July 28 Return-to-School Update


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.


Dr. Francisco Duran
Arlington Public Schools