Plans to bring students back in the classroom in-person in October is off the table after Charlottesville City Schools heard feedback indicating support for sticking to reopening schools on Nov. 9 or later.
The division on Sept. 18 said that the decision to reopen schools in person was announced as a starting point, not a concrete plan.
The October reopening was first presented to the COVID-19 Advisory Committee on Sept. 16 to get their input.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, city schools spokeswoman Beth Cheuk said, attendees were focused on data, a possible cohort return schedule — including discussions on the grade levels that would start during the first week or the second week — learning plan models and possible timelines for return.
“There were no conclusions, just discussion,” Cheuk said.
The division is currently considering bringing students back in person in stages.
Its first plan, or Model A, would be a hybrid model for prekindergarten through 12th grade with an asynchronous schedule on Fridays.
In Model B, pre-k to sixth grade would attend in-person class four days a week and seventh through 12th grade would be hybrid. In Model B, parents would have an online-only option for their children.
The first group of children could return to school as early as Nov. 9, according to a presentation to the committee.
The other committee meetings are set for Sept. 30 and Oct. 14, and the next School Board meeting is set for Oct. 1. The division planned to send their intent to families and staff for planning purposes on Oct. 2.
So far, the COVID-19 school reopening meetings have not been public.
Cheuk cited that one of the reasons the meetings have not been public is because the division wants to allow for free and honest conversations, adding that a committee convened by Superintendent Rosa Atkins is not required to be public.
“We’re posting the slides and encouraging people on the committee to talk with others and get feedback in the hopes of being transparent with the process,” Cheuk said.
The nearly 55 people on the COVID-19 committee are teachers, division employees and community members.
A parent on the committee said that the October reopening plans would’ve been OK as long as it was done in a safe and confident manner and the division would ensure it could maximize outdoor space and minimize class size, among other safety measures.
The parent said that their child is not learning anything from virtual school. And getting the child in front of the computer is a fight every day.
“It doesn’t feel worth it to me to do all of that,” said the parent, who declined to be identified. “And I’m certainly worried about an achievement gap. It’s not creating anything good for all the issues that we already know exist.”
Chris Meyer, a CCS parent, said he’s glad that the district is considering reopening based on the experiences he assumes they’re learning and hearing about.
“If those experiences that we’re seeing in other school districts show that staff and students can meet face to face without transmitting the disease, I do hope Charlottesville City Schools considers reopening earlier than they had previously decided,” he said.
“I think everything with COVID is fluid, and there’s not a one-size solution for all students and all staff, thus the district needs to operate in a manner that is flexible and adequately balances transmission risk with known problems with virtual learning.”
Christa Bennett, a CCS parent, said there are two issues with considering opening schools in October.
“We want to stick to the plan that was voted on July 30, which is to evaluate for each grading period (nine weeks). And second, I think the increase in COVID cases in Charlottesville is concerning a lot of parents and making us lean towards wanting to continue virtual,” Bennett said.
On Thursday, the Thomas Jefferson Health District reported that 1,119 of the 3,307 COVID-19 cases in the health district were in Charlottesville.
Earlier this week, Albemarle County Public Schools said that a recommendation to move to stage three, which would allow more children to come back to school, would be voted on Oct. 8.
If there are any changes, they would go into effect on Nov. 8, said Phil Giaramita, spokesman for the county schools.
In the county, school buildings will reopen in five stages, ranging from online-only to all in-person.
Its current stage two offers in-person instruction to a limited number of students. English language learners, children with special needs and those who don’t have access to adequate internet make up that population of students currently being served.
County schools aim at bringing more children back to school buildings for in-person instruction as they move higher in stages.
Part of moving up to stage three involves Superintendent Matt Haas taking feedback from employees, students and the community.
Students, parents and employees were expected to get a survey this Friday. Students in the lower grade levels could be returning first and the county schools will proceed with the older children.
“The employee, student and parent surveys are going out tomorrow and early next week,” Giaramita said.