EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated on Friday, July 31 since its initial publish date of June 25 to reflect recent decisions made by county school districts.
In recent weeks, school districts of Northern Virginia began to make final decisions on how to start the academic year this fall—which for many is fast-approaching with some first days taking place at the end of August—in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia blueprint.
While the below-written information is updated as of press time, it is highly recommended that parents of students continue to check their county school board website, as details regarding each plan for the fall change often.
On Friday, July 31, the city of Alexandria released its plan for a virtual start to the 2020-2021 academic year, under the chosen title VirtualPlus+. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. and his team came up with the model after months of community engagement and research with help from the local community. The newly designed model provides teaching and learning within virtual classrooms, while providing additional support for the community to stay connected, according to the Alexandria City Public Schools website. The “Plus+” portion of the concept includes enhanced and formalized social, emotional and academic learning supports, child care options, continued meal distribution and expanded technology resources. As of press time, the VirtualPlus+ plan is just a proposal, and it will be presented to the Alexandria City School Board to vote on on Aug. 7.
The first day of school this fall for Arlington County students will now be Tuesday, Sept. 8, marking an official start with full-time distance learning. While formal details of what the virtual learning program will look like are still being finalized, Superintendent Dr. Francisco Duran recently shared plans for a return of activities, as well as results from surveys that Arlington Public School teachers and staff filled out in July. According to the survey that closed Monday, July 27, 55% of respondents prefer to support full-time distance instruction, 33% prefer to support in-person instruction and 11% of respondents do not have a preference. These results are currently being reviewed by human resources to better move forward with class scheduling and assignment creation.
While Fairfax County—one of the largest school districts in the country—initially decided it would offer students a choice of how they were to return to school this Friday, that decision has since been changed. On July 21, Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that the school year would instead start completely virtually, following review of the best available health data and input from teachers, staff, students and families. Virtual learning will provide four days (Thursday through Friday) of live instruction with teachers, while Monday will remain a teacher planning day with intervention support for selected students that, depending on circumstance, will be provided in-person.
All public schools across Fauquier County will start the academic year on Aug. 24 with a hybrid system of in-person classes two days per week and distance learning taking place on the remaining three days. While some teachers and students will return to the classroom in the fall, families do have the option to stick to virtual learning 100% of the time for as long as they feel necessary, according to the Fauquier County Public School plan. While in academic buildings, masks will be required of all teachers, faculty and students. Per the detailed plan, come mid-October (the end of the first quarter), students will be back in school four days per week.
On Monday, July 20, Fredericksburg City Public Schools received approval of its Recover, Redesign and Restart plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. As public schools of the city plan to reopen on Aug. 17, students of all ages have the following options to choose from: distance learning, a hybrid option that includes 40% in-person learning and 60% distance learning, or an 80% in-person option, if recommended by a teacher and approved by an administrator. Families had until July 23 to select an option.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams recommended that Loudoun County Public Schools start the new school year through 100% distance learning to students, with limited exceptions, as of July 21. When the academic year begins on Sept. 8, students will use electronic tools to access live classes and meetings, and engage in structured learning through resources and at-home assignments provided by staff. While initially LCPS had voted for a hybrid model come fall, Dr. Williams and his team decided to move to a completely remote plan, as a result of discussions, meetings and survey responses from families and staff. As the school board and health officials continue to monitor the spread of the coronavirus, LCPS hopes to subsequently implement a planned hybrid model in stages.
Prince William County
The Prince William County School Board, as of July 15, voted unanimously to adopt a return-to-school plan that will have the first quarter of the academic year be held virtually for most students. While the majority of students will learn from home when the school year begins Sept. 8, PWCS is currently considering offering in-person services to special education students and English language learners. Under the current plan, PWCS will transition to a 50% capacity model in the second quarter following Oct. 30, with the option for students to remain virtual.
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