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.
Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools