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Charlottesville schools eyeing staggered in-person classes next year

Charlottesville students would attend school in-person two days a week in the upcoming year, according to a plan presented Thursday that hinges on the state moving to Phase Three of reopening by August.

The plan that schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins presented would have one group of students going to school Wednesday and Friday and the other group attending in-person Tuesday and Thursday. Remote learning will take place on the other three days of the week for the students.

Mondays will be reserved for staff professional development and learning the school buildings, per the presentation.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced guidelines Tuesday for the reopening of K-12 schools that included a phased approach and requirements for physical distancing within the buildings to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Since Tuesday, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Atkins said. “I’m only scratching the surface of all the planning that has been taking place since Tuesday.”

The division has not discussed moving back the start of the school year, which is currently set to begin Aug. 19. Albemarle County schools launched a survey Friday seeking input on starting the year either Sept. 2 or Sept. 8 in order to give teachers more time to plan for remote learning.

More details about Albemarle County’s plan to return to school will be presented at next week’s special board meeting at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The board needs to decide by June 26, at the latest, on which school calendar to adopt for the 2020-21 year, officials said.

Atkins said the attendance plan presented to the board Thursday is the foundation for next school year. Many instructional and logistical details still need to be sorted out.

The board is expected to vote on the plan at its next meeting later this month.

On Friday, the city schools planned to release a survey for teachers, staff, parents and students to weigh in on their experience with remote learning since schools closed or the plans for restarting classes.

Officials considered six options for how to structure students’ school weeks but opted for the one presented because it allowed families to plan for a fixed schedule. Other options called for students to attend school in-person every other week or a split school day in which students were at school in the mornings or afternoons.

Thursday’s presentation acknowledged that the weekly schedule still poses a challenge for families to coordinate child care and work schedules. Other cons were a limited continuity of instruction and relationships as well as that it does not prioritize students based on instructional needs.

Board member Lashundra Bryson Morsberger asked Atkins about plans for assessing students when they come back and providing additional support for students who were hard to reach this spring through remote learning.

Atkins said they’ll use MAP testing and other measures to see where students are. Currently, state testing is still required unless Virginia receives a federal waiver, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Atkins said the division will be publishing a more comprehensive document regarding health checks and other specifics involved with reopening.

“Let me tell the public: we have a bunch of questions and I think that over the course of the summer, we’re going to continue to answer them,” said Jennifer McKeever, chairwoman of the city school board. “I just don’t know if we’re going to have all of the details worked out in one pretty package for a while. We’re doing the best we can.”


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