VIRGINIA — With about a month to go before school resumes in the fall, many school districts across the United States continue to grapple with how best to offer instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic. In Northern Virginia, the debate has ended, with all school districts in the region choosing to start the 2020-2021 school year with virtual instruction.
Many school districts considered a hybrid approach, where students could choose to spend two or three days a week at school and two days with remote instruction. A majority of parents in the Fairfax County Public Schools system, or 60 percent, picked the hybrid option for their children (this percentage includes parents who did not make a selection), while a majority of parents in Loudoun County selected the all-virtual option for their children.
As the coronavirus grew worse in southeastern Virginia and other parts of the country, school districts in Northern Virginia and the Fredericksburg area decided to play it safe and not put their students, teachers and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The school boards in every school district in Northern Virginia, along with the city of Fredericksburg and Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, decided to begin the school year with remote learning for all students, with exceptions made for certain students.
Here’s a look at the latest information on when Northern Virginia school districts plan to begin virtual learning this fall and how they plan to make it work:
After announcing a hybrid model for reopening schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school district, shifted course last month when the school board voted to have the county’s 189,000 students start the school year virtually due to the resurgence of the coronavirus in parts of Virginia and many areas of the country. The decision came after 111,712, or 60 percent, of parents chose hybrid learning. This includes 31,289 who did not respond and were automatically given the in-person option. The other 40 percent, or 76,288, chose online-only learning.
Fairfax County public school teachers are scheduled to return to work on Friday, Aug. 14. They will spend most of the time in training for remote instruction. The first day of online school for students in Fairfax County will be Tuesday, Sept. 8. If the coronavirus crises eases, FCPS would first bring back students for intervention supports on a limited basis. Following that, the school system would work to bring students back to school as soon as possible starting with elementary school students, select pre-K through Grade 12 special education students and English Learners.
Students will receive virtual instruction five days per week. The week will include four days of live, face-to-face online instruction with teachers Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be used for independent learning with some students identified for teacher-directed specialized instruction.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Prince William County students will begin the new school year school with 100-percent virtual instruction. The Prince William County School Board adopted what they called the “Return to Learn” plan.
Under the plan, the first quarter will begin for students on Tuesday, Sept. 8 and will end on Oct. 30, with the goal being to transition to a 50-percent capacity model in the second quarter. The option will remain for students to continue 100-percent virtual learning in the second quarter. Prince William County has a student enrollment of about 90,000 students.
Students at all levels will receive live daily teacher instruction in classes Tuesday through Friday, similar to their normal year schedule, with additional teacher office hours on Mondays. School day start and end times will be their normal” bell start and end times Tuesday through Friday.
Monday may be used for teacher-student check-in, mental health and/or counselor meetings, teacher planning and professional development. Monday may also be used for additional cleanings at schools, as a limited number of students may be attending in-person Tuesday-Friday, as identified as requiring in-person services and support in the first quarter.
Manassas City Public Schools will begin the school year with 100-percent distance learning. The school system will review the status of community health data on a monthly basis, with a goal to return to some form of in-person learning when officials believe it is safe for students, teachers and staff.
Under the city’s plan, the school year will begin for students on Monday, Aug. 31. The city school system serves almost 8,000 students.
During the week of Aug. 24, students will have the opportunity to participate in small group “meet the teacher” sessions at their schools.
The Manassas Park City Schools will start off the new school year with 100-percent distance learning. Under the city’s plan, the school year will begin for students on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The Manassas Park school board said the school system will examine health data each month, with a goal of returning to in-person learning when health experts declare classroom instruction to be safe. Manassas Park City Public Schools serve about 3,700 students.
The Loudoun County School Board voted in July to direct Loudoun County Public Schools administrators to implement a 100-percent distance learning model for the return to classes in the fall. Reversing earlier plans to offer both in-person and distance learning, Loudoun County schools believed an all-virtual start for the school district’s 83,000 students was the safest route.
Unlike Fairfax County, more than half of the parents of students in Loudoun had picked the distance-learning option before the county decided to start off the school with every student doing online learning.
Loudoun plans to start the year with 100-percent distance learning on Tuesday, Sept. 8 and then implement a planned hybrid model in stages when health conditions improve. Teachers are due back to work on Wednesday, Aug. 19 for virtual instruction training and lesson planning.
Loudoun County Public Schools officials are still developing plans for 100-percent online learning and will be releasing details to students and their families later this month.
Arlington Public Schools will be starting the new school year for its 28,000 students with 100-percent online learning. Teachers and staff members will return to school on Aug. 24 to undergo professional training on teaching virtually. Students will begin online learning starting Tuesday, Sept. 8.
All pre-K through Grade 12 students will be provided a computer device by the start of the school year. New teachers will receive computers prior to BootCamp, which will take place the week of Aug 10.
Alexandria Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr. is proposing a 100-percent virtual start for the city’s nearly 16,000 students. The model called Virtual PLUS+ features 100-percent virtual learning with additional supports for students, staff and families.
ACPS students will start the school year on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Hutchings’s proposal will go to the Alexandria City School Board for a vote on Friday, Aug. 7.
Under the plan, all pre-K through first grade students will receive electronic tablets, and second to 12th grade students will receive Chromebooks. Alexandria City Public Schools are coordinating with community partners to offer child care options for families. Meal distributions will continue.
The school system said a committee would reassess the reopening constraints every nine weeks depending on the pandemic’s impact in the DC region.
Falls Church City Public Schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year with virtual-only instruction. Falls Church City students will start the school year on Monday, Aug. 24. This approach will be in place for least nine weeks and will continue until officials believe conditions are safe to begin a hybrid in-person model for learning. Falls Church City schools have a student enrollment of approximately 2,600.
Students transitioning to another Falls Church City public school will need to return technology to one school and pick up new technology at their new school. Students remaining at the same school will keep the technology devices they received last spring the pandemic hit.
As part of the registration process for the 2020-2021 school year, families who have indicated that they do not have internet access at home will be contacted by Falls Church City schools to ensure they can access the school system’s online curriculum.
Fredericksburg City Public Schools are offering 100-percent distance learning for the first nine weeks of school. In-person learning will be delayed until at least Oct. 19 due to concerns about the coronavirus. The new school year is scheduled to start for students on Monday, Aug. 17. Fredericksburg has approximately 3,600 students.
Elsewhere in the Fredericksburg area, Spotsylvania County schools are going 100-precent virtual learning to begin the school year. Spotsylvania will conduct virtual learning for at least the first nine weeks of classes, which are scheduled to start Monday, Aug. 17. Stafford County Public School will return virtually for the upcoming school year, with the school year beginning Monday, Aug. 31.
This article originally appeared on the Ashburn Patch