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June 10, 2020

On June 10, the Thought Partners had their second meeting aimed at providing guidance for the framework for reopening and reimagining ACPS schools. 

What were your reactions to the ideas presented in the research synthesis? 

  • There is an urgency to get back into schools to restart teaching.
  • Is there a need to pair down the curriculum for the next two years?
  • There is a need for steadiness while the world is reeling.
  • Need to consider the amount of space, staff and logistics if we require smaller groups - this is a concern with schools that are already overcrowded.
  • Need to consider how students will move through schools, hallways and in and out of bathrooms.
  • Need alignment with surrounding jurisdictions. 

Which ideas do you consider especially important for our work?

  • Need for a blended approach or mixed strategies to ensure that the diverse needs of all learners are met.
  • Schools that have very large populations of EL students will feel greater learning loss – language acquisition takes place largely in school so there will be greater need to support language loss when schools reopen.

How can ACPS ensure that the educational planning processes meet the needs of all students during the reopening?

  • Importance of thinking about all students and appreciating there are some variations in the needs of subgroups.
  • Importance of having a filter applied to whatever decisions are made to really pressure check them.
  • Have we used all of the information and determined that what we’re planning to do and what the schools are planning to do will really stand up to meeting what the specific learning needs are of individual or subpopulations?
  • Importance of vetting to ensure plans support EL students or students with special needs.
  • Importance of assessments prior to the start of school in the fall to find out how much students actually learned while school buildings were closed – how ready are students for the next grade?
  • The partnership with parents and others who are invested in the education of the children need to be front and center in terms of how are we giving feedback related to the struggles they are having.
  • Connections with parents to find out how well their child learns remotely
  • Support for teachers so they understand how students learn remotely
  • Are there options for tutoring locations close to homes? Or online tutoring supports?
  • Do we need to expand technology access for Pre-K through grade 2? Is so, how would we do that while retaining interactive and engaging teaching methods? It’s about the balance.
  • Important to ensure that all the stakeholders - the educators, the parents, the students, have a voice in terms of telling us what they need. If we don’t ask them and get that feedback then we can be providing something that isn’t necessary for that particular population individually and collectively.
  • Pairing down the curriculum will be essential. The next two years will be about essentials and less about creativity.
  • Messaging and how the message is conveyed will be critical – one message across the city is more powerful and simpler to understand. Can we have city-wide messaging around the curriculum to ensure that businesses also understand what children are learning at a particular time?
  • Can we use assessments to direct additional resources to help a child catch up? 

 How do we create a plan to ensure the overall safety, health, and wellness of our students and staff?  

  • Can we have an expanded sickbay so that children miss less school in the future?
  • What would you do if a teacher is diagnosed with COVID-19 or a student or things like that.
  • There is a need to be really flexible in telling parents and families and the staff up front that virtually every plan that we are making is interim or is flexible or adjustable. 
  • The process in the creation of the plan matters. It's about the balance between the community and the staff about their part and their input of the creation of the plan balancing with having good solid information. The degree to which you bring in science make people feel they have been heard particularly about their concerns relating to health and safety.
  • Eliminate confusion by having the same protocols for all the schools and the same protocols for Rec and libraries.
  • Domestic abuse has increased so there is a need to communicate access to hotlines.
  • We have to communicate that the flexibility is because the Alexandria Health Department and the CDC will determine the path that we take. We have to make it clear that we are not making these decisions ourselves. We are making this because of what is good health sense for our kids.
  • The level of fear that people have around this and what they believe is necessary is going to vary and we should be prepared to consistently refer to what the guidance says at any given time to ensure that we are doing the best we can.
  • There are some statements that we are asking employees and parents to look at and commit to. We are in this together and it really does take people adhering to the guidance that has been put forth to help keep their children safe and staff who are showing up to provide the service safe.
  • If directives or advice came from the Alexandria Health Department which will obviously be relying on those two groups that I just mentioned and probably others but maybe it's subtle but I think it removes some of the negative elements that have been associated with World Health and CDC directives.

How can our community partners help us work through risk-mitigation factors, uncertainty and adversity, and engage others in meaningful ways to understand how the Fall opening might be different than a typical school year?

  • The Community Partners so often are the ears that are on the ground with the families and different places that it's sometimes difficult for ACPS to get to. A group like that would be powerful to hear the gaps. Community Partners have a trusted relationship on the ground.
  • Are we utilizing volunteers to the maximum?
  • We need to show the alignment across the community.
  • How do we engage Community Partners in accelerating learning over the next two years? Rec could play a critical role in moving kids forward. At Casa Chirilagua, do they know what the curriculum is for the kids? There is a need for everybody in the community to sing the same tune to get ready for school. We could talk about health and wellness math and reading in a way that the whole Community can talk about it and really utilize some basic concepts that could be pushed out into businesses and community partners and newspapers.

Watch the Thought Partners Planning Meeting - June 10, 2020

View the Meeting Presentation Slides (PDF)