A collection of stories about how school divisions are navigating state and federal guidelines and grappling with concerns about staff safety and about how anything less than a normal weekly schedule will affect the development of children and their social-emotional well-being.
Next school year will be “not quite back to normal, but a whole lot closer than we've been for a long time."
Schools are taking different approaches to ensure students can safely graduate in front of their peers and family members, with strategies ranging from offering multiple ceremonies to moving the events outside.
The three-pronged plan encompasses a focus on increasing student self-efficacy, implementing a new tool to measure social-emotional learning and summer programs to mental and physical wellness.
However, all students will have access to five days of in-person classes next school year.
"Bars and restaurants are open; why can't our children who need access to these resources be able to perform in our public schools like we've promised them for eight years?"
Charlottesville City Schools is planning to offer five days of in-person classes next school year, though officials are still working out othe…
The positive cases among students in Stage Four account for 43% of all student cases since the school year began. About one-third of the student quarantines this school year have been in the last two weeks.
Counselors and other school-based mental health professionals used home visits, phone calls and virtual lunch groups, among other tools, to stay connected with students over the past year.
“To see how low my grades are, and not being as motivated and putting in as much effort as I can, is really upsetting for me because I know what I’m capable of. I don’t feel like I’m giving it my all, but it feels like it.”
With capacity limited, schools are getting creative to find capacity on buses.
Monday marked the official beginning of Stage Four in the county school division, in which all students have the option for in-person classes.
- Katherine Knott
- 6 min to read
The coronavirus pandemic hit home for Jessica Taylor when Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the state’s K-12 schools to close for two weeks.
Students were required to wear masks, stay six feet apart and follow other mitigation measures.
Parent-teacher organizations sought volunteers to supervise children walking to school, and local nonprofits are using their buses to transport students.
The School Board voted 4-3 to implement the hybrid learning model at the middle and high schools
“Among me and my classmates, the effects of this vary from numbness and burnout to academic failure and depression.”
“Even though there aren’t going to be fans, it’s a good time to have school spirit, which hasn’t happened in a super long time.”
The first and last day of school in the 2021-22 calendar proposed for the Charlottesville and Albemarle County divisions are in line with past years.
As Albemarle County Schools prepare to increase the number of students learning in person next month, some School Board members are worried ab…
Thus far, 42.8% of the 2,012 employees working in-person in Stage Three or Four have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Students in preschool to sixth-grade will have four days of in-person classes, starting March 8.
Both school divisions push ahead with slightly different reopening plans.
The Albemarle County School Board could hear a recommendation to move to Stage Four of reopening as soon as next Thursday.
The announcement comes after COVID-19 case numbers have declined in recent days following a record surge. The county’s case incidence rate remains well above the division’s threshold for remote learning, while the 14-day positivity rate has dropped into the lower risk category as set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Division spokesman Phil Giaramita said that after two weeks of all-virtual classes that start Tuesday, the division will look at the COVID-19 data and decide whether to restart Stage Three, which allows for preschoolers through third-graders to have in-person classes twice a week.
“I've had some pretty concerning emails from students who are expressing that it's a mental health issue.”
Superintendent will not recommend a new learning model for the third quarter on Thursday.
Albemarle County students returned to school Monday, but COVID-19 case numbers are nearing the division's thresholds for reverting to all-virtual learning.
The division has pushed back the start date for in-person classes several times, largely abandoning the quarter-by-quarter approach to learning models that it outlined in July.
Family engagement increases; donations allow for educational games to be given to the students to learn from home
The School Board unanimously approved starting in-person classes under a new model. They’ll meet Jan. 7 to review the latest COVID-10 case numbers before face-to-face instruction begins, leaving the door open for the timeline to change.
The division's staffing plan for Stage Four would mean no separate classes for art, music, physical education and intervention services.
Move comes as a precaution in response to rising cases locally and statewide.
After 40 years in the classroom, Garland decided to retire as the division moved to start in-person classes for preschoolers through third-graders. Throughout her career, Garland mentored many new teachers, took on many of the division’s different initiatives, and her classroom became a place for other teachers and administrators to learn from her.
The Albemarle Education Association, which represents county teachers, criticized the thresholds, saying it would like to see them revised to include numbers in lower risk categories.
Officials acknowledged the persistent achievement gaps among student groups in the division that were present before the pandemic. They’re expecting those gaps to be exacerbated by the pandemic, especially among younger students.
Members are concerned about, among other things, the proposed increase in asynchronous days — days when students work independently on assignments and other activities — for middle and high school students.
“Each independent school has made different decisions as they've set up their school year ... because nobody has the structures in place to be able to fit with these mitigation plans and run things as usual.”
In change from the previous timeline, division staff proposed pushing back the decision for the third quarter to mid-January in order to allow more time for planning.
Throughout the school division, more than a thousand elementary students walked in schools Wednesday morning. Their first stop was to get their temperature checked, one of several new routines students experienced as the county school division began twice a week in-person classes for preschoolers through third-graders. Most students are learning virtually during Stage Three.
Wednesday marks the first time since mid-March county students will have anything close to a traditional classroom experience.
“... we will continue to have this type of air handling in our buildings well beyond COVID.”
The new procedures and protocols, ranging from daily health screenings to social distancing, have been in use since some students started coming into buildings last month for help with online classes.
Book club focuses on celebrating different character traits and diverse cultures with monthly reading list.
The division is planning to remove language that allowed for brief mask breaks during the day at the teacher's discretion.
More than half of Albemarle County families with children said they are ready for their kids to return to schools in-person, according to information presented to the School Board Thursday.
The program will continue in November as the division moves to Stage Three of its reopening plan, but officials haven't said if they plan to make changes to it or expand it to more children.
Committee members concerned about the city’s COVID-19 numbers, uncertainty about impact of the coming flu season, travel during Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
Albemarle superintendent said last week that data are being inflated statewide to save funding.
Abundant Life Ministries, along with several area organizations, has switched gears to help children with online classes and support families. Most of the local virtual learning centers are at capacity and have wait lists.
In the wake of the board’s decision, teachers expressed disappointment on social media, which extended to parents who wanted more information about the specifics of Stage Three after receiving a letter from the division about the change
Under Stage Three, about 5,000 students would be eligible for in-person classes or access to the buildings.
Under Stage Three, about 5,000 Albemarle County students would be eligible for in-person classes or access to the buildings. Parents can continue with all-virtual classes, though the specifics of that plan are still in the works.
County parents with students who have special needs say the division kept them in the dark about selecting students for in-person learning.
Pandemic drives down number of students across division.
The schools on Wednesday gave a 55-member committee till Oct. 14 to develop plans for a return to classrooms
State health officials cautioned, though, that any decision about school programming is a local one and should be made in conjunction with local public health officials.
“Movement between stages shouldn’t be a fraught, uncertain issue every quarter.”
Charlottesville City School's initial proposal for staged reopening has been met with pushback from parents, teachers and some board members who are worried about the change in timeline, among other concerns.
After teaming up to support schools during virtual learning, Charlottesville City Schools’ parent-teacher organizations raised $56,500 in the last month.
Families called to have passwords reset, gain access to SeeSaw and get help finding links, for example. Staff also dealt with hardware issues. The most common one was that the computer’s audio wasn’t working.
About 338 more students than last year opted to homeschool this year but officials don’t have data on where the other students went.
Volunteers and interested community members can find opportunities on the site of where to give their time or funds.
Families in both districts reported some initial challenges in joining virtual classes but said things went fairly smoothly after that, though an internet outage in Charlottesville affected some students and staff for about an hour.
117 teachers joined the Albemarle County school division this academic year. In Charlottesville, 49 classroom teachers joined the division over the summer.
A community advisory committee made up of public health officials, medical professionals, teachers, parents and others will review local data about COVID-19, state and federal guidance and other factors to make a recommendation on the second and following quarters of school.
Both school divisions spent the summer shoring up their online education programs in anticipation of a virtual return to school. Now, with some questions still unanswered, students, teachers, parents and staff prepare to meet the unprecedented new year.
Albemarle schools last week unveiled their planned schedule for virtual learning for elementary students, but parents have ongoing questions and concerns.
During a discussion Thursday, several board members were concerned about how the division would ensure consistent and equitable practices across the schools, especially at the elementary level, as well as the lack of firm answers about virtual learning expectation from attendance to what will be required of families.
Both local school divisions' free meals programs will run out at the end of August, after a federal program that paid for them was discontinued.
Job loss, sickness, employment as an essential worker, and children impacted emotionally or behaviorally by the pandemic are factors that will be taken into consideration during the application process.
To improve virtual learning, both school systems are eyeing more live online classes, regular weekly schedules and concrete activities when the screen is off along with clear expectations for families.
Local school divisions are basing their plans for English-Language learners this fall on the lessons they gleaned from the spring shutdown.
Superintendent Rosa Atkins said there will be unanticipated needs as families start virtual learning, but the division's budget is limited and no additional federal funding is expected.
Students and staff will be required to wear masks regardless of physical distancing, an apparent change from what division officials discussed last month.
With students in masks and desks six feet apart, Louisa County Public Schools on Thursday became the first school division in the area to bring students back into the school buildings — exactly six months after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered schools to close amid a surging pandemic.
All classes at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center will continue online this school year, following the county school sys…
“Video will eat up data in a heartbeat. ... We realized we really need unlimited data plans, and for some households, we may need more than one hot spot.”
Charlottesville schools will monitor the progress of special education students throughout the year and gauge their progress. Decisions about in-person learning will be made by parents and staff, and will follow state and federal guidelines.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, finding childcare in the Charlottesville area was a challenge.
“I think in order for this to be successful, none of us feel as if our classroom teachers in our schools will be able to do it alone. We will need our partners and we will need to work together.”
As of Thursday, the plan included virtual learning for all students, though the School Board will hear a more specific presentation about how the division will support students in special education, English learners and preschoolers during next week’s meeting.
English learners, students without adequate internet access and those with disabilities who have intensive needs have the option to go to school, where they’ll work on online classes with teachers who volunteer to work in the buildings.
Charlottesville Schools superintendent announced the move in a Wednesday email to parents and staff.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County School Boards on Thursday will vote on reopening plans, as questions persist from parents and staff.
Parents said they want to see clear guidelines and standards for virtual learning to ensure consistency across the division, as well as in-person classes for working families.
- Katherine Knott
In response to a letter from concerned employees and fears that UVa students returning to Grounds will become "super-spreaders," Albemarle County School Superintendent Matt Haas on Tuesday said he will draft an online-only reopening option for the School Board to consider.
Albemarle schools superintendent says he would not ask staff, teachers to adhere to a reopening plan he would not be comfortable with himself.
The Charlottesville School Board wants more information on virtual learning, public health before finalizing reopening plan.
‘No right decision’: Charlottesville board grapples with how to reopen schools
- Katherine Knott
“It’s a balancing act,” said Ryan McKay, senior policy analyst for the Thomas Jefferson Health District who is working with schools on reopening plans.
A planned June 29 meeting of the Charlottesville School Board has been canceled in order to give division staff members time to consider addit…
Plan would have students in school buildings two days a week
Pushing school start date back would give teachers more prep time.
As local school systems wrap up the 2019-20 school year and look ahead to the fall, officials are drawing on lessons learned from the past two…