Update from Dr. Sovine on 2020-21 School Reopening Plan

July 22, 2020

I’m writing to provide you with the latest information regarding our plan to reopen for the 2020-21 school year. As I noted when presenting the plan to the School Board last night, it is possible adjustments will be made to our plan as we receive new information/guidance and the situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. As I have stated consistently, the reopening of schools will require all of us to practice patience and flexibility. This is true for students, parents and FCPS staff.

School Schedule
In order to provide teachers and staff with additional time to plan and be trained on the enhanced health and safety protocols that will be in place when schools reopen, the first day of school for students has been moved from Monday, August 17 to Monday, August 31. Over the past few months, we have developed multiple reopening plans based upon what phase of reopening Virginia will be in at the start of the 2020-21 school year. Those plans include a typical inperson opening, an opening with distance learning only, and a reopening that is a combination of in-person instruction and distance learning. Virginia is presently in Phase III of reopening and we plan to open schools using what’s referred to as a Hybrid Model which will include a combination of in-person instruction and distance learning. We plan to reopen schools using the Hybrid Model, but will conduct an evaluation at the end of the first nine-week grading period to determine whether we may be able to transition to a schedule in which students physically attend school more frequently.

In order to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, the following school schedule will be used during the first semester:
  • Students in preschool through first grade will attend school in person on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Students in grades 2-12 will attend school in person two days each week- either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Distance learning will be provided to students on days they don’t physically attend school.
  • No students will attend school in person on Wednesdays. Teachers will engage in lesson planning, provide supports for students, and communicate with students and their families on Wednesdays.
Prior to the scheduled start of school for students, you will receive information about what days your student(s) is scheduled to attend school in person and what days they will engage in distance learning. This communication will also include information on bus schedules. In most cases, students in grades 2-12 who live in the same household will be on the same school schedule. This may not be possible in limited cases based upon middle and high school class schedules.

All Distance Learning Option
In addition to the hybrid school schedule outlined above, we are also offering an all distance learning option for those who elect not to have their children attend school in person. Due to the level of planning and staff required to offer both the hybrid schedule as well as an all distance learning option, those selecting the all distance learning option are required to continue with that learning model through the end of the first semester. Additional details and information about how to have your student(s) participate in all distance learning will be mailed to you later this week. You will have until August 3 to select the all distance learning option if that is your preference.

Distance Learning
The distance learning provided this year will be different than what was offered this past spring. In the upcoming year, new instruction will be provided both in-person and through distance learning. Students will be expected to complete all work. Accommodations will be made available for those students with limited or no internet access. The distance learning experience will also be enhanced to address concerns shared by students, parents and staff through the survey we conducted in early June. In the Hybrid Model, students in grades 2-12 will be able to take their Chromebooks home. Students in grades K-12 who elect to participate in the all distance learning option will be issued a Chromebook for home use.

Health and Safety
Keeping students and staff safe and healthy remains a priority. One of the most important steps one can take to promote health and safety is to stay home if they are sick or exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19. We are asking parents to assess their student(s) each day and keep them at home if they are ill or showing any COVID-19 symptoms. Schools will conduct temperature checks for students before they can enter the building. Staff members will also be required to complete a daily health assessment and stay home if they are sick or exhibiting signs of illness. We strongly encourage students (if developmentally appropriate) to wear a face covering or mask while at school. All staff will be required to wear a face covering or mask except in very limited instances such as when they are in a private office, eating or drinking, or are able to maintain a safe distance from others. Disposable masks will be provided to students and staff as needed.

The daily cleaning of schools in compliance with guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be enhanced with more frequent deep cleaning. All staff will be trained in the proper application and storage of disinfectants so everyone can help keep our schools clean, particularly frequently touched areas. Staff will also manage the use of shared materials, and we will avoid the sharing of items if at all possible. If objects must be shared, they will be cleaned and disinfected between uses. HVAC systems have also been adjusted to meet air management guidelines that have emerged based on early studies regarding the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to the actions noted above, we have established protocols to address any students or staff members who become ill or exhibit COVID-19 symptoms while at school. In such instances, the individual will be moved to an isolation area at the school and sent home. All areas of the school used by the individual who is sick or exhibiting symptoms will be cleaned as soon as they are identified. Should any member of our school communities test positive for COVID-19, they will not be allowed to return to school or work until they have met the CDC guidelines to return.

Transportation
Transportation will be offered to all students, but only one student will be allowed on each seat in order to maintain proper physical distancing. Students residing in the same household may sit together. While on the bus, students will be required to wear a face covering or mask. Buses will be cleaned and sanitized between all runs. Allowing only one student on each bus seat will require us to make additional runs and extend the arrival and dismissal times at our schools. We are encouraging parents to drive their students to and from school as they are able.

Additional Information
More details about our reopening plan can be found at- http://bit.ly/FCPSCOVID19 or http://bit.ly/FCPSCOVID19espanol. While I recognize there is no plan that will satisfy everyone, I know we have done our best to address an extremely difficult situation and I sympathize with those who will face scheduling challenges due to our use of the Hybrid Model as we reopen. Finally, I want to thank you in advance for your patience, understanding and flexibility as we move forward. Together, we will persevere.

Sincerely,

Dr. David T. Sovine
Superintendent of Schools