Superintendent’s Dec. 8 Return-to-School Update

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APS Families,

Those of you following the health metrics closely are aware that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data continues to show that we have substantial COVID-19 transmission for our region, placing Arlington in the “highest risk” category based on number of new cases. The latest data is summarized in the APS COVID-19 Dashboard and we are monitoring the public health metrics carefully.

We know that the virus will be with us for some time, and that there is no zero-risk scenario for schools in the foreseeable future. Knowing that, we have adjusted our approach to evaluating in-person learning transitions. In addition to public health metrics and focusing on mitigation measures, I continue to weigh the mental health concerns, learning loss and other challenges many of our community members are facing.

With all this in mind, I want to reiterate that we are staying the course with Level 1 at this time based on the state’s guidance, which advises that schools provide in-person support to students with disabilities, with effective mitigation measures in place. We have now been in-person in Level 1 for over a month, and the first month has gone very well thanks to the cooperation, dedication and excellent efforts of our staff. Our mitigation measures exceed the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and VDH.

I will continue working closely with our administrators and staff between now and January to assess our transition plans and will communicate specific dates after the Winter Break. I understand the weight of every decision and its impact on the community emotionally, economically and academically. I take your feedback seriously as we consider the ways to best serve our students in these challenging times. We all come to this with different perspectives and we must continue to work together as one community. Thank you for your continued work and support.

Below are a few other important reminders and resources to take note of:

Calendar Approved for 2021-22 School Year; Inauguration Day Added as Staff and Student Holiday

Last Thursday, the School Board designated Inauguration Day, Wed, Jan. 20, 2021, as a staff and student holiday. The School Board also approved the 2021-22 school year calendar for all APS schools. You can find the final calendar posted online. The school year will start on Aug. 30, 2021, ends on June 17, 2022, and this year includes four cultural and religious holidays.

New APS Parent Academy Videos

New videos have been posted to the APS Parent Academy website, including the latest guidance on Accessing the APS Technical Support Website, Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning, and Effective Parent Involvement During Distance Learning. Take a moment to review these and other resources to support families in distance learning, available through the Parent Academy.

Level 3 Selection Process

The Level 3 Family Selection Process concluded yesterday, and we will publish full results when ready. We continue to plan to transition more students back in-person, and while I cannot confirm a specific date yet for transitioning Level 2 and 3 back in person, we are working to do so when possible.

Distance Learning Focus Groups and Task Force

As part of last Thursday’s monitoring report, we presented initial recommendations from a series of six focus groups on strengthening distance learning. Feedback included a desire for more small-group instruction and more non-digital materials for young learners, as well as a better balance between synchronous and asynchronous instruction for secondary students. As a next step, DTL is forming a Task Force comprising representatives of these focus groups as well as advisory committee and community members. The Task Force will work in January to develop strategies related to students’ academic performance and social-emotional growth during distance learning.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools