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Albemarle County to survey parents about post-Labor Day start

As Albemarle County school officials continue to plan for fall classes, they will release a survey Friday asking parents for input on the start date for the 2020-21 school year.

One of the options the division is considering would delay the start of the school year until September. Staff members will present a draft calendar to the School Board on Thursday.

“There are several advantages to adding more time to our preparation for the new school year,” Deputy Superintendent Debbie Collins wrote in a letter to parents. “We expect online learning to continue to be an important part of instruction, and teachers have said a few more weeks to plan and prepare for this approach would be helpful. More time also would enable our support staff to thoroughly disinfect all facilities and ensure that health supplies and practices are in place to keep classrooms safe throughout the day.”

Albemarle County’s current calendar starts the school year on Aug. 19. A committe of Albemarle County and Charlottesville representatives create a joint calendar for both divisions.

County schools spokesman Phil Giaramita said it has been a practice of both divisions to have the same calendar, but is not a requirement.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a three-phase approach to reopening schools, which he closed for the academic year in March. The phases align with the state’s reopening plans. Virginia currently is in Phase Two, but school divisions have to submit a plan for how they’ll keep students and staff six feet apart and put practices in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, maintain healthy environments and operations and prepare for when someone gets sick.

Under Phase Two, school districts can offer limited in-person instruction to students in preschool through third grade, English-language learners and those with disabilities. In-person lessons, though, must follow all physical distancing and virus mitigation guidance.

In Phase Three, schools can resume in-person instruction with strict social distancing measures that will mean staggered class schedules and smaller classes, meaning instruction will be in-person and online.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County school divisions are offering a virtual summer school for high school students. More information about Charlottesville’s plans will be presented at this week’s city School Board meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Albemarle County officials will discuss their plans for fall classes next week at the School Board’s June 18 meeting. The School Board is expected to make a final decision about the start of school at its retreat June 19.

“Realizing the impact our start date will have on you and your family, our goal is to give you as much notice as possible regarding when schools will open for the new year,” Collins wrote.


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