Virginia schools will be back in sessions this fall, but not before many task forces in cities and towns throughout the state figure out exactly how to do that safely.
Gov. Ralph Northam and his administration issued guidance in June for reopening K-12 schools in three phases. Schools will be required to come up with their own reopening plans so they can best match state guidelines to the students in their communities.
All schools will begin the reopening process this summer in Phase One, where instruction is provided remotely. However, special education can be done in person, with social distancing restrictions. All athletic and extracurricular activities are prohibited.
In Phase Two, more students will be allowed in the classroom for in-person instruction. Before reopening to a limited number of students, school districts have to submit their reopening plans to the state superintendent’s office.
Phase Three means that all students can come to schools for in-person instruction, but schools will need to maintain physical distancing.
The school day will certainly look different than in previous academic years as students adapt to hybrid learning, fewer students in classrooms and extra care during lunch and recess.
School districts have begun working on their plans to reopen, here’s what the major school systems are planning so far.
Arlington County Public Schools
UPDATE (July 24): The school year for ACPS students will officially begin on September 8 with a full-time distance learning model. Superintendent Francisco Duran wrote in a letter to families that he will provide weekly updates and continue to evaluate developments related to COVID-19.
He also announced that the Virginia High School League (VHSL) will vote on July 27 on three recommended models for reopening sports and activities. You can read more about that here.
UPDATE (July 16): Arlington Public Schools reversed course on July 14 when Superintendent Francisco Duran announced in an email to families that the school district will require students to start the school year entirely online.
Duran also wrote that he is proposing that the school year begin about a week later than normal to give teachers and administrators more time to prepare. He cited a recent increase in coronavirus cases for the reasoning behind the announcements.
Duran is expected to formally present his suggestion that school begin a week later to the school board this week. The decision to begin the school year in a remote learning format is not subject to board approval.
UPDATE (July 10): On July 6 ACPS sent out emails and text messages to families to let them know that they can now select the method of school they would like for their students. Families can choose between hybrid education which includes in-person and remote learning or full-time remote learning. Families can log onto the district’s ParentVUE website and make their selection and call the main office of their child’s school for help.
If a family does not provide a response students will be automatically enrolled in the hybrid model.
Superintendent Dr. Francisco Duran will host a town hall event on Tuesday, July 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to address questions and concerns about the district’s Return-to-School Plan. You can find a livestream here.
UPDATE (July 2): Surveys will be sent out so that families can choose which version of schooling they’d like to participate in for the fall. The surveys can be returned between July 6 and July 20.
Teachers will also be allowed to voice their preference for the version of school they want to teach in the fall. More information is still to come.
UPDATE (June 24): Arlington Public Schools is still working on their plans for reopening but Superintendent Dr. Francisco Duran provided an update on June 23. Assuming Virginia enters Phase 3 of reopening by this fall, Arlington schools will pick a hybrid learning option that will blend in-person and distance learning for students.
The district will also provide a distance learning-only option for students in high risk health categories or are not comfortable returning to school in person.
The School Board will meet and make final decisions for a reopening plan on June 25 and then will be able to plan further for things like transportation, budget, childcare and staffing.
The results of the district’s survey will be released on Friday, June 26 and can be found here.
Arlington County Public Schools says it is currently working on plans to reopen their schools and coordinating with neighboring jurisdictions to create cohesion.
Superintendent Cintia Johnson wrote an open letter to the school community saying that given current conditions it is likely that schools will not reopen as they would normally. In the event that it is unsafe for the whole student body to return to school hybrid learning will be implemented.
“For each scenario, APS is carefully considering training, communications and operational needs, and impacts on all areas including school health, instruction, facilities, special education, technology and access, transportation, food service, extracurricular activities and extended day,” Johnson wrote.
The district has put together a task force created with leadership and staff from the schools and student and parent stakeholders from established APS advisory groups that will discuss learning options.
Community members with questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates to the school community will be provided regularly throughout the summer.
Find more information here.
Alexandria City Public Schools
UPDATE (July 31): Alexandria City Schools announced today that students will begin the school year entirely online in the fall. School officials are calling the plan “Virtual PLUS+” and it will include a bell schedule, daily live instruction with teachers, and academic support.
Students will receive age-appropriate technology to help facilitate learning like tablets and laptops. According to the district, it will also provide childcare and meal distribution for families that need it through community partnerships.
“ACPS believes that the Virtual PLUS+ model is a strong launch pad from which to build as the division continues to plan for the return of in-person schooling as soon as it is feasible,” wrote the district in their outline of the plan. “We will continue to reevaluate how to expand services to build on this Virtual PLUS+ model.”
UPDATE (July 24): Alexandria City Public Schools is still working on their plans and have not made any definitive announcements about what form school will take for students this fall.
On August 7 officials will update the school board and on August 14 the school district will send its reopening proposal to the Virginia Department of Education for approval.
“I know that everyone, families, students and staff, are waiting to know what September will bring for the school division. I also know that so much of your lives revolve around the academic year and that means a lot of uncertainty remains until we have answers. This makes planning ahead for both staff and families very difficult indeed. Please know that I hear you and understand,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchins said in a letter to families.
UPDATE (July 10): School officials are still working on their reopening plans, which have not been released to the public. A summary of the work being done by the ACPS Cross-Functional Planning Teams will be shared through ACPS Express on July 22.
On Aug. 7 the district will share its draft of plans with the public. Groups on ACPS staff, parents, students, and community partners will review the proposed options for the fall. You can watch that meeting live here. On Aug. 12 the final plan for reopening will be released.
ACPS is still working on their plans for the coming school year. According to their latest update, if northern Virginia is fully open by the time the academic year begins “students and staff will see little difference in the day-to-day operations of the schools.”
However, given the possibility that the state has not fully reopened the district will have a plan in place to continue learning. ACPS created a group called the Thought Partners that are scheduled to meet June 2, 10 and 16 to discuss reopening plans. The group is expected to have an overview of the initial reopening on June 26 that will be presented to the ACPS school board.
Find more information here.
Fairfax County Public Schools
UPDATE (July 24): At their July 21 meeting the Fairfax County School Board voted for full-time remote learning for students. The board cited concerns over a growing number of cases in the region as the reason for online-only learning this fall.
In earlier meetings Scott Brabrand noted that the district is receiving an influx of leave-of-absence requests from teachers and other staff, applications for substitute teachers are down and there are more than 1,500 teacher requests for individual health exemptions.
School officials would revisit the virtual learning arrangement after the first quarter and determine if students can be brought back to school in a limited capacity.
The move to online-only instruction was met with positive feedback from the Fairfax Federation of Teachers.
UPDATE (July 16): Schools are currently preparing for the students that opted into in-person instruction. Both online and in-person classes will begin on Sept. 9 and schools are currently making adjustments to their facilities to prepare for students.
According to WTOP, high touch areas will be sanitized multiple times a day, teachers will have sanitizer and cleaning products in classrooms, social distancing signs will be placed throughout schools and students and teachers will be required to wear masks.
Classrooms are expected to operate at 50% capacity with half of the normal number of desks removed.
Details for specific issues, like gym classes are still being decided by school officials and individual schools are allowed to make their own plans on how to handle students’ lunch break.
UPDATE (July 10): The Fairfax County School Board decided to delay the start of the school year for students by two weeks to give school officials more time to plan for changes due to the pandemic. The first day of school will be moved from Aug 25 to Sept. 8.
Letters have been sent out for families to choose between hybrid learning or full-time remote education. Because school will start later families must respond to the enrollment letter by July 15, the original deadline was July 10.
UPDATE (July 2): Families are asked to submit their preferences for which version of schooling they’d like to participate in for the fall. Responses can be made here and are due by July 10. If no response is received, the student will automatically be enrolled for in-person instruction for the year.
UPDATE (June 24): Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced on June 23 that families can choose either full-time online instruction or hybrid learning, with at least two full days of in-person instruction at school, along with independent at-home study the rest of the week.
The school week will be shortened to four days, giving teachers an extra day for planning and intervention support for some students.
“Our first preference, of course, remains 100 percent in-person learning. However, based on current health data, that seems unlikely by Tuesday, August 25, the first day of the 2020-21 school year. Even as Virginia moves into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, we will want to comply with the guidance provided by the state and the CDC for the safe reopening of schools,” Brabrand wrote in a letter to students and their families.
An enrollment letter will be sent out to families so that they can make their decision. The deadline to return the letter is July 10.
Additional information can be found here.
The Fairfax County Public Schools plan for reopening was presented during a school board work session on June 15. It includes three different scenarios that are aligned with the Governor’s guidelines and based on different levels of coronavirus restrictions.
In the first phase of the FCPS reopening plan, learning would happen remotely with four days of live, teacher-led classes and one day of students working alone or in virtual groups.
In the second phase of reopening, a limited number of students would be allowed to come to school for in-person instruction. The school district’s plan imagines students returning to classrooms at 25% or 50% capacity depending on health metrics.
This means that if classrooms are allowed to be at 50% capacity, students will be allowed at in-person classes two days a week. If health metrics mandate only 25% capacity the plan suggests students go to school for in-person instruction only one day a week.
Phase three would offer all-online learning to students who are at a higher risk of the virus even when all students are able to return to school.
The school board will decide by June 26 which formal classes will resume when school starts in August. Find more information here.
Richmond Public Schools
UPDATE (July 31): Richmond Public Schools will begin the school year with online-only education, and teachers will not be allowed to use their classrooms when instructing students.
Superintendent Jason Kamras announced Tuesday in a newsletter to RPS families that teachers will be required to teach their students outside of their classrooms. He cited concerns that allowing teachers to be in schools would require other staff members to report to facilities as well and increase exposure.
“It’s quite possible that allowing in-classroom teaching would lead to several dozen adults being in a building at the same time,” Kamras wrote. “This would increase the risk of transmission precisely at a time when everyone is making extraordinary sacrifices to lower it.”
UPDATE (July 16): After listening to hours of community feedback, the Richmond School Board decided that students will start the 2020 school year with fully virtual instruction this fall. In an 8-1 vote, the board decided to avoid in-person education altogether as coronavirus cases in the commonwealth have increased.
The Richmond Education Association sent a letter to the school board earlier this week calling for 100% virtual instruction. They cited concerns over poor air quality and open classroom designs that would put students and staff at greater risk of contracting the virus.
The board will receive updates on virtual learning at their upcoming meetings.
UPDATE (July 10): Official plans have not been made yet but there are four possible plans that families can vote anonymously for through the school district’s website.
Schedule 1 would have half the students come to school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. There would also be a cleaning break in between groups of students.
Schedule 2 offers alternating days, half of students would come to school Monday and Wednesday while the other half would come Tuesday and Thursday. There would be cleaning on Tuesday evenings and all students would participate in remote learning on Fridays.
Schedule 3 offers alternating days with Saturday. Half of students would come to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday while the other half of students would come Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Cleaning would happen on Wednesday evening. This plan would be dependent on having enough staff volunteer to work on Saturdays.
Schedule 4 offers students alternating weeks. Half of students would come on Week 1 and then do virtual learning during Week 2. The other half of students would do the opposite and schedules would repeat. Cleaning would happen each weekend.
RPS has not released details on their reopening plans but members of the school community can provide input on reopening by filling out the district’s survey here.
Find more information here.
Montgomery County Public Schools
UPDATE (July 24): School will start for MCPS students on September 8. The district picked Option Two of reopening which is detailed below, or you can read about it here. Elementary students will attend school on a half-day rotating schedule and students in upper grades will attend on a rotating morning and afternoon half day schedule.
Students, teachers and staff will be required to wear face coverings. There will also be frequent cleaning between student groups and parents will be expected to complete a safety commitment and monitor their student’s symptoms.
UPDATE (July 2): Families with siblings that wish to align their schedules so they arrive and leave school at the same time may do so. Depending on the grade level of the students, they might have to take more remote learning classes to maintain their schedule and keep it aligned with a sibling.
UPDATE (June 24): The Montgomery County School Board voted unanimously to approve “Option Two” reopening for elementary, middle and high school students.
For elementary school students, Option Two means students will be assigned either a morning or afternoon group, and will attend school in person for half the day, or three hours, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday will be reserved to deep clean school facilities.
For middle and high school students, Option Two means students will be divided into two groups and each group will take classes Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The two groups will alternate morning and afternoon instruction. When students are not in school they will be participating in remote learning at home at the same time as students in the school buildings. Once schools are allowed to fully reopen, they will return to their regular schedules.
More information will become available as the summer progresses and can be found here.
Officials at MCPS are still discussing options on how to reopen schools. In recent weeks the school board has heard proposals on scheduling each school day and transportation plans for students in the upcoming school year.
On June 12 the school board voted unanimously to allow school buses to transport more children provided that they are all wearing face coverings and bus aides monitor students behavior. School buses will be sanitized in between pickups.
The board was also presented with a second scheduling option for students that would allow students to attend school for a portion of the day Monday through Friday.
Parents received a survey about the scheduling options on Friday June 12 and are encouraged to fill it out so that the data can inform the school board’s decisions.
Updates will be posted here as school officials make more decisions over the summer.
Roanoke City Public Schools
UPDATE (July 31): The Roanoke City Public School Board has not officially voted on a plan for reopening yet. In the coming weeks, school officials will decide whether students have an option between limited in-person instruction and online-only instruction.
RCPS spokesperson Justin McLeod said that there is a chance the school board could make their decision and vote as soon as next week.
UPDATE (July 24): Families are expected to fill out a Return To School Intent Form which will be available online until July 28. Families can choose between limited in-person instruction or an online only option for the first nine weeks of the school year. If a family has three students enrolled with RCPS the custodial guardian will need to fill out an intent form for each student.
Once an option is selected changes will be considered on a case by case basis by school administration.
UPDATE (July 16): On July 14, Roanoke City school leaders announced their plans for the 2020 school year, the start of which has been pushed back to August 31. Students can pick between 100% online instruction and regular in-person classes, so long as enough families choose remote learning at home.
For the plan to work about 30% of the student population will need to enroll in fully remote learning. Staff like new Superintendent Verletta White think that is a realistic number, based on feedback from the parent survey. However, according to WSLS10, only about two thirds of families responded to the survey.
School officials say that if coronavirus cases increase instruction will transition to online only.
Before plans can be locked down for sure the school district needs to hear back from all families.
UPDATE (July 10): The district’s Transition and Restoration Task Force is expected to brief the School Board during the week of Aug. 13. After discussion the board is expected to vote on a plan during the last week of July.
UPDATE (June 24): Roanoke City Public School students will participate in hybrid style learning. Specific details about the plan will be released after the district task force sends the plan to the Virginia Department of Education for approval. In the meantime, school officials expect students will attend school in a staggered approach, and the task force is working on an option for students that do not feel comfortable returning to school yet.
Students that have special needs will be assisted on a case-by-case basis.
Roanoke Public Schools have not released their plans for the coming school year but Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop wrote in a letter to the school community that learning will definitely look different.
RPS has created the T&R Task Force that will collaborate with the superintendent and the district will send frequent communications to the school community over the summer.
“We know you are eager to have answers, and we are eager to provide them,” wrote Bishop. “The truth of this situation is that it will be challenging to simultaneously optimize the health and safety of all our students and staff, meet the educational needs of all our students, and satisfy the recently released requirements from the state. Our coming school year will not look like anything that any of us has ever experienced before.”
Norfolk Public Schools
UPDATE (July 24): The Norfolk Public School Board decided that students will begin the school year virtually for at least the first nine weeks. According to the board, online learning could extend beyond the start of the school year but school officials wanted to maintain online learning at least at first given the current health data available.
An online-only method of instruction was not one of the options Superintended Sharon Byrdsong outlined for the public school system earlier this summer, but during a board meeting on July 22 she said she supports the decision.
“The safety of our students, teachers and staff is of utmost importance to us,” said School Board chairperson Adale Martin. “As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our area, we believe beginning the school year virtually is the most responsible option. Dr. Byrdsong and her staff will continue to monitor local health conditions in consultation with the Norfolk Public Health Department and my school board colleagues to return to in-person instruction when deemed safe.”
More information about the virtual learning will be released in the coming weeks, check here for more information.
UPDATE (July 16): School board members are leaning towards an online only learning environment for students to begin the 2020 school year, in light of increasing COVID-19 cases. Norfolk set a record for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, leading members of the school board to discuss and find consensus on the online only option.
An online-only format for schools was not one of the original four options administrators presented to the board in the past. However, all seven board members said that it would be the best option given the current climate, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The board is waiting until the week of the 20th to take a final vote.
Norfolk Public Schools is still working on their plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The district created a task force to explore the district’s options for the upcoming school year while taking into account the guidelines provided by the state.
According to the district’s Coronavirus Communications Update all learning options for NPS students would limit the number of people in school buildings. The taskforce is considering options like students attending school on an alternating schedule, so students would not all show up for school on the same day. Remote learning would be in place for students not physically at school. NPS notes that school schedules could look different for students at elementary, middle, and high school levels due to “the complex logistics” of scheduling for students that require social distancing and limited “mixing.”
The district’s taskforce is also considering options for student transportation because the governor’s social distancing guidelines extend to school buses.
Students and staff will be screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms and history of exposure. Teachers will wear face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained and schools will encourage students to also wear masks where it is appropriate.
“This will be a new normal for Norfolk Public Schools, and we are exploring many options for the redesign of teaching and learning. This is a very complex process that requires multiple perspectives and a high level of focus on details,” said Superintendent Dr. Sharon Byrdsong.
NPS will ask for input from their school communities beginning the week of June 15 and will provide updates on their planning through the summer.
Find more information here.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools
UPDATE (July 31): The Virginia Beach School Board voted Wednesday to begin the 2020 school year entirely online. Students can expect online learning until key coronavirus health metrics in the area improve.
The board voted 8-3 for online-only instruction, after about nine hours of public comment, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
Families are still allowed to choose between online learning and in-person instruction when schools eventually reopen. Schools will remain closed as long as the area’s positive test rate is above 10%, or if the area reports 265 cases or more per day.
UPDATE (July 24): School officials at VBCPS will discuss their reopening plans on July 28. You can read more details about the possible plans below.
UPDATE (July 16): As cases increase in the area, there is a growing number of parents and teachers that are pushing against returning to school full time for the beginning of the 2020 school year. According to WAVY, the group cites concerns over the health and safety of students and teachers.
The group, which at the time of this writing has more than 1,000 members, is calling on school officials to consider their concerns and meet certain guidelines before sending students back to school. Some of those guidelines are include having 24 consecutive days of decreasing COVID-19 positivity rates in the city, adequate personal protective equipment, a hotline for non-compliance with protective measures, and mandatory reporting of positive cases that would be listed on the district website among other guidelines.
You can find out more here.
UPDATE (July 10): The school district is considering three different options for reopening this fall, families are encouraged to fill out a questionnaire online to help school officials decide which option will work best.
Scenario 1- Daily, Face-to-Face Instruction. Schools would reopen “as close to what we think of as normal with some public health mitigation strategies in place.” Families may choose to not send their child to school if this option is picked and instead have their student engage in remote learning only.
Scenario 2- Alternating Days. Students would not attend school five days a week, instead smaller groups of students would alternate between in-person instruction and remote learning. In this case, again, families may choose to not send their child to school and instead have their student engage in remote learning only.
Scenario 3- Remote Learning Only. Schools would be closed and students would engage in remote learning. Student work will be graded, attendance will be taken and “assignment submission requirements will be greater.”
The scenarios are explained again and in detail in the questionnaire that parents can access through the Parent Portal.
UPDATE (July 2): Fall sports are on for Virginia Beach Public School students. As of July 6, students will be allowed to practice and families will receive more information from coaches and individual schools. For specific questions about fall sports, families should contact their child’s school.
UPDATE (June 24): School leaders are still considering options to reopen the district. Options include in-person instruction with precautions in place, hybrid learning, or keeping schools closed and relying on remote learning only.
Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence announced on June 23 that school officials will continue weighing the options and discuss further at their retreat in July.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools is currently seeking community feedback on their plan to reopen schools. The district’s plan which aligns with Phase Two of the governor’s guidelines would provide students with a hybrid style learning environment with a combination of virtual and face-to-face instruction.
According to Aaron Spence, who serves as the district’s superintendent, VBCPS teachers would use Monday as a planning day and then spend Tuesday-Friday with students who would report to school two days a week. Students would be provided with all the materials they need to engage in hybrid learning which could include things like paper, pencils or virtual learning materials.
“Your participation is crucial for us to make sure we’re providing the support you and your child need and to help us to finalize our plans so we can get specific details about the 2020-21 school year to our entire community as soon as possible,” Spence wrote in an open letter to parents.
To participate in the survey and give your feedback click here. The survey closes June 22. Find more information here.