APS News Release

Superintendent’s Nov. 17 Return-to-School Update

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APS Families,

I want to remind you that this week’s School Board meeting takes place tonight, and I will present the 2020-21 School Year Monitoring Report. Tonight’s update will include health and safety updates, a first look at student academic data from the first quarter of the school year, and next steps in our planning for hybrid/ in-person learning. We are also presenting the proposed 2021-22 School Year Calendar for information tonight, as well as a proposed revision to this year’s calendar to make Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, a holiday for staff and students. The Board will act on the Inauguration Day recommendation at their December 3, 2020 meeting, and we will update the community on any changes.

We continue to see COVID-19 cases rising in Arlington and across the state. In response, Governor Northam and other leaders across the country are announcing new restrictions to limit public gatherings. We are carefully monitoring the latest data and posting it weekly in the APS COVID-19 Dashboard, as we determine timing for future in-person learning transitions.

In the latest dashboard updates, you will see that the Case Incident Rate for Arlington County has entered into the highest risk category, per the CDC’s primary indicators for school decision-making. We are monitoring this carefully and following the state’s guidance, which currently states that schools should continue to provide in-person support to students with disabilities, as appropriate and with parental consent. We will continue our current status for Level 1 at this time, focusing on mitigation efforts, to support these students. We are in communication with the State Superintendent; this is an evolving situation, and we will continue to adjust decision-making based on guidance we receive.

Below are a few key updates and reminders as we head into Thanksgiving Break next week:

Level 2 and Level 3 Planning is Underway
APS continues to plan for Level 2 and 3 transitions in January, as health, safety and operational metrics allow. In preparation, the Level 3 family selection process for secondary students will take place from November 30 through December 7, to allow families of middle and high school students to choose a preferred instructional model. We will release more details and information on the hybrid/ in-person learning model when that window opens, and schools will be conducting direct outreach to help all families select a model. Importantly, we want every secondary family to respond and make a new selection during the upcoming window.

Some have asked why we are proceeding at this time given the latest health metrics. It is important that we gather the information schools need to plan now, so that they have the time to prepare for possible transitions in January. Delaying the process would mean that we would not be ready to open our schools for more students, should we determine it is safe enough to do so.

In-Person Learning Support at Several School Locations
In addition to Level 1 students who began on November 4, APS is providing in-person learning support for up to 150 identified students with the greatest need, ages 4-11. This includes a limited number of children of APS Level 1 staff who are required to report in person. Students participate in distance learning Monday-Friday with supervision and support provided by Extended Day staff. We started this service this week at Drew, Hoffman-Boston and Ashlawn elementary schools.

The Extended Day Central Office is continuing to contact potential participants based on information provided by Principals and Human Resources.

Additionally, I want to thank our secondary principals for coming up with a proposal to provide extra support to students who need help connecting. Wakefield is now piloting a “Work Space” program, before expanding to other select secondary schools. This gives secondary students the option to come into the building Tuesday-Friday to participate in distance learning in a quiet space with reliable internet connectivity. Check with your school for additional details.

Thanksgiving Break Meal Service
We are adjusting the meal service schedule in preparation for Thanksgiving Break. Visit any of our 22 school locations or seven additional pickup sites on Fri, Nov. 20, to receive meals for Friday, Saturday and Monday. On Tue, Nov. 24, we will provide five days of meals for Tuesday through Saturday. Pickup is 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and meals are free for children 18 and under. There will be no meal services on Monday, November 23, Wednesday, November 25, or Friday, November 27.  We have served nearly 630,000 meals since this school year began and I would like to thank our Office of Food and Nutrition Services for their work to make this possible.

Next Week’s Schedule
As a reminder, there is no school next Wednesday through Friday, for Thanksgiving Break. The elementary Monday/Tuesday schedule will remain the same, with Monday as the usual asynchronous learning day, and Tuesday as a normal synchronous learning day. At the secondary level, most schools will be synchronous on Monday and Tuesday, with the following exceptions:

  • Washington-Liberty will be holding parent-teacher conferences on Monday, Nov. 23. Classes will be asynchronous on that day.  Tue, Nov. 24 will be a synchronous “L” day.
  • Jefferson will be asynchronous on Mon, Nov. 23, and Tue, Nov. 24, will be a synchronous “A” day.

Note that transportation will not be provided for Level 1 secondary students on Monday, Nov. 23. These students will participate in synchronous learning from home on that day. Transportation will be provided for all Level 1 students on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Schools have communicated specific details about these schedules. If you have any questions, please contact your child’s school. I hope that you have a good week. Stay safe and take care.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools