ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - The Albemarle County School Board approved a calendar for the 2020-21 school year, setting a return-to-school date of Sept. 8.
The Board voted 6-to-1 in favor of the Sept. 8 start, which is after Labor Day. While that decision is final, the board does expect COVID-19 will change some plans.
“Whether things spike and we need to step back from as many kids as we have in school, or things get better and we’re able to get additional students back in school,” said Dr. Patrick McLaughlin, the chief of strategic planning for Albemarle County Public Schools.
The school calendar decision comes a day after Gov. Ralph Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer reiterated decisions on school reopening are up to each district.
“The final decisions about reopening are squarely in the hands of local school boards,” Mercer said on Thursday.
The decision by the board did not come without questions or concerns. Katrina Callsen voted no because she wanted schools to start on Sept. 2.
“I think the second, the delayed start, it’s only a week difference and it gives us some more flexibility down the road because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Callsen said. “And I don’t think as much as you can prepare for things, I think we’re gonna run into issues once we start up this.”
Callsen was in the minority though, not just of board members, but also of parents surveyed. ACPS received nearly 5,000 responses to a survey. Just about one-third were satisfied with a Sept. 2 start date, compared to 55 percent satisfied with Sept. 8.
“By moving to Sept. 8 will be more in alignment with phase 3 of reopening,” said Matt Haas, ACPS superintendent. “And at that point we’ll be able to have greater contact with the students, be able to have more students at school, to be able to accommodate them.
The next step for the school board comes on July 9, when it has to present an attendance schedule.
Albemarle County Public Schools Release Friday. June 26
2020-21 School Year for Albemarle County Public Schools Will Start on Tuesday, September 8
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – At its retreat today, the Albemarle County School Board voted to reopen schools on Tuesday, September 8. Details around the opening of schools, including instructional schedules and school bus route information, are expected to be finalized by July 9. The division is anticipating that it will use a hybrid, or blended, model of instruction in which students will receive in-person instruction some days of the week and learn virtually on other days. Specifics will vary by grade level with elementary students likely in school more often than middle and high school students. Parents and guardians will have the option of choosing an all-virtual model for their child.
A draft calendar presenting the September 8 start date was reviewed by the School Board during their meeting on June 18 and can be accessed at https://www.k12albemarle.org/acps/division/calendars/202021CalendarDevelopment/2020-21-Calendar-Sept-8-Start.pdf.
“It’s important to note that this year’s calendar will need to be somewhat fluid and will likely undergo additional modifications once the return to school scheduling plan has been adopted,” explained Dr. Patrick McLaughlin, the school division’s Chief of Strategic Planning.
Dr. McLaughlin further noted that the 2020-21 calendar will protect traditional school breaks, including Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and Spring Break, to enable families to make holiday plans. He also pointed out that the final day of school will not be Friday, June 18, 2021, as noted on the draft calendar previously shared with the School Board, as the division will observe the Juneteeth holiday that day. “Our final day of school would likely be earlier that week with the modifications that we may make to the calendar,” said Dr. McLaughlin.
Staff recommended September 8 as the start date for the 2020-21 school year based on a number of factors, including teachers’ desire for additional preparation time; the results of the division’s community survey on the calendar; and the planning of school schedules.
This morning the division reached out to families through an online form that asks parents and guardians of currently enrolled students to share their learning and transportation preferences for this fall. The form asks families to indicate if they plan to send their children to school to participate in the hybrid learning model or whether they intend to keep their children home and opt for a fully virtual learning experience. The form also asks families if they will rely on school bus transportation or if they expect to provide their own transportation. Parents received student-specific links to the form by email and were asked to respond by July 5.
The school division will provide another opportunity for families, including those with newly-enrolled students, to complete this form after scheduling options are finalized and presented to the School Board on July 9.
Also, the school division today published its Return to School Planning Guide, the product of several weeks of work by the Return to School Task Force in collaboration with more than 80 employees who serve the school division in various capacities. The document aims to provide a framework to guide the division’s ongoing and comprehensive planning efforts to safely, successfully and equitably reopen schools in alignment with guidance from public health officials and the state department of education.
The four focus areas addressed by the guide include healthy environments, healthy staff, healthy students, and healthy learning. The guide is currently published as a PDF document at https://www.k12albemarle.org/acps/division/COVID19/Return-to-School-Planning-Guide-062620.pdf, but soon will be developed as a web page.