurrently 5 days/week? What about specialists (Encore)? There is concern that teachers/staff are potential superspreaders, teaching up to 6 classes and over 125 students per day during normal 100% in person. Can you address this?
Concurrent teachers will be teaching for four days of instruction in the buildings and one day of planning and prep. Regarding schools being superspreader events, ACPS will be adhering to CDC guidelines and taking appropriate precautions. We are seeing transmission in the larger community where people are not following the guidelines.
How will the schedule at T.C. Williams High School be changed to reflect going back into the classroom? Has this process already started or will we keep our same schedules and classes next year?
We are looking at lessons learned from the current Virtual PLUS+ schedule to make those decisions moving forward. We will have more information in the next few weeks.
Will ACPS be able to financially and physically provide adequate technology for concurrent teaching?
At this time, we have completed a financial analysis on the implementation of the concurrent teaching model. We know there will be additional expenses and have received federal funding through the CARES Act to help offset the increased costs of additional resources and technology needed due to this pandemic.
The plan states for Early Childhood Special Education students to be housed at the ECC starting January 26. Would ECSE students remain at the ECC for the remainder of the year or return to their normal school when preK-5 students are welcomed back on Feb. 9?
The phase-in plan returns all teachers and students with disabilities to their pre-COVID assigned school, including those ECSE students attending the ECC.
When will students go back to their schools?
At this time, our plans are to transition students back to the classroom in January and February. View the revised timeline for our Phased Reentry Plans.
What has changed to prompt reopening conversations now? Transmission rates are the highest they have ever been?
We have been planning for reopening since July. There are weekly sessions that are recorded and available to anyone to view. We are getting closer to the opening dates and need to get families and staff to solidify if they can come back or not.
How can we live in a community that professes educational equity goals, but have created an environment when only children of wealthy people and those who abandon public schools can receive in-class instruction?
We do stand by racial equity in all of our work. But the health and safety of our students has to be an even higher priority right now. What we are striving to do in making any decision, is to adhere to CDC guidelines. In addition to that, we need to look at staffing and building capacity. We are working hard to get our students back in school.
Is there a set guide for what dictates whether ACPS opens/closes the schools for each of the three metrics?
Community metrics: amount of transmission and amount of positivity, secondary transmission levels based on current indicators. Cross referencing these metrics, allows us to make an informed decision. Virginia is currently in the red and the state has asked schools and school districts to remain virtual at this time. We are also taking into consideration our staff and building capacity in making any decision.
With cases expected to be on the rise over the next 3 months, aren't we realistically looking at opening closer to March or April?
A lot of the models we have looked at since May are helpful to inform a timeline but not always accurate in predicting an exact return date. Currently, it is true that the models project a rise. Schools are preparing now in case that rise does not happen as projected and we can go back sooner. We have to watch all of the indicators on a weekly basis.
Why has it taken months and months to garner this staff data? There are schools throughout the country that did this immediately.
ACPS adopted a deliberate planning approach to address this pandemic health situation. We did this to provide some modicum of consistency and avoid some of the fits and starts that other divisions are experiencing. Our approach - all of our plans and activities - is posted for public understanding.
Which levels (or all) of EL's who will be invited to join face to face instruction in February?
All EL students will return based on the Family Choice Form responses. However, we will be looking at the most vulnerable students in making these decisions.
Now that we have celebrated Thanksgiving and have seen that people are not listening to the advice not to travel, what is our plan for returning after spring break assuming that people will travel? Are we thinking that after spring break we can return to virtual learning for 2 weeks which will also allow those who traveled to quarantine and then come back to the building?
We have not had a chance to discuss Spring Break at this time. The analysis for this situation will be based on the levels of community spread in our area and around the country. It is possible that there could be executive orders from the Governor and/or U.S and we would need to follow those guidelines at the time. We will have to wait and see and make the best decision based on all of the data.
Community Health Metrics
What metrics are we utilizing to determine when it is safe for students to return?
Please review our FAQ on Health and Safety Metrics Related to the Return to In-Person Instruction.
Are other schools that have implemented a hybrid learning model seeing COVID-19 spreading within their school buildings?
It depends - there have been outbreaks across the State where there has been in-person learning - this generally occurs where the mitigation strategies have not been followed. Other health districts have also reported that this has been occurring more frequently lately, when they have had higher community transmission rates.
How will we accommodate a hybrid learning model if we do not have the staff available?
Teachers will be able to teach from their homes if they are not going into the building. Also, we will have substitutes and class monitors.
What plans do we have for substitutes including teachers, bus drivers, nurses, school leadership, etc?
There is no change to the ACPS substitute request process. A request for a substitute must be done in collaboration and approval of the respective school or office supervisor. ACPS would hire a substitute based upon availability.
Why don't we just wait until teachers have access to the vaccines, to ensure that it will be a safer re-entry?
Vaccines will be one strategy to help reduce the risk of persons (staff, students, the community) of catching the COVID-19 virus. Even after vaccinations, the other key mitigation strategies will need to be continued until such time that there is much lower community transmission in Alexandria and the region.
Please talk about your plans for measuring and sustaining sufficient ventilation in classrooms — a safety factor for which there is increasing evidence. Are the schools going to be upgraded with HEPA or UV air filtration systems? What infrastructure improvements have been made since March to make our schools more resilient and safe for our students and teachers?
Since March, the staff and our contractor have been providing preventative maintenance and repairs on all of our HVAC systems. These are designed to make sure we have proper airflow and ventilation. We have made filter changes to include recommended Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 filters at schools where the HVAC systems can accommodate this level of filter. We continue with upgrades of systems at several schools that were pre-planned prior to the pandemic through CIP. No, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessments have not been completed at all facilities. Our typical process for completing IAQ assessments is based on reported concerns of air quality within a facility. If an IAQ assessment is completed for a school/facility, results are posted to the appropriate school webpage.
Should windows be open in classrooms?
We do not recommend opening windows as it could compromise the efficient operations of our HVAC systems and could bring in outside elements such as allergens and mold.
Safety & Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Will a representative from ACPS facilities tour the schools to make sure that the main office staff protective equipment was installed properly prior to opening?
Facilities and Operations staff have and will continue to complete facility inspections prior to reopening. It is important to note that the installation of sneeze guards in the main offices are an added safety measure; this measure should not take the place of wearing face masks for the entirety of time spent in the facility, maintaining social distancing of 6ft and washing hands frequently throughout the day.
Please explain in detail the cleaning process. What kind of products and how many times you clean the building?
The cleaning process is highlighted and detailed in the School Reentry Health and Safety Measures.
Are Alexandria private schools required to adhere to the same health department health metrics? If not, why is that?
The Alexandria Health Department has no regulatory role over public or private schools, however the Health Department serves in a consulting role. ACPS did submit plans and recommendations were sent back outlining best practices for social distancing and safety protocol for in person schooling. The Health Department offered assistance to all schools, public and private, although some did not take them up on this. The importance of utilizing this resource is to allow each school system to understand the impact of decisions to mitigate case spread.
According to the City's website, the only people that are affected by COVID in the city are ages 50-59 and 70+. Is this the case?
No, that is not the case. On the website Alexandria.va.gov/coronavirus there are dashboards on the left side of that page related to COVID 19. Here you will see the precise number of cases divided out by age groups. There have been about 750 cases in ages 0-15 (to date). It is affecting all age groups but the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable.
Will students be required to wear masks when returning to in-person learning?
Yes. All students K-12 are required to wear a mask, with exceptions given to those who have a medical excusal.
Since we are months away from the vaccine, why not wait until the vaccine is available for the public?
ACPS is working to offer in person learning as best possible given the situation.
How we can make sure parents, students and teachers are safe and those who need the vaccine are getting it?
We are adhering to the CDC guidelines in regards to social distancing and cleaning protocols. The Advisory Committee on Immunizations met on Dec. 1, 2020 and will present recommendations on who gets these first. There is enough vaccine for everyone (per CDC) to get one but it will take time. Those who work in health care, the most vulnerable and those who are in the highest risk groups will be at the top of the list. Educators are up high in the level of tiers but we don’t know the exact order at this time.
Are school nurses among those that will be able to receive the COVID vaccine quickly/first when it becomes available?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met on Dec. 10, 2020 to determine what groups take priority and even how groups within groups will be prioritized. Nurses are health care professionals and will certainly be considered in the health care category.
Today it was reported that all Americans that want a vaccine will have one by June. Will all teachers, staff and students be required to vaccinate so schools can re open five days a week in September 2021?
There is no mandate for the vaccine at this time.
Social Distancing in Classrooms
How do you solve the problem with overcrowding and lack of capacity for social distancing? Everything else seems pointless if we don't have the space.
First and foremost, one of the reasons we are looking at a hybrid model is because we cannot have 100% of our staff and students in a building and maintain distance regulations. It lessens the number of days and number of students who are on campus at any given time. In some schools, we had a capacity issue prior to the pandemic and we are looking at those numbers while planning on hybrid models.
Has the fact that the majority of teachers in the high school share classrooms been considered in the reopening plans?
We have representatives from the high school serving on the task force (principles, assistant principals and teacher representatives) to help with recommendation and planning. We plan to have precautionary tasks in place such as cleanings throughout the day in classrooms, restrooms and public spaces, constant reminders on social distancing and PPE guidelines. There will also be cleaning materials available for individuals to use as they need for peace of mind. We are looking at the general flow of traffic in planning meetings to maintain cleaning of transition areas.
Special education teachers will not be following the 6-feet social distancing rule. But there are other expectations around health and safety measures for this group. Can you outline these?
Yes, there may be times when staff who work with Students With Special Needs/Disabilities will not be able to keep a 6ft social distance while working with students. ACPS is addressing this by providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) including sneeze guards, face masks, face shields, gowns and gloves when required or requested by staff.
How are you going to guarantee 6 feet between kids?
Desks and furniture will be appropriately spaced per the 6ft guidance. Signage and markers will be used in facilities as a reminder to remain socially distanced throughout the day. In addition, teachers and staff will be able to help reinforce social distance with students throughout the school day.
How are teachers planning to assist students one-on-one during in-person while also maintaining 6ft social distancing? How will they be able to see a student’s work?
We will provide teachers guidance in how to achieve this. We will also have virtual office hours. We will work with teachers through a simulation process to help them adjust to distancing and providing personal levels of support. The recommendation from the Health Department is to minimize teachers and students being in closer proximity. There are ways, including sneeze guards at desks and communicating between the guards.
Why can so many other public school systems in the U.S. (often in areas with higher infection rates) provide some in-class schooling for all students (including high schoolers) and ACPS cannot?
ACPS is following the Virginia Department of Health guidelines and we work in collaboration with the Alexandria City Health Department and the CDC on making decisions. We cannot speak for other schools or school districts on how they came to their choice. We did start a small group in-person but we have to delay that due to the local recent spike.
What is the protocol for a child going to the bathroom during lunch? Will they need to walk closely past other children not wearing masks at their desks?
Children can remove masks only when they are eating. If they get up for any reason they will need to put on their mask before walking around the classroom or going to the restroom. As we are doing our field verification research, we know there will be movement throughout the day and our furniture is set up to allow for safe movement. Hallways are also lined for single direction flow.
Why is fear and anxiety of returning to the workplace a valid reason to be "unable" to return?
As an employer, ACPS is required to provide a safe workplace that is free of known health and safety hazards. In this public health situation, we have an obligation to hear from our employees about such hazards so that we can address those concerns. We wanted staff to have the opportunity to provide feedback about their fears related to proper safety equipment, capacity, sick time and sanitizing protocols as well as fear of acquiring or transmitting the virus in the workplace. Anxiety impacts one’s ability to perform at work. It is good management to learn and understand the pulse of the workplace in this situation. ACPS values its employees and will do all it can to care and support our workforce.
What was the variation in staff intent to return when analyzed at the individual school levels? Specifically at the elementary level, are some schools better positioned for a return of students, based on staff intent to return?
Broadly speaking, roughly half of classroom teachers indicated they would be available for in-person instruction.
Fairfax County Public Schools ordered teachers back to school or offered them the opportunity to take unpaid leave or leave the system. Why can’t ACPS do this?
ACPS takes a different approach in regards to site attendance with our teacher workforce. We understand that teachers are challenged at work and home in this pandemic situation. We know that work-life balance has been disrupted and that all of us are making adjustments accordingly. Presently, over half of our staff has indicated that they are impacted by a health reason to come back to in-person instruction. For ACPS, we want to consider each person’s situation and partner with our teachers to find the best solution for in-person instruction short of formal directives if at all possible. We have a deliberate listening and engagement process on teacher in-person attendance because we want to support our teachers through this challenging time. This will help ensure we retain our great teachers over the long term.
Are you requiring a doctor certification for staff or teachers who claim a medical need to work from home?
What does a staff member do if their intent to return status changes due to changing circumstances?
Staff should inform their supervisor of their change in status and process that status at the individual level.
Have you determined when you expect Central Office employees to return to working in person? Will we have the option to continue to work virtually?
We are currently in a planning phase for Central Office staff at this time. Ideally, we would have Central Office staff transition back along the same timeline as students and teachers. However, we have learned that some positions work quite well remotely and we are having discussions about which positions could continue to be virtual even after the pandemic. Decisions on this will be made available to you as soon as we get the plans together.
ACPS said before that they would not ask teachers to do 3 jobs at once. How can you implement concurrent teaching without requesting teachers to do more?
The concurrent teaching model does require teachers to do more and it will not allow staff to operate in the same way as virtual learning. However, we are planning for appropriate professional development and equipment available for our staff to effectively transition and implement concurrent teaching effectively.
Will staff be supported in staying home if they are sick?
Absolutely, we respect and honor when staff is sick and this would not change in this COVID situation. We want employees to take care of themselves. We are strongly encouraging our staff to stay home when they have any initial symptoms of feeling unwell. We do not want to risk exposure. It’s better to be safe.
What about staff that have shared office space? Example: librarian sharing office space with technology integration specialist. Will there be arrangements for staffing in these situations?
We know practices need to be put in place for each scenario. Staff who are in a co-located office will need to practice all sanitizing protocols, wearing PPE and staying home when ill.
Will teachers be able to continue to work with our same students?
Working with the same students is most desirable but it will depend on what models the families choose and how we can best allocate staff to support the need. School leaders will need to put all of the data together to make sure all aspects are considered to provide students and staff with the safest experience and best opportunity for teaching and learning.
Will coaches or other support staff (that do not teach students directly) be expected to work in person or will they be asked to continue virtual in order to keep down numbers in buildings?
Depending on the classroom need, support staff will be expected to work in person to support the teacher(s).
Fairfax County Public Schools is allowing staff to send their own children to school four days a week. Is this something ACPS is considering?
No. We need to align our return plans for all ACPS students, no matter where their parents work.
If there are teachers that want to remain virtual, will they get reassigned to teach classes of students that want to remain virtual?
Teachers who work remotely will teach classes virtually.
Will English Learner teachers at the elementary level deliver services in the general education classroom or in a separate classroom with small pullout groups?
We cannot answer this question at this time. Classroom locations will be determined as part of the school instructional plan based upon the availability of students and staff to attend in-person instruction.
Will we have substitute teachers in a hybrid model if we (teachers) are sick or have to take a personal day? Or do we have to plan asynchronous materials?
There is no change to the use of substitute teachers. A teacher, in collaboration with the school principal, may request a substitute teacher. Given the current remote-teaching situation however, if the teacher absence is less than 10 consecutive days, the school principal seeks to cover the teaching absence internally before requesting external support. This means, for example, the assignment of a paraprofessional to cover the remote classroom.
How does ACPS know if there are enough substitute teachers to fill the need if staff stays home when ill? How will these classrooms or specialists jobs be covered (SST along with teachers)?
School principals ensure that the classroom has an assigned teacher or substitute teacher to ensure that students receive proper classroom instruction. ACPS continues to hire substitutes depending on availability at the time of the request for substitute coverage.
Family Choice Form
When do we get the Family Choice Form and when is it due?
The forms were sent out via email on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Families have until Dec. 18 to complete the form. See more information about the Family Choice Form and the instructions and video for how to complete the form.
Can I change my response on the form?
You have until Dec. 18 to change your final response to the Family Choice Form. After that, we will use the response you submitted when refining our planning for each classroom and school.
Why are we extending the Family Choice Form deadline to Dec. 18?
We have not yet heard from everyone and we need to hear from all our families to be able to refine our plans to reopen our school buildings for in-person learning. We also want to give families the opportunity to change their decision if they want to, following this new information about concurrent teaching and the ability for the majority of students to remain with their current teacher.
Do I need to complete the Family Choice Form for each of my children separately?
Yes. You need to complete the Family Choice Form for each of your children. This means that you can make separate decisions on hybrid or virtual for each child.
How can I get help completing this form?
Please call the Virtual PLUS+ Helpline if you need assistance with accessing PowerSchool or completing the form.
For families that don’t complete the form, what category will they be placed in?
We cannot answer that until all other surveys have been returned and we understand the current needs.
Why should we spend time filling out another survey when we have already filled out so many in the past?
It is important to get active feedback as our timelines have shifted. Some families may be changing their mind and we need to have the most up-to-date information from all families. Your voice matters each time and we adjust our plans accordingly. We appreciate all of the effort each family has taken to voice their needs and concerns.
Your Questions Answered on the Phased Reentry and Virtual PLUS+ Adjustments for the Second Quarter
Virtual PLUS+ Adjustment Questions
What were the survey results for satisfaction of the amount of teacher-led instruction and/or screen time for grades K-2 only? It seems that the older grades may have skewed this higher than is the case for K-2 families.
Respondents were asked if the amount of teacher-led live instruction time was too much, just right, or too little. Thirty-two percent of PK-2 families said too much compared to 10% of high school. These findings by grade band are on page 10 of the full report (PDF). Lower grade levels report screen time as a top challenge more frequently than higher grade levels. See page 11 of the full report (PDF). These packets align with the Standards of Learning (SOLs) and the curriculum staff’s weekly pacing. The learning packets will have activities from the following areas; English Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, science, the arts, and physical education. Students in 4th and 5th grade TAG for English Language Arts will have learning packets. TAG students taking 6th math will continue to follow the pacing and materials they are currently using. Learning packets for PreK-2 will be distributed the week of November 2nd-6th and packets 3rd-5th will be distributed November 8-14.
How does this plan address the survey responses? They don't seem to correlate.
The survey data has been used to inform the planning process. For example, if we have 80% of families from one school saying they wish to return, but only socially distanced capacity for a third of them, and only 50% of staff saying they are willing to return, we need to come up with alternatives before we can reopen a building. Direct connections from the survey include adjustments of the amount of screen time and the subsequent adjustment to schedules. The survey also reported increased needs from particular groups, including families with Students with Disabilities, those with child care needs, English Learners and our youngest students. We used that to inform planning for the reentry phase.
Is there any change to the schedule that could see children with less screen time?
Yes, schools will be offering different schedules for the second quarter for K-2. Principals would be able to select the schedule that is best suited to the needs of their families and students. These options offer a minimum of a one hour per day reduction in screen time. Each of the three sample schedules has in common a reduction of approximately one hour of screen time, integration of core content areas (English Language Arts with Social Studies, and Mathematics with Science), a reduction of Encore time, and an increase in asynchronous, independent learning time.
According to the updated elementary schedules, the screen time is reduced by one hour - how much time in total is synchronous now?
This differs depending on the individual school schedule and principals can adapt these schedules to meet the needs of their student populations. In general, the adjustments result in 75 additional minutes of off screen time for students (60 from the previous Science and Social Studies block and 15 from the asynchronous portion of Encore).
What is the reasoning behind cutting Encore by 15 minutes? This is a vital part of the day that students look forward to.
The final 15 minutes of Encore is already designed to be asynchronous. We found that our younger students were not benefiting from this additional time and what is really valued is the 30 minute teacher-led portion of the class. Cutting the final 15 minutes does not affect that.
The amount of time spent in Encore classes is often reduced because teachers are waiting for students to arrive. How are we addressing this?
We know how much Encore is valued by our students and we want them to enjoy the full 30minutes allocated for this session. We are aware of this issue and each school is working on its own strategy to limit wasted time.
During the increased asynchronous time, what are the activities the students might be doing?
The asynchronous work is supported by learning packets and children do not have to be at the screen to complete this. That activity could be reading or writing a story or any other activity outlined in the learning packets and guided by teachers. Teachers will remain on the screen so students can check in with them at any time if they have questions.
Can there be a common lunch time for every school? It would be helpful for families with students in different grades and different schools?
Unfortunately, given the different schedules at each school, and the demands on Encore teachers and specialized instruction, it has not been possible to coordinate this.
What is the required number of days and hours that a student must participate in school? Is there any flexibility?
180 days or the equivalent number of hours per day. We have had no notification from the Virginia Department of Education that there is any change planned to this requirement. As of now, SOL tests are still happening and the expectation is that students will master the usual skills expected for the grade level. Therefore, we cannot cut the hours we are currently utilizing which are already at a minimum for students to successfully meet their grade standards. However, these hours can be obtained through both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.
Why are we bringing back learning packets? Why aren’t we also distributing textbooks to our students?
As we are reducing screen time, we want students to have materials to guide their work. These packets align with the Standards of Learning (SOLs) and the curriculum staff’s weekly pacing. The learning packets will have activities from the following areas; English Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, science, the arts, and physical education. Students in fourth and fifth grade TAG for English Language Arts will have learning packets. TAG students taking sixth-grade math will continue to follow the pacing and materials they are currently using. Learning packets for PreK-2 will be distributed the week of November 2-6 and packets for third-fifth will be distributed November 8-14.
Why weren’t packets handed out at the start of the school year?
Virtual PLUS+ has been adjusted as the year progresses. We are listening to the requests from our families and staff to make adjustments.
If the Rec program can come back in person, and if ASA can use our grounds, then why can’t ACPS come back in person? Why are we allowing our partners to bring kids back and ACPS is not?
Our Virtual PLUS+ partners childcare programs are dealing with much smaller numbers and this is very different from opening up a full school and school operations.
How do we reach families who don’t speak English as their first language or who do not have stable internet access to view communications?
We have a comprehensive communications strategy to ensure that we always relay information to reach all our families in a timely manner, every step of the way. We translate every communication we put out into Spanish, Amharic and Arabic and send ACPS Express as a text message to families with a preferred language of Amharic, Arabic or Spanish in our system. We also post to our Spanish Facebook page, which is how many of our Spanish-speaking families like to receive information. Our Family and Community Engagement team has been reaching out to our multilingual families through various communication channels. We’ve had over 10,000 calls to our multilingual Virtual PLUS+ Helpline and we will continue to keep that line open throughout October, and possibly longer. We have enhanced and reinforced our multilingual communication lines and will continue to assess the effectiveness of this outreach.
Phased Reentry Questions
Our neighboring school divisions have done their own analysis and have reached a very different timeline to ours which sees their student population return sooner. Why is this?
ACPS has had a building capacity issue before the pandemic. Unlike our neighboring divisions, 13 out of 18 schools are over capacity. In addition, there is a significant discrepancy between the number of staff able to return compared to the number of students that want to return. We simply do not have the staff able to return to the classroom at this time. Please be aware that we are still working through our staffing model which takes into account that our staff members are facing some of the same challenges that many of our families are grappling with during this pandemic such as:
- people who are 65 or older;
- people of all ages who have underlying medical conditions, are at higher risk of serious illness if they do get COVID-19;
- Other groups at higher risk for complications including pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems;
- Caring for a family member with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems;
- Child care; and
- Family life obligations
Why are other districts going back, and ACPS is not? What factors are impacting ACPS differently than nearby counties such as Arlington and Fairfax that are planning phased reopening for all elementary learners beginning in November?
ACPS has to consider its own students’ needs, staff preferences, resources and facilities. We need to be conscious of serving our own students and families. Our two key constraints to pivoting to in-person learning are staffing and building capacity.How did ACPScome up with a total of just five desks in each classroom?ACPS used the square footage of each school and classrooms which vary from school to school to determine our calculations for building capacity. For example, the classroom at Samuel Tucker Elementary School could accommodate five students and the classroom at Jefferson-Houston K-8 IB School could accommodate seven students. Regardless of five, seven or nine students, we have the building capacity concerns with class sizes of 24 and some cases 26.
It looks like ACPS is only just starting to plan for or thinking about re-entry for some students. Why hasn’t planning been happening all along?
ACPS has been planning for all types of reentry of students since June. You can view the presentations from the meetings and some videos of the discussions on the ACPS website. These planning meetings have involved teachers,students, staff from all departments and key community stakeholders .
How does this plan correlate to the Virginia Department of Education's reopening requirements?
The ACPS Enhanced Continuity of Learning Plan was approved by VDOE and subsequent modifications and/or revisions only require notice. You can find their FAQ on reopening here.
Citywide Students With Disabilities Program
Will the students be assigned to their same teachers?
Not necessarily. We have 25-30% of our available staff indicating that they are able to come back into our buildings. This means we can handle only 25% of students from the pool we have identified within the citywide program. This means that we may have to transition some of their instructional program to other teachers. But their case manager will stay the same throughout the year.
Are the secondary students in the citywide program regarded as less vulnerable and therefore are not being brought back in during the first wave? Students with disabilities, in Citywide programs, will return in a phased process. Secondary students will begin that process in December 2020 and extend into January 2021. Additionally, some high school citywide program students currently participate in work programs with our city partners. We are taking a measured, incremental approach to phasing in all citywide program students.
A lot of school divisions are prioritizing getting students in grades K-2 back in person given the difficulty of implementing online learning for this age group. Why aren’t we trying harder to return this cohort?
ACPS is engaged in a process to prioritize students, assessing their immediate needs and are planning to bring students back to school according to established criteria. The school division is committed to doing everything possible to return students back as quickly and safely as possible.
Will all preK-2 students return sometime November through January or are you just planning during that period? Is there a prioritization matrix for students other than ELs and Students With Disabilities?
We propose the following dates for our phased reentry:
- Nov. 5: Begin with Students with Disabilities in grades K-2 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning.
- Nov. 17: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades 3-5 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning
- Nov. 30: Expand to include Early Childhood Special Education students who opt into in-person learning (to be housed at the Early Childhood Center).
- Nov. 30: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades K-5 who receive self-contained Language Arts and Math instruction who opt into in-person learning.
- Dec. 2020: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades 6-8 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning.
- Jan. 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades PreK-5 who opt into in-person learning.
- Feb. 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades 6-8 who opt into in-person learning. Draft plans for secondary students are under development.
Can my child expect to return to their own school and keep their current teacher? Does the phased re-entry mean teacher changes for students? How will teachers cover both their in-person and distance learning kids if they are required to do both?
The short answer is that no family can expect to return to their own school building or keep their current teacher. To accommodate the numbers that need to be in a building at one time,we are exploring options at all schools across the city. It is possible that children will be asked to attend class in another school and with another teacher. We are also looking at alternative options for staff and students who do not wish to return to the school buildings to continue with a virtual model.
Is TAG considered a self-contained class in the prioritization matrix?
No, TAG is not considered a self-contained class. Self-contained within this context only means those students receiving special education services and who are placed in self-contained classrooms.
What will happen if more students opt in for in-person learning than available teachers? How will families be chosen to attend?
This is one of our challenges with in-person learning. Our goal is to be able to offer any family the opportunity to return in a hybrid format, while accommodating our staff who are not available for in-school learning. We are designing options for staff as well as students in the planning process. This is a highly complex situation and options will be contingent on staffing.
What are the phases of vulnerability? Is there a matrix for this, not just special education students?
ACPS utilizes a return to school priority matrix developed by the McKinsey Group for phasing in vulnerable students. This includes varying groups of special education students, as well as varying language levels and grades levels of English Learner students. It also places priority on younger students above older students.
What is the end result we are hoping for by June?
It is very difficult to think about June. Things change constantly and we are conducting an analysis and evaluation of our feasible options with our Division Team. We will provide updates to the community every seven weeks to keep them informed of our progress.
What are the determining factors for making these decisions?
The reentry planning has taken into account:
- Building Capacity: Classroom layouts; furniture; learning spaces; hallways and communal spaces
- Students: Prioritized based on need; education; equity; family preference
- Staff Availability: Willingness to return, Personal health conditions; direct instruction; virtual roles
- Instructional Model: Schedules; technology; pacing,
- PPE & Health/safety Training: Procurement; Cleaning protocols; ability to monitor; heath mitigations from the Alexandria Health Department
- Transportation: Modified routes; bus capacity; driver support; monitors
- Alexandria Health Department guidance
What are the plans for secondary students for the rest of the year?
We are focusing first on our most vulnerable groups of learners and will continue to expand in-person offerings in coming months as feasible. ACPS hopes to bring middle school students back in February 2021. Due to the building capacity constraints while meeting CDC guidelines, elementary schools will almost certainly not be able to accommodate all elementary students at their zoned schools. Therefore, ACPS is exploring building capacity options to house elementary students. Once we have the numbers of elementary students who wish to return to in-person instruction collected by January 2021, then we will be able to begin the transition of our middle school students beginning in February 2021. We will continue refining the virtual learning for most secondary students who may need to continue their online learning into the third quarter.
What are the plans for high school athletics?
We have been focused on the academic needs, knowing that the VHSL season will not start until at least December. However, there is preparation and the work to bring them back is being done. The work to determine which athletes want to return is in progress.
Reentry Health and Safety Questions
Why do students need to stay six feet apart?
The six-foot distance limits the spread of COVID-19. This is a distance that minimizes the need for quarantining should someone in a school facility test positive. Only those who were within 6 feet of distance of an identified case for 15 cumulative minutes or more in a 24-hour period are deemed a close contact. While close contacts will be required to quarantine, anyone who is not deemed a close contact can continue with their in-person instruction. It is important to remember that the wearing of face masks, social distancing of 6 feet or more, and hand washing at all times while in an ACPS facility is critical. This will reduce the level of risk.
Will you quarantine an entire class if someone is confirmed with COVID-19?
Only those students and staff who are deemed a close contact will be required to quarantine. A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of distance of an identified case for 15 cumulative minutes or more in a 24-hour period. Anyone who is not deemed a close contact can continue with their in-person instruction.
How many kids are in the entire Citywide program?
There are 60 students in the Citywide K-2 program and 55 in grades 3-5.
How many were eligible to come back?
Sixty students were eligible to return in the first phase, however we have also taken into account the comfort level of the parents and staff. Many families said they were not comfortable with their students returning at this time. We are constantly needing to pivot and adjust according to the changing circumstances.
Why is it important to bring this group back?
The group of students who are the first to return are our youngest students who are among the most vulnerable. They are kindergarteners in the citywide program that serves students with disabilities such as autism. Given their age and their need for one-on-one services, these students struggle to learn at home.
Our goal is to steadily expand our in-person learning starting with our youngest students. The situation is incredibly complex and we felt we needed to start with a small group to ensure the new processes and procedures work.
What health and safety measures is the division putting in place?
ACPS is putting a number of measures in place to ensure the health and safety of our staff. In addition to the basic face coverings and social distancing requirements for all staff, staff who work with students in the citywide program for Students With Disabilities will require additional PPE as they are required to support students who may need toileting and feeding assistance.
Before leaving home, students will complete an electronic health questionnaire. Students will sit spaced out at least six feet apart on the bus, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. They will be met by their teacher, who will be in protective gear, including face coverings, overalls and gloves. All students must wear a face covering and everyone will stay six feet apart, work behind plexiglass screens and keep all equipment in bags. Cleaning staff will be on site throughout the day, ensuring high-touch areas are kept clean at all times.
Will students in this cohort have to wear a face covering even if they have sensory issues etc? Will exceptions be made?
All students, staff and visitors will be required to wear face coverings when they are on a school site. School staff will work with students who have issues with face coverings, however, social distancing and face coverings are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Are teachers required to wear the full PPE shown in the simulation video?
ACPS is putting a number of measures in place to ensure the health and safety of our staff. In addition to the basic face coverings and social distancing requirements for all staff, staff who work with students in the citywide program for Students With Disabilities will require additional PPE as they are required to support students who may need toileting and feeding assistance. You can see our Health and Safety Measures page, which outlines who and when Specialized PPE will be used: https://www.acps.k12.va.us/Page/3498
Why are only a handful of students returning this week?
ACPS has deliberately started small and with our most vulnerable students. We want to ensure that our students and staff can handle all the measures put in place before we expand the program to larger groups of students.
What is the timeline for the return of other students?
The timeline for the reentry of Students with Disabilities can be found on the ACPS website.
How many teachers have indicated they would return?
We have reached out to all Specialized Instruction staff and asked them to indicate their intent to return. This is an ever-changing situation and we will be issuing all ACPS staff an intent-to-return form on Monday after which we will have a clearer idea of firm numbers of all staff in ACPS.
What about the psychological impact of the kids when they see all their teachers dressed up in ER quality gear?
All parents whose students are returning have the option to send their child to in-person learning or continue with virtual learning. If a parent feels their child might not be ready for the experience, they have the option of keeping them at home. The return to in-person learning is entirely optional.
Why were families who were expecting their children to return to school on Nov. 5 only informed on Nov. 3 that this would no longer be the case?
This is an extremely fluid situation and we are being required to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances every single day. Many of the staff and students who initially indicated they wished to return, have since changed their ability to return. We are trying to accommodate as many students as we can and appreciate your patience and understanding while we work hard to bring our students back into our buildings.
How is it that Arlington Public Schools can bring back students with disabilities without the teachers dressed excessively in PPE?
The level of PPE depends on the support needs of students who are returning. The students that ACPS has deemed most in need of in-person learning are students in the citywide program who require support with restroom visits and feeding. The extra PPE helps protect our staff and ensure they feel safe.
Children are safely going into ACPS schools like George Mason Elementary and Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School every day. Why do we need a different simulation for the return of ACPS students?
There are a very limited number of students in the childcare program. The program staff are merely supervising students and not teaching them and are therefore not required to go within six feet at any time during the day.
Did ACPS model this soft re-opening after any other schools?
While we are always conscious of the actions other school divisions are taking to try to reopen their schools, we always remain focused on the needs of our own school division. This reentry has been planned for months and we hope to expand it to more students very soon.
Where are we with Covid-19 testing? Will students be tested prior to reentering school, what if there was an outbreak at school?
If a student has no indications for Covid-19, testing is not deemed necessary to come back to in-person school. If there is an outbreak at a school, testing of students who may have been exposed may take place to assist with contact tracing. If a student tests positive, this does not necessarily mean we have to close a school or a classroom as long as safety measures have been followed with fidelity, such as keeping the six-foot distancing rule between students and staff. We have an established protocol that we follow t in the event of a positive case.
What is the current turnaround time for testing in Alexandria?
According to Dr. Stephen Haering, the director of the Alexandria Health Department, testing time varies depending on the lab that is used. The PCR tests, which are regarded as the gold standard test, are talking about two to three days to process as of October 2020.
Where in the presentation is ACPS’ plan for a response if a positive case happens?
You can find an outline of the steps we will take in the case of a positive COVID-19 case on the ACPS website. A comprehensive plan for cleaning and sanitizing the building will be shared prior to the reentry of students into ACPS buildings.
How does this plan correlate to the COVID status in Alexandria?
Alexandra Health Department’s (AHD) Director Dr. Stephen Haering participates in ACPS planning meetings and calls and regularly shares updated information about Alexandria’s Covid-19 numbers. The proposed model has been planned in collaboration with AHD and we will continue to involve the AHD in our planning going forward.
Can parents continue to do online work for their kids if they have health issues like immune deficiencies?
We are planning to continue with a fully virtual model for students and staff who have health reasons that prevent them from returning to our buildings.
How will the following be addressed during in-person learning? Hand washing, social distancing, HVAC, lack of windows opening enough for fresh air, overcrowded buildings, crowded buses, Covid-positive students coming in but showing no symptoms?
ACPS follows all CDC and Alexandria Health Department guidelines. ACPS is currently conducting field inspections of facilities to verify HVAC functionality and finalizing planning for socially-distanced classroom setups. In the coming weeks, ACPS will conduct simulations of daily scenarios to check that all our processes and procedures are in place, have been thought-through and are as safe as possible. Families will be given a choice whether to return to school, but if they do, they need to follow all health and safety guidelines and protocols, including staying away from school at the slightest sign of illness.
And what are the plans for continuing education when we have to close buildings again for quarantine?
It is possible that we may need to close a classroom, a section of a building or an entire building once we reopen. ACPS will continue to have a virtual learning model in place so there is no gap in learning during a transition. We have an established protocol that we follow in the event of a positive case. The detailed operational safety plan will be available next week.
How are we supporting staff in professional development and the Monday planning time? During the first two months of school, professional development centered on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), Measuring Academic Progress (MAP) and DreamBox training. October 12th was a division-wide professional development day. There were over 75 offerings for staff to select from for professional development. We are working with principals to adjust their meeting schedules to allow for more teacher planning time on Mondays.
Where are we if there is a significant difference between staff numbers and students, how we will handle the transition back into school buildings?
We will continue to plan with this data in mind and be respectful of our families and staff. This is the question that is being assessed right now in relation to our survey.
If staff willingness to return is the biggest issue with a transition to a hybrid, are we clear about the factors causing the lack of confidence in staff? Could we offer testing as a way to increase staff confidence?
Staff responses are detailed on page 30 of Appendix B in the survey data, a third of staff indicated there was a documented health reason, others said there was a health risk within their family, while 24% cited childcare needs. Demonstrating our cleaning protocols will build confidence. Experience will also build confidence. The Alexandria Health Department has had cases, but because of social distancing and the use of face coverings, we have avoided further transmission of the infection. When people see the methods in place, they will likely gain confidence. When there is a case and people learn how we contact-trace, this will also assist to build confidence.
Have we looked at staff availability to return across grade levels? That way, we could look at whether we could bring back specific grade levels.
This would not enable us to plan for our students in a consistent way. We need to ensure we are planning to bring back students in an orderly way with our most vulnerable students first.
How frequently will staff be surveyed?
Staff and families will be surveyed ahead of any transition, every seven to nine weeks.