Planning for Reopening Schools

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The 2020-21 school year will begin on September 8 with all students in the full-time distance learning model. Read more in the Information Updates below.

Information Updates

Reopening Report from July 30 School Board Meeting

For closed captions, click the “CC” button in the bottom toolbar of the video window once the meeting starts (if you don’t see the toolbar, click once in the video window).

July 28 Return-to-School Update

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far! Summer school distance learning is now underway for many students, and we continue planning for the 2020-21 school year. Yesterday, the Return-to-School Task Force met to review and discuss feedback on instructional plans for serving specific student groups, including English Learners, Special Education and Gifted students.  

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Dear APS Families,

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far! Summer school distance learning is now underway for many students, and we continue planning for the 2020-21 school year. Yesterday, the Return-to-School Task Force met to review and discuss feedback on instructional plans for serving specific student groups, including English Learners, Special Education and Gifted students.

We are also working through details regarding instruction, scheduling, connectivity, and health and safety. We will share more information on each of these areas during this Thursday’s School Board meeting, as part of the next Return-to-School Monitoring Report.

In the meantime, below are updates on athletics and other key areas, based on frequent questions we have received over the past week.

VHSL Decision: Return of Activities
Yesterday, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) executive committee voted to delay the start of the 2020-21 high school activities and athletic season by implementing a compressed schedule that would run, as of now, from Dec. 14-June 26. The schedule as posted below would begin with the winter athletics season followed by the fall athletics season and end with the spring athletics season. The dates for each season are based on current Phase 3 information and guidance. Those dates could change if the guidance changes.

  • Season 1 (Winter Athletics) Dec. 14 to Feb. 20 (First Contest Date–December 28): Basketball, Gymnastics, Indoor Track, Swim/Dive, Wrestling.
  • Season 2 (Fall Athletics) Feb. 15 to May 1 (First Contest Date–March 1): Cheer, Cross Country, Field Hockey, Football, Golf, Volleyball.
  • Season 3 (Spring Athletics) April 12 to June 26 (First Contest Date–April 26): Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Track and Field.

More information is available on the VHSL website at www.vhsl.org.  We anticipate being able to communicate these impacts to our activities and athletics soon.

Staff Return-to-School Surveys
Throughout this month, we surveyed APS teachers and staff to gain insight on their preferences for returning. The survey of teachers closed on July 20, and the survey for all other staff closed yesterday, July 27. Below is an initial summary of responses from teachers regarding their first preferences for returning:

  • 2,523 teachers completed the survey, which asked: “Given APS implementation of the health and safety measures outlined by VDOE and VDH, what is your preference for returning and working with students?”
    • 55% (1,396) of respondents prefer to support full-time distance instruction
    • 33% (836) of respondents prefer to support in-person instruction
    • 11% (276) of respondents do not have a preference
    • .56% (15) of respondents do not plan to return to work and either intend to request a leave of absence or to retire or resign

Human Resources is reviewing the submitted information to determine final assignments so that schools can move forward with scheduling students into class sections. The results of the family selection process were shared last week and are available here for your reference.

Assigning Student Groups
Last week, I mentioned that we are grouping students, based on the model their families selected, with teachers who selected the same model, so that students can remain in the same groups when in-person learning resumes. As we move forward, I want to clarify that there will be instances when this will not be possible, given the disproportionate staff and student preferences, among other planning factors which are unique to each student, program, and school. While instructional model is a consideration used to guide planning, we cannot guarantee that all classes will remain the same when in-person learning resumes, especially given that we will survey both families and staff again when we are closer to in-person learning.

Comcast Essentials Program
Earlier this month we announced our partnership with Arlington County and Comcast to provide free, high-quality internet connectivity to students and families in need during the pandemic. Since that time families have inquired about the application process and when additional information will be provided. We worked with Comcast to mail letters with promotional codes first to summer school families and students who requested MiFi devices. All APS families will receive letters in the mail next week providing additional details on the program, how to request promotional codes, and how to apply.Once you receive those letters, if you experience problems with your codes or have special circumstances, please reach out to your summer school or school administrators. They will be able to work with Information Services and Comcast to resolve the issues. For general information, visit www.apsva.us/internet-service/.

Criteria for Returning
We have received some questions regarding specific metrics we use to determine when it is safe to return. There is no single metric or data point, but rather a range of operational and health and safety criteria we evaluate daily. Those criteria include student instructional preference and employee work preference; global supply chain availability of essential health and safety equipment, including PPE and custodial supplies; local, regional and national COVID-19 health metrics, including positive case rates, hospitalizations, and death rates; and local, state and federal health guidance.

I will share additional information at Thursday’s School Board meeting which begins at 7 p.m. Video of my presentation will be shared on Friday via School Talk, as well as on social media and our website. Continue to visit our website for the latest updates and responses to frequently asked questions.

Take care of yourselves, care for one another, and enjoy your summer! Thank you for your continued partnership and for coming together as a community to support all students.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Duran
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

July 21 Return-to-School Update

I want to start out by saying thank you to everyone who participated in the town hall last week. We had over 5,600 viewers and more than 1,400 questions. It truly shows the level of engagement of our families and our staff.

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Dear APS Families,

I want to start out by saying thank you to everyone who participated in the town hall last week. We had over 5,600 viewers and more than 1,400 questions. It truly shows the level of engagement of our families and our staff.It was a difficult decision to pause in-person instruction and begin the school year online for all students.

I made the decision to prioritize the health and safety of teachers and students, as we continue to evaluate COVID-19 developments. Delaying the start of the school year by one week allows additional time to prepare teachers and staff to offer a robust full-time distance learning program that supports all students.

We are committed to resuming in-school instruction in the classroom, where students learn best, as soon as possible and in accordance with state guidelines for reopening. I will provide weekly updates to parents and will present a status update on the reopening plans at each School Board meeting.

At last week’s School Board meeting, I presented more information on the distance learning experience, scheduling and how we plan to deliver services to English Learners, students who require special education services, and gifted instruction. You can watch my full presentation here.

I also want to thank all our families for choosing the option that best supports their student(s) and family needs. Nearly 74% of families (20,729) made their selection with approximately two-thirds (13,808) selecting the hybrid option. We have heard from many families that they selected the hybrid option because we are taking the health and safety of staff and students into consideration and with the understanding there would now be a slower transition to in person learning. Some of those families also indicated that their students could wait to attend school until after all students with a genuine need to be in school have gone back and once there are enough teachers who feel safe teaching in person.

We can now begin to build schedules, with students grouped together based on their instructional method so that when school buildings reopen, students can remain in the same groups as they transition to their selected instructional delivery method. This information will also determine staff planning so that staff are assigned to student groups based on the selection families make for their students.

There will be another window provided during which families can adjust their selection. That window will be communicated at a later date as we continue to monitor developments and assess the transition to hybrid in-person learning.

I know that many students are anxiously awaiting a decision on fall sports. Last week, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) announced that on July 27, they will vote on the three recommended models presented at the meeting for reopening sports and activities. The Committee also voted to delay the beginning of fall sports until a final decision is made on July 27.Those options include:

  • Model 1: Leave all sports in current season
  • Model 2: Switch Fall and Spring seasons
  • Model 3: Delay all VHSL sports and adopt the Condensed Interscholastic Seasons Plan

More details can be found on the VHSL website. Workouts will continue until the vote, and APS will decide the next steps pending the vote.

Finally, I want to reiterate that face coverings are required for staff and students while inside APS buildings unless medically exempt. At the Family Town Hall last week, we shared the latest public health guidance and discussed our requirements for removal of face coverings: they can only be removed for necessary needs (e.g., eating and drinking), the removal is time-limited, and a six-foot distance must be  maintained while face coverings are off. Our commitment to requiring face coverings has not changed, and we are working through the details to provide clear guidance for the enforcement of this requirement.

Thank you for your continued support as we move forward together.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

School Board Approves Change to 2020-21 School Year Calendar

The School Board approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year to Sept. 8, with staff beginning on August 24 as planned.

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School Year to Begin Virtually on September 8 for All Students
Superintendent Presents Update on Reopening with Phased Approach to Hybrid In-Person Learning

The School Board approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year to Sept. 8, with staff beginning on August 24 as planned. This calendar change was made to build in more time for professional learning to prepare teachers to deliver a distance learning program that is synchronous, interactive and introduces new content effectively to meet the learning needs of all students.

The school year will now begin virtually on Tue, Sept. 8 for all students.The School Board also received a status update on the Superintendent’s revised Return-to-School Plan and decision to pause hybrid in-person instruction for the start of the year and begin the year in full-time distance learning for all students. This decision, announced Tue, July 14, was made to ensure the health and safety of staff and students, based on discussions with County leadership, health officials and monitoring of national and state trends that show continued spread of the virus and an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

The School Board voiced its support for the plan with the understanding that APS will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and look to transition some students back to school buildings with the modified, hybrid schedules in early October, if possible.

“We support and applaud the Superintendent for his leadership in prioritizing the health and safety of staff and students and his decision to take a pause and begin the school year virtually,” said Arlington School Board Chair Monique O’Grady. “This is an anxious time, and we must listen to what the virus is telling us. In this difficult time, we are committed to continuing to come together as a community to educate our students, to meet their social-emotional needs, and to find ways to stay healthy and support one another.”

The Superintendent’s presentation included an update on the revised plan; the selection process for families; distance learning instruction for elementary and secondary students; support for Special Education students, English Learners and Gifted students; and a health and safety planning update.

To read the rest of the Superintendent’s announcement, visit the APS website.

Watch the Superintendent’s School Board presentation here.

Message from the Superintendent: Proposed Change to Start of School Year and Reopening Plan

Based on these discussions and our monitoring of local and national trends in COVID-19 cases, I am proposing to the School Board on Thursday night to postpone the start of the academic year to Tuesday, September 8, and begin our school year virtually in the full-time distance learning model for all students.

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APS Families,

As we continue to see an increase in positive cases for COVID-19 nationwide, over the past several days I have taken time to re-evaluate our plan and path forward. I have met with both County leaders and School Board members to review current health data for Arlington and the state. Yesterday, we reviewed the APS health and safety plan with our Return-to-School Task Force to address concerns we have received from teachers, staff, parents, and the community.

Based on these discussions and our monitoring of local and national trends in COVID-19 cases, I am proposing to the School Board on Thursday night to postpone the start of the academic year to Tuesday, September 8, and begin our school year virtually in the full-time distance learning model for all students. Throughout our planning, the health and safety of our staff and students has been our top priority, and beginning the year with a virtual model allows us to continue to monitor the situation until we are confident it is safe to return.  With this proposed change, our teachers and staff will return as scheduled on August 24, so that we can devote more time and resources to professional learning, to ensure they are well prepared to provide a robust full-time distance learning program that supports all students.

The start of the school year will be fully virtual for all students. We will continue to monitor health data in September, with the goal of beginning to transition some students to in-person instruction in early October, which is the mid-point in the first quarter of the school year. Our goal is to have hybrid in-person instruction in place for all families that have selected that model by the beginning of the second quarter, based on health data and in consultation with health officials.   

We know many families have selected, or are in the process of selecting, the preferred model for your student. If your family has not selected your student’s instructional model, we ask that you still complete this process by July 20. We will use your feedback, along with feedback from our teachers and staff, to inform ongoing planning for reopening our school buildings.

I want to emphasize that this decision weighs heavily on all of us. We recognize that this change will present challenges to many of our families, and I hope that by informing you now, you will be able to make necessary adjustments to your plans for the fall.

Reopening our schools is a community-wide effort that impacts us all. Getting “back to normal” will take all of us working together, staying positive and following health and safety guidelines, including wearing masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing.

I will share more information about this proposed change and the health data informing it at the Town Hall for families this evening, and in my presentation to the School Board on Thursday. I will provide more details on the plan for distance learning, including information about Special Education, English Learners and Gifted Services. I hope you will tune in for these updates. Thank you for your continued support as we move forward together.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Virtual Town Halls Scheduled for Families and Staff

Arlington Public Schools has scheduled two virtual Town Halls with the Superintendent to address the family selection process for choosing an instructional model for students and to address staff questions.

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Arlington Public Schools has scheduled two virtual Town Halls with the Superintendent to address the family selection process for choosing an instructional model for students and to address staff questions.

Virtual Town Halls Next Week  

  • For Families: Tue, July 14 from 6:30-8 p.m. The virtual Town Hall will be streamed on Microsoft Teams as well as Facebook Live. Details on how to participate are available online. Interpretation and closed captioning will be provided.
  • For Staff: Wed, July 15 from 1-2 p.m. and will be streamed on Microsoft Teams. Details will be posted on Staff Central later this week.

Video Message from the Superintendent
Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán recorded a video message in English and Spanish to review the instructional models and selection process underway. Watch the video below.

New Information Available Online  
For additional information and updates, please check the FAQ on the website before sending us a new question, as the FAQ and instructional model pages are being updated daily, based on the questions we are receiving. New questions and answers are noted by date in the FAQ.  The Transportation FAQ has been updated to include a new map illustrating potential elementary walk zone expansion areas.

July 7 Reopening Update

I hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend and found some time to relax and celebrate. Our work continues throughout the summer to prepare for the 2020-21 school year, and I will continue to share an update every Tuesday to keep you informed.

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Dear APS Families,

I hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend and found some time to relax and celebrate. Our work continues throughout the summer to prepare for the 2020-21 school year, and I will continue to share an update every Tuesday to keep you informed.

Yesterday, July 6, we launched the selection process in ParentVUE for APS families to choose, by July 20, the instructional delivery model that works best for your student(s). The two choices are hybrid in-person/distance learning or full-time distance learning. You should have received School Talk email and text messages alerting you about that process, and additional detailed instructions are available on the APS website. Remember that when you log into ParentVUE and go to the Student Information tab, you must select “Edit Information,” and then scroll down to update information in red regarding instructional and transportation preference, for each student. If you have trouble logging in or cannot access ParentVUE, your school’s main office can assist you, or you can try the troubleshooting tips available on the website. If you call your school and leave a voicemail with your name and contact information, a staff member will get back to you. Your response is vital to planning for the fall, so please share your preferences with us by July 20. If we do not receive your response by July 20, your student(s) will be enrolled in the hybrid model.

We continue to receive a high volume of questions through the engage@apsva.us email and are responding as quickly as possible. Please check the FAQ on the website before sending us a new question, as the FAQ and instructional model pages are being updated daily, based on the questions we are receiving. Some questions regarding specific course offerings and schedules cannot be answered at this time, as those decisions will be made based on student enrollment and staffing considerations.

I will be hosting a virtual Community Town Hall event next Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30-8 p.m. to address questions about the APS Return-to-School Plan. I will be joined by School Board Chair Monique O’Grady, and Bridget Loft, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. The Town Hall event will be broadcast on Microsoft Teams and Facebook Live on the Arlington Public Schools Facebook page. I encourage you to save this date and we will share more details on the website and through School Talk later this week.

In the meantime, there are a few points I want to emphasize based on questions received over the weekend:

  • Why APS is not offering a full-time in-school option: We understand there are difficult decisions to be made with both models. The full-time in-school scenario is not possible at this time, due to physical distancing requirements issued by the CDC, Virginia Department of Health and local health officials. Physical distancing limits the number of students and staff who can be inside a school at any one time, so the hybrid model allows half of students to be in school part of the week in order to reduce capacities in classrooms and on buses.
  • What APS will do if health conditions improve: If health conditions improve and physical distancing and other health requirements are adjusted in a way that would allow APS to resume in-person instruction for all students, we would reassess our operating status at that time.
  • What APS will do if health conditions worsen: We continue to monitor COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and state and local health officials on a daily basis. Our hybrid in-school model is contingent upon the school year beginning in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. If health data and recommendations from the Arlington County Public Health Division necessitate closing schools, students and staff participating in the hybrid model will transition to full time distance learning similar in substance to the existing full time distance learning model which will include a blend of teacher-led/synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction.
  • How distance learning will be different from this past spring: In both models, new content and all courses required by Virginia standards of learning will be offered, work will be graded, attendance will be required and all students will receive more frequent interaction with teachers and classmates. Distance learning will include a blend of scheduled synchronous/teacher-led instruction and asynchronous/independent instruction, in small groups or as a whole class. Devices and connectivity are being provided to all students so that everyone can access distance learning tools.
  • What are the start and end times for the in-school days in the hybrid option: The instructional time for the hybrid model will be the same as a regular school day; however, distancing requirements on buses and temperature checks and handwashing requirements may require staggered start and end times, so the school day may start or end at different times than usual for some groups of students. No decisions have been made yet regarding Extended Day operations for 2020-21. A high-level sample weekly schedule is provided to give you a snapshot of what a day of instruction may entail.
  • How will APS maintain the school culture and connection in full-time distance learning: APS will make every effort to group students and teachers from their school of record. Final groupings and assignments will be based on available staff and student enrollment. For example, if a given school had only 5 staff elect to teach virtually, but a large group of students enrolled in full-time distance learning, staff from other schools may need to be assigned for some courses. More information will be available at the beginning of August, when we have student enrollment numbers and staffing selections, and can begin to create master schedules and student groupings.

We are committed to providing a safe and strong return to school for all grade levels, regardless of the model you choose. Our Task Force meets next on Monday, July 13, to focus on safety, childcare and transportation, and I encourage you to join us for the Town Hall on July 14. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Student Instructional Delivery Method and Transportation Selection for SY 2020-21

For the 2020-21 school year, Arlington Public Schools (APS) will provide families the opportunity to select the instructional delivery method that works best for their student(s), due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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For the 2020-21 school year, Arlington Public Schools (APS) will provide families the opportunity to select the instructional delivery method that works best for their student(s), due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. APS is expected to be in Phase 3 of Virginia’s reopening plan when school resumes in August, so students will not be able to safely return to school buildings on a normal, full-time schedule due to CDC physical distancing guidelines. As a result, APS will provide two instructional delivery methods for families to choose from – hybrid in-person with physical distancing or full-time distance learning – when school resumes.

Families will have until July 20 at 5 p.m. to select one of the two instructional delivery methods. If families do not select one of the two options by the deadline, their selection will automatically default to the hybrid instructional delivery model. It is important that families select one of the instructional delivery methods by the deadline so schools can begin planning for both full-time distance learning and in-person class schedules.

Instructional Delivery Methods

The two instructional delivery choices for the start of the 2020-21 school year are as follows:

  • Hybrid In-School and Distance Learning– Students will participate in two consecutive in-person instruction days per week combined with three days per week of independent (asynchronous) distance learning.
  • Full-Time Distance Learning– Students will participate in full-time distance learning, including both interactive, teacher-led (synchronous) instruction and asynchronous instruction.

Additional details on the instructional delivery methods and sample school schedules are available on the Return to School Planning webpage.

Student Schedules & Instructional Delivery Method Changes

Decisions regarding schedules and student group assignments for each school will be made centrally based on student enrollment and multiple factors. Siblings will be assigned to the same in-school schedule to simplify family arrangements, when possible. Details regarding student assignments and scheduling will be finalized and communicated in August once family selections are received and processed.

Students will remain in their selected instructional delivery method while the state and Virginia schools are in Phase 3 of the reopening plan. Families will be unable to change the instructional delivery method they selected before school resumes on August 31, 2020 to allow APS to effectively plan schedules, staffing and other details in preparation for a strong start to the new school year. After that time, any requests for changes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis determined by school and bus capacity and school staffing levels. 

Transportation

Due to the state’s physical distancing guidelines, buses will only be able to transport approximately 11 students at a time. As a result, buses may need to make several trips back and forth to school to get all students eligible for transportation to and from school. In order to reduce the number of students APS will transport, some elementary walk zones will expand to areas close to schools. APS will establish (distanced) walking school buses and bicycle trains at schools to support the expanded elementary walk zones.

To help buses move quickly between trips to and from school, all option schools will start using hub stops and some bus stops for neighborhood schools will be consolidated. APS will also establish remote car drop-off locations near schools to give buses easy access to school entrances to drop off students quickly and begin the next bus trip to return students in time for their instructional day.

As a part of the return to school process, APS is requesting that families not only select their instructional delivery method for the start of the school year, but their transportation choice as well. For transportation-eligible students, please select if student(s) will ride the bus. If they will not ride the bus when school resumes, please select the mode of transportation that will be used. When families log in to ParentVUE, they will be able to select their choices.

Accessing ParentVUE (View Selection Instructions)

Families will need to complete the following steps in ParentVUE to select their choices for the instructional delivery method and transportation questions:

  1. Log in to ParentVUE with your username and password.
  2. As soon as you log in, the default tab you will see is the “Student Info” tab.
  3. On the top of the “Student Info” page, click “Edit Information” to select your choices to the instructional delivery method and transportation questions.
  4. Scroll to the middle of the “Student Info” page to select your choices for the instructional delivery method and transportation questions.
  5. After selecting your choices, scroll to the top or the bottom of the page to select “Save Changes.”
  6. If you have multiple students, you will need to complete this process for each student by selecting their name in the box located in the upper-left corner of the screen in ParentVUE.

Families are able to use the following link to access ParentVUE when they are ready to select their instructional delivery methods and transportation choices for their student(s): https://vue.apsva.us.

For additional information or assistance with accessing ParentVUE, families should contact the main office at their student’s school.

July 1 Reopening Update

Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán provided an update on the plan to reopen schools this fall.

Superintendent Provides Reopening Update to the School Board
Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán provided an update on the plan to reopen schools this fall. The presentation included new details on health and safety, instruction, and the process for families to select the instructional model that works best for their student(s). Additionally, Dr. Durán highlighted the process for teachers and staff to provide input on their preferences for hybrid or full-time virtual instruction. Video of the presentation and the presentation are linked below. An FAQ will be posted later this week. Families and staff can continue to submit questions to engage@apsva.us. These emails will be forwarded to the appropriate staff and added to the FAQ.

Superintendent’s July 1 School Board Presentation (pdf)

Video of Dr. Durán’s presentation on July 1
(For closed captions, once the video starts, click on the lower toolbar and then click on “cc”)

June 30 Reopening Update

Last week, I announced that APS will offer two learning options to our students this fall: 1) a hybrid in-school learning model, blending two days of in-school instruction each week with three days of distance learning; and 2) a full-time virtual learning model.

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Dear APS Families,

Last week, I announced that APS will offer two learning options to our students this fall: 1) a hybrid in-school learning model, blending two days of in-school instruction each week with three days of distance learning; and 2) a full-time virtual learning model. For both options, our priority is to provide every APS student with a quality education in learning environments that are safe and supportive for all.

I also outlined the process for families to select the preferred option for your student(s) between July 6 and July 20, to help our staff prepare. We understand the magnitude of the decision for every family, and our goal is to provide the information you need to make an informed choice about what works best for your family to meet your student’s learning needs.

Many families have reached out with specific questions and feedback, mostly focused on health and safety measures and how the learning experience varies between the two models. This week, the Return-to-School Task Force focused on the details of our health and safety plan. At tomorrow’s School Board meeting, July 1, I will present another status update highlighting health and safety, detailed instructional guidelines and the selection process for families. We will post updated information along with frequently asked questions (FAQ) on our website, under Engage with APS, following that meeting.

In the meantime, below are key points I want to highlight regarding our health and safety procedures:

Health and Safety Measures
APS continues to work closely with the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) to develop our health and safety plan and procedures for in-school operations, based on industry best practices from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Points of note:

  • Health and Safety Screening: All staff and students must complete a daily health screening process including temperature checks before participating in any in-person activities with APS. This includes riding the bus, entering the school, or participating in a conditioning workout for VHSL sports.
  • Face Coverings/Masks: All staff and students will be required to wear cloth face coverings/masks as medically appropriate while in school and at work. We have purchased cloth face coverings that meet CDC guidance – two for each student and four for each employee. These three-layer cloth face coverings include a filter pocket; families and employees may purchase an additional filter to increase their level of protection. Specialized face coverings will be provided for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students and staff, and staff supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.
  • Bus Capacity: APS will maintain six-foot distances on buses to the extent possible. We are confirming our loading and unloading procedures for all our transportation vehicles.
  • Cleaning/Disinfecting: APS already complies with the current CDC and VDH guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, which includes daily sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, handles, fixtures, etc. and we will enhance the cleaning routine for school year 2020-21.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: APS will ensure all staff members have the necessary equipment based on their role. We use guidance provided by the Arlington County Public Health Division and OSHA in evaluating activities for increased risk of infection with COVID-19. APS will continuously evaluate activities accordingly and will purchase equipment where risk cannot be mitigated or eliminated.
  • Indoor Air Quality/Ventilation: APS is contracting with private consultants to analyze air exchange rates and air filters and implement a program of improvements related to COVID-19 where needed.
  • Return-to-Work Kit: In addition to four cloth face coverings, each employee will also receive a kit including hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to supplement initial return-to-work supplies. These supplies are to provide an additional level of commitment to safety and are not supplementing or supplanting our enhanced cleaning program for school year 2020-21.

We will provide more details on the safety plan and our instructional models tomorrow and that information will be posted for you to review.

Our school and division leaders are here to assist you with any additional questions or needs. Additionally, it is worth noting that each of the above protocols will be revised as necessary, based on ongoing feedback from the health department and state and federal health agencies, and in collaboration with Northern Virginia superintendents. As updates are made, information will be sent to all families and staff.

Your feedback and collaboration are critically important in this process. I encourage you to continue to share feedback with us using engage@apsva.us. I will continue to share updates every Tuesday to address questions and provide details and I urge you to visit our website under Engage for the latest information.

I understand the anxiety and concerns many are experiencing, as we are all operating in the most challenging and uncertain times for educators and families everywhere. We have a dedicated and highly qualified extended team of health experts, County partners, administrators, teachers, staff, students and parents, all working together and bringing their insight and expertise to develop a plan that is flexible and best meets the needs of our community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Superintendent Presents Update on APS Return-to-School Planning

Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán presented the recommended hybrid and distance learning instructional models for the 2020-21 school year, and announced that Arlington Public Schools (APS) will provide families the option to select the instructional delivery model that works best for their student(s) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Recommends Hybrid In-School and Distance Learning Instructional Model and Full-Time Distance Learning Option for the 2020-21 School Year

At last night’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán presented the recommended hybrid and distance learning instructional models for the 2020-21 school year, and announced that Arlington Public Schools (APS) will provide families the option to select the instructional delivery model that works best for their student(s) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recommendations are based on Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) guidance for reopening of Virginia schools, and were developed in coordination with the APS Return-to-School Task Force, the Arlington County Public Health Division and neighboring Northern Virginia school divisions.

“Since the Governor’s guidance was released on June 9, our teams have been working hard to analyze the options and to develop the plan that best meets the needs of our staff, students and families, keeping health and safety at the forefront of our decision-making,” said Dr. Durán. “We have provided options for families to consider, knowing there are no easy choices for any of us and that we all need to be flexible and work together as a community.”

Assuming APS will be in Phase 3 when school resumes in August, staff and students will not be able to safely be full-time in school buildings due to CDC physical distancing guidelines. The Return-to-School Task Force reviewed many possible hybrid approaches (combining in-person and distance learning) and has selected two instructional delivery methods for families to choose from:

  • Hybrid In-School and Distance Learning Instructional Model – Two consecutive in-person instruction days per week combined with three days per week of distance learning.
    • Half of students attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and participate in distance learning on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
    • The other half of students attend school in-person on Thursdays and Fridays and participate in distance learning on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
    • Distance learning days are structured to build on new concepts introduced on in-school days, delivered asynchronously through self-directed instruction.
  • Full-Time Virtual Learning Instructional Delivery Method – Full-time online learning will be available for students in high-risk health categories or who are not comfortable returning to school in-person. Schedules by grade level are to be determined and include:
    • Elementary and Middle School: Daily online, interactive teacher-led (synchronous) instruction provided, in combination with self-directed instruction.
    • High School: Daily distance learning facilitated in partnership with online virtual course providers. While students enrolled in virtual courses may receive their instruction from a teacher outside of APS, they will be closely monitored by a faculty member from the school of attendance.

The Return-to-School Task Force, including 35 principals, teachers, support staff, parents and students, reached consensus on this approach based on health and safety considerations, and on the benefits of providing a consistent routine and regular opportunities for face-to-face interaction with students and teachers each week. 

ParentVUE Enrollment Process: July 6-20
APS will notify families of the two options through ParentVUE on July 6, providing additional information and requesting that families select one of the two available models by July 20.  If families do not select an option, their selection will automatically default to the hybrid instructional delivery model. It is important that families select one of the instructional delivery methods by the deadline so schools can begin planning for both virtual and in-person class schedules.

“We recognize these are difficult decisions for some families to make,” said Dr. Durán. “Reopening in these circumstances requires a complete redesign of school schedules and staffing, teaching methods, transportation plans and many other logistics, so we do need decisions from families on a relatively tight timeline in order to prepare for a successful start to the school year.”

Students will remain in their selected instructional delivery method while schools are in Phase 3. Families will be unable to change the instructional delivery method, once selected, before school resumes on August 31, 2020. After that time, any requests for changes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis determined by school capacity and staffing levels.

The details of the process will be shared in July along with additional information to help inform families’ decisions.

Health and Safety Planning
This week, APS and the Task Force are focused on the details of health and safety plans for submission to the state, including daily health screenings, provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and requirements for face coverings, disinfection of facilities, and other details.  A

PS is committed to completing health screenings of its employees and students every day to ensure school and workplace safety. Plans will also include enhanced cleaning of facilities and at least one cloth face covering per employee and student to be worn while at work and school.

Additional information about health screenings and procedures will be provided next week.   

Next Steps 
At the July 1 School Board Organizational Meeting, APS will provide a status update with additional details on health and safety and other plans.

APS Working Groups and Task Force members will be meeting throughout July to develop detailed plans and will provide regular updates.

To view the results of the APS stakeholder surveys, visit Engage.

To view the full presentation from last night, visit BoardDocs.

Families are encouraged to visit the following link for updates on the APS Return-to-School Plan: https://www.apsva.us/engage/planning-for-reopening-schools. To provide feedback on the plans, write to engage@apsva.us.

Reopening Update June 23

We continue to develop our plan for returning to school this fall based on the state’s guidance, working in collaboration with the Task Force, regional superintendents, and the Arlington County Public Health Division. This week, our team is reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for students

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Dear APS Community,

We continue to develop our plan for returning to school this fall based on the state’s guidance, working in collaboration with the Task Force, regional superintendents, and the Arlington County Public Health Division. This week, our team is reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for students, assuming Virginia enters Phase 3 by the start of school.

The Task Force has already reviewed many possible instructional models and is now focusing on three that best meet APS needs  and align with neighboring school divisions. We are also planning for a distance-learning-only option for students who are in high risk health categories or are not comfortable returning to school in person.

I will share more details on our work and present the recommended instructional model at the School Board meeting this Thursday. Deciding on the model will allow for us to begin to make decisions regarding staffing, budget, childcare, transportation, and other elements of our plan.

The results are in from the staff, student and family surveys on distance learning and reopening, and I would like to thank everyone who participated. Your input is invaluable as we work to plan for the upcoming year. We will post the complete results on our APS Engage webpage by this Friday. In the meantime, here are a few highlights which are informing our work moving forward:

  • 37% of families preferred reopening school with a hybrid combination of in-person and distance learning; 42% preferred in-person instruction only; and 10% preferred distance learning only.
  • 73% of families said they are comfortable sending students back to school with no concerns or some concerns; 9% were not at all comfortable.
  • 38% of staff said they are comfortable returning to school/workplace with no concerns or some concerns, while 39% said they were not at all comfortable returning.
  • The top factors influencing the level of comfort in returning for both groups were whether public health regulations will be followed, disinfection of facilities, and availability of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
  • 35% of families reported that their students will not continue to ride the school bus, and 28% are uncertain if their students would continue to ride the bus.

We are developing health and safety plans to address these concerns to make sure students and staff are learning and working in a safe environment.

In terms of distance learning feedback, a few highlights:

  • Families (52%), students (43%) and staff (62%) all preferred a combination of live, synchronous distance learning and self-directed, asynchronous distance learning.
  • Students indicated that they know how to contact their teachers and get technical help when necessary (68% for both).
  • Staff indicated that they mostly felt “somewhat prepared” to connect with students, provide social-emotional support, and provide instructional supports to students (Special Needs, English Learners, and Gifted); further questions allowed them to specify what professional development and supports they would need.

This input will help inform our work in developing professional supports for staff, providing training as needed, and making sure that the 2020-21 school year is a success for all.

I hope that you will continue to follow updates on APS Engage and that you can join me at 7 p.m. tonight for the final Community Town Hall in this initial series of virtual events I have held this month. I also encourage you to view the School Board meeting on Thursday, June 25, as I present the recommended instructional model along with other important details and next steps.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Reopening Update for June 16

Providing an update on the work underway to prepare for returning to school in the fall.

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Dear APS Community,

I am writing to provide an update on the work underway to prepare for returning to school in the fall. As you may know, on June 9, Governor Northam announced a phased reopening plan and detailed guidance for Virginia schools, entitled Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020.

The guidance includes a phased approach to reopening to allow a gradual return to in-person instruction that aligns with the broader “Forward Virginia” blueprint for easing public health restrictions. Each phase specifies allowable in-person instructional options and includes health and safety measures, such as physical distancing and enhanced cleaning, to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

The APS stakeholder Task Force, in coordination with cross-departmental Work Groups focused on Instruction, Operations, Extracurricular Activities and Communication, is reviewing state guidance to develop the APS Return-to-School Plan. I continue to work closely with the Arlington County Public Health Division and regional superintendents to align our plans.

As our work progresses, I want to share a few high-level takeaways:

  • For summer, in response to state guidance, we have enhanced our summer distance learning for English Learners, students in grades PreK-3, and students with special needs, as follows:
    • Middle and high school English Learners with a current English Proficiency Level of 1 or 2, are eligible for a free summer English language development course. The model will include both live online instruction (synchronous) and self-paced (asynchronous) components.
    • Eligible elementary students in grades K-3 will receive enhanced teacher interaction and support, including check-ins with teachers every other day related to literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional learning.
    • APS will offer free virtual Extended School Year (ESY) services and targeted instruction to approximately 800 students based on Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals.
  • For the fall, all Virginia schools will deliver new instruction to all students, whether through distance learning or in-person. New instruction will be both synchronous—in real time with teachers—and in a self-paced, asynchronous format.
  • Assuming the state enters Phase 3 by the start of next school year, August 31, APS will provide in-person instruction in the classroom; however, the school day will look very different. We are exploring a variety of hybrid models (e.g., staggering schedules and rotating morning and afternoon classes) to provide in-person instruction while ensuring physical distancing and protecting the health and safety of our staff and students. This is where our teams and the Task Force are focusing this week.

We will continue to share weekly updates through the summer, and I encourage you to visit the Engage with APS webpage for the latest news and information.

Thank you to all staff, students and families who took time to participate in the reopening survey; the survey results will be available on the Engage page next Tuesday. Your input is important to us as we plan for the future.I also encourage you to participate in my next Town Hall on June 23 at 7 p.m., and to watch the School Board meeting next Thursday, June 25. A status update on the Return-to-School plan will be a standing item at every board meeting through the summer and into the fall, and I expect to present a final plan in late June or early July.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Family Surveys–Thank You For Participating

APS recently conducted surveys (now closed) to gather input from students, staff, teachers and families regarding their experiences during the school closure, and opinions about various scenarios for reopening. Results will be used to inform planning. Thank you for your participation and input!

View the Survey Results Report

Virginia’s Return to School Plan

Virginia’s Return to School Plan

The Virginia Department of Education website includes the state’s guiding document for school divisions planning a return to school. It addresses all facets of school operations and recommendations for school leaders within the parameters set for by Governor Northam.

APS Announces Return-To-School Task Force Members

 

APS has formed the Return-to-School Task Force, including teachers, staff, students and parents from designated APS advisory groups, to provide input as APS develops plans for return to school. The Task Force is chaired by Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán.

More information about the Task Force

 

More information