ACPS plans to go fully online for fall 2020

ACPS plans to go fully online for fall 2020
A student participates in distance learning. (File Photo)

By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]

Alexandria students will be attending classes entirely online for the start of the fall 2020 school year, Alexandria City Public Schools announced this morning.

Similar to neighboring school districts, ACPS’ Virtual Plus+ program will involve daily live instruction streamed via Zoom, one-on-one and group tutoring sessions and some asynchronous learning opportunities. ACPS will continue its meal distribution program during the fall as well.

“The purpose is to really get away from the flexibility we had in the spring and to have a little more structure in the fall,” Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D. said. “…There’s a lot more accountability this fall, which affords a much more robust learning experience for our students as well as for our staff members.”

ACPS will begin with entirely virtual learning “through the first quarter,” Hutchings said, with plans to reassess when to transition to a hybrid virtual/in-person learning environment every nine weeks.

“It’s just a matter of: When is the appropriate time, or when is the most feasible time, to begin to implement the hybrid approach?” Hutchings said.

Unlike in the spring, teachers will take attendance, and students will receive grades and new learning materials. In order for every ACPS student to have access to Canvas, ACPS’ learning management system of choice, and Zoom, which the district has been using since the spring, students will receive age-appropriate technology.

Pre-K through first grade students will be given tablets, while the school system’s one-to-one policy for Chromebooks will expand to all students in second through 12th grade, according to Hutchings.

“To make this all possible we are going to have to provide professional learning for our staff,” Hutchings said. “We always have our pre-service week where we do professional learning before school starts. That will continue this year. It’s just going to be more focused on virtual learning and how do you engage students virtually.”

ACPS also announced it will work with the city’s childcare facilities and ACPS’ community partners to provide childcare options for parents who need them. Hutchings will discuss more details regarding childcare when he presents the reopening plan to the school board for approval on Aug. 7, Hutchings said.

“They might be in a particular childcare facility or they may be housed in one of our school buildings, but we want to make sure that they are able to engage in the live instruction that is occurring,” Hutchings said.

The program is the result of research, community engagement and work from ACPS’ Cross-functional Planning Team, which also considered a hybrid virtual/in-person approach instruction for the upcoming school year.

ACPS’ announcement comes more than a week after Arlington Public School announced it would be holding classes entirely online and pushing its school start date from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. ACPS is still set to start its school year, as scheduled, on Sept. 8.

The school board will hold virtual public hearings on the reopening plan on Aug. 6 and 7 ahead of its vote on Aug. 7. ACPS will then send the final plan to the Virginia Department of Education on Aug. 14.