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On July 30 both school divisions voted on reopening plans. The
Charlottesville City Schools Updated Learning Plan involves a solely virtual start to the year.
The Albemarle County Public Schools Return to School Plan is offering virtual learning for all students, but a select group of special needs, English language learners and children who don’t have internet access may attend in person classes.
School is set to begin for both districts Sept. 8.
Health measures for in-person learning
Both districts have discussed public health measures for in-person learning. The measures presented at the city School Board meeting on July 6 are here. The measures presented at the county School Board meeting on July 9 are here, and more information on safety measures is in the ACPS return to school planning guide from June 26. Among other things, these measures include:
- Face-covering requirements for all students and staff
- CCS will require students to wear face coverings at all times and will supply face shields to any student who cannot wear a mask or needs visibility of their face/mouth.
- ACPS will require cloth face coverings for students and staff on buses, “during arrival/dismissal, in hallways, and when not 6 feet apart in classroom or other times.”
- Plexiglas dividers at reception areas
- Upgrading ventilation systems
- New cleaning protocols
- Social distancing measures in classrooms and to control traffic flow in hallways
Neither school system has yet adopted a specific metric for determining whether it is safe for schools to open in-person or for determining when it would no longer be safe for schools to remain in-person.
Planning for online learning
Both school districts have discussed synchronous learning (wherein instruction is occurring in real time, like a video conference or live-streamed lesson) and asynchronous learning (wherein instruction is not occurring in real time, like a prerecorded lesson) in planning for online learning.
Both school districts are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education in planning for the coming fall.
Both school districts have been considering guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which “
strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
But, on July 10, the AAP made a joint statement with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the National Education Association (NEA); and AASA, The School Superintendents Association that stated that “local school leaders, public health experts, educators and parents must be at the center of decisions about how and when to reopen schools.”
Both school boards have received open letters from staff calling for an online-only opening and including lists of questions about the school districts’ current plans.
Charlottesville City Schools announced Wednesday evening that it’s seeking approval from the School Board to begin the first nine weeks of the school year virtually, with a start date of Sept. 8. The School Board plans to vote on the decision at its meeting on Thursday. “With cases rising in our nation and area, with a higher-than-recommended positivity rate in our area, and with many unanswered questions about how best to protect our staff and students, we have decided to put our efforts into online learning,” Rosa Atkins, superintendent of the city schools, wrote in an email. “So we can make this first nine weeks rewarding and productive.” The city schools based its recommendation to the School Board based on teachers and the community, staff planning and consultation with health experts, Atkins said. Click here to read more.
Albemarle County and Charlottesville public schools haven’t established protocols to shut down schools as they ponder plans for in-person reopening. Beth Cheuk, Charlottesville City Schools spokesperson, wrote in an email Wednesday that school districts across the nation are grappling with similar questions. “We’re in consultation with the state and local health department on these matters,” she said. Click here to read more.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County public schools could not provide details when asked who would be notified in the school system when a student, teacher or staff member is tested positive for the novel coronavirus. If the schools opt for an in-person reopening, Thomas Jefferson Health District officials plan to only notify those who have spent more than 15 minutes, known as prolonged contact, within 6 feet, also known as close contact, of a person who was tested positive for COVID-19. When asked who would be notified when someone at a school tested positive for COVID, both Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools said they’re still working on their processes. Beth Cheuk, city school spokesperson, said like any other infectious disease, the division will follow protocols established by the Virginia Department of Health. Click here to read more.
As area schools draw nearer to deciding if they will bring students back to school this fall, the details of how they will handle student busing remain unclear. Parents and bus drivers alike fear it will be a challenge to create the kind of physical distancing necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus on school buses. But, unless schools choose to remain entirely virtual, districts must provide some kind of pupil transportation. State law requires districts take at least students with special needs to and from school. Neither Charlottesville City Schools nor Albemarle County Public Schools have finalized their pupil transportation plans for fall — and a spokeswoman for Charlottesville’s district said they would not discuss their busing plan until after the board of supervisors decides if it will offer in person learning this fall. Click here to read more.
Monday afternoon, the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County passed ordinances aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Though the ordinances — to be in effect from Aug.1 to Sep. 29 — reduce most public gatherings and more strongly enforce face coverings, they don’t apply to schools. Meanwhile, both city and county school boards are expected to vote on their plans this coming Thursday. Key points in the ordinances include:
- Face coverings/masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces and in all outdoor public spaces where 6 feet of physical distancing is not able to be maintained.
- Gatherings will be restricted to 50 people, with limited exceptions.
- Food establishments, wineries, breweries, and distilleries will be limited in indoor spaces to 50% capacity with a 50-person maximum.
As Charlottesville’s and Albemarle County’s public schools are pondering in-person reopening plans for the upcoming academic year, parents and teachers are raising concerns about safety plans. Charlottesville City Schools parent Christa Bennett said she has educated herself on the novel coronavirus, and she won’t be sending her children to school in the fall. One of the reasons she made that choice was because of the concerns that teachers brought up. “Looking at the numbers right now and the uncertainty around whether or not children are carriers for the virus are [factors] for us. But, most importantly, looking at some of the issues that the teachers raised [that] I think parents may not be aware of have been enlightening to me,” she said. “… I think it would be best for us to be virtual.” Click here to read more.
As Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools plan for schools to reopen in the fall, both districts are considering the possibilities of a fully online or a partially in-person opening. While both districts have outlined and publicly discussed a variety of options and contingency plans for K-12 students over the past few weeks, neither district has communicated information about the plans for the school systems’ public preschool programs. Carol Fox, the coordinator of preschool programs for ACPS, and Sheila Sparks, the coordinator of preschool programs for CCS, say that they don’t want to speak about working plans for the preschool programs until the school districts’ larger K-12 plans are finalized. “We are all in a holding pattern until we hear on July 30 at 2 o’clock what the School Board decides. Like everyone else, we are thinking about the various scenarios and the implications and needs of each one,” Fox said. “We will be prepared to meet the needs of the children, whether that will be in-person or virtual, following all of the school division’s and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] recommendations and guidelines.” Click here to read more.