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.
Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools