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.
Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools