Superintendent’s April 6 Weekly Update

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I hope that all of you enjoyed a relaxing, safe, and restful spring break last week. As we resume instruction this week, I want to take a moment to thank our incredibly talented assistant principals in recognition of National Assistant Principals Week. They are exceptional leaders who inspire us all through their work to serve students and contribute to schoolwide success. April is also National Library Month and a time to celebrate our outstanding school librarians who have shown their expertise and creativity in adapting library services and inspiring readers during the pandemic. Please take a moment to thank your school’s AP and school librarians this week.

I have a few updates to share with you as we move ahead for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year:

Expanding In-Person Learning Opportunities—We are working to serve as many PreK-12 students as possible in the hybrid/in-person model, while keeping safety at the forefront and COVID-19 transmission rates low. Our ability to serve additional students in person is based on each school’s capacity and consideration of the CDC’s updated distancing guidance, which permits schools transition from 6 to 3 feet of social distancing in some school circumstances, depending on community transmission levels. Throughout the remainder of the current school year, APS will:

  • Contact families on waitlists to admit additional students for hybrid/in-person instruction, based on capacity and distancing guidelines. Families interested in changing your child’s instructional model choice during the current school year should contact your school for assistance. English learners, special education students, and students experiencing challenges with distance learning will be given priority for in-person instruction. Updates on changes in hybrid/in-person and full-time distance learning student enrollment will be provided in my School Board monitoring reports beginning April 8.
  • Plan for five-day schedules for summer school and the 2021-22 school year. We will be providing a full in-person model and a full distance learning model of five days of learning for the 2021-22 school year. I will continue to keep you informed about the details, as plans develop.

Enrollment Projections for Fall 2021—As part of planning for the 2021-22 school year, schools are conducting outreach now to ascertain families’ intent to return in the fall, from families who withdrew from APS since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Having accurate enrollment information is important for the FY 2022 budget, staffing schools, and preparation for the upcoming school year.  Please help spread the word to any families, friends, or neighbors you may know who opted out of APS and are considering returning in the fall.

In-Person SOL Testing—APS is preparing to administer Standards of Learning (SOL) testing to students in grades 3-12, as this requirement has not been waived for the current school year. SOL tests will be limited to reading and math in grades 3-8, science in grades 5 and 8, and required End of Course (EOC) high school credit-bearing classes. The test results will provide information regarding the impact of the pandemic on student achievement, and a baseline for growth for future accreditation calculations. ​To help families prepare:

  • All SOL testing will be done in-person at schools in May and June, with safety protocols in place. ​Hybrid students will test on days when they are scheduled to attend school. Full-distance-learning students will be scheduled to test on Mondays.
  • APS is coordinating transportation for distance-learning students who may need a bus to come to school for SOL testing. ​ Buses may carry up to 21 students per bus. We encourage families to provide their own transportation for their child, whenever possible, on the day they are scheduled to take their SOL test(s). 
  • Parents who do not wish for their student to participate in state and/or federally mandated assessments due to COVID-19 concerns, should contact their school’s administrative staff or School Testing Coordinator by phone or email to discuss scheduling options or request information on opting out.
  • The Virginia Dept. of Education (VDOE) has provided a remote assessment option for full-time distance learning students in grades 3-8 who, due to the pandemic, are receiving all their instruction remotely and will not go to their school to take the SOL tests. It will be available on April 12 and details are available online: https://www.doe.virginia.gov/remotetest/.
  • There will be no penalty for students who are not assessed, but parents will need to submit the APS Parent Refusal Form for the appropriate assessment which can be obtained here: APS Parent Refusal Forms

COVID-19 Testing in Schools—This month, APS will begin providing free testing for students and staff who are symptomatic, or who have been exposed to COVID-19. Walk-up testing sites will be provided at three schools. APS is providing the free testing in partnership with ResourcePath. Parent/guardian consent will be required in advance of student testing, and additional information regarding the school sites and consent process will be shared with families via School Talk later this week.

Transportation Information—Transportation Services adjusted some bus routes, bus stops and pick-up times during the break to accommodate changes in families’ transportation choices and to provide more efficient service for all. Those schedules are posted in ParentVUE and took effect beginning today.

During the April 8 School Board meeting, I will provide more information on the return-to-school plan, and the School Board will act on their proposed FY 2022 Budget. The full budget development calendar is available online.

Thank you for your continued support as we move ahead for the remainder of the school year.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools