Covid-19 Advisory Committee Updates


October 28, 2020 Update about the Decision-Making Process

Dear families and staff–

This is an update about the decision-making process for an in-person learning option in Charlottesville City Schools. Briefly, the model under consideration would give families a choice for their children to either continue learning online-only or return to in-person instruction for either four days (PK-grade 6) or two days (Buford, CHS, LMA) each week, with independent or virtual learning on the other days each week. The earliest this model is recommended for implementation is mid-January through February.

On Thursday, the School Board held a meeting to discuss this model, including updates about safety and mitigation efforts and a report from principals about staff and space needs to support this model. You can watch this meeting here and you can find the attachments on our “Electronic School Board” web site here:

The Board requested that we ask families and staff to consider this model and complete intent forms. We will be posting additional information to our web site and distributing these surveys soon. The Board will next meet on November 5 to hear a formal recommendation for a return to in-person instruction. At that meeting, they will vote to continue online learning for the start of the second nine weeks. The Board will meet again on November 19 to vote about whether to adopt an in-person option. Finally, on December 16, the Board will review the latest health data and hear an update about the schools’ plans to promote safety. At that point, they will make a final decision. Again, the soonest schools would offer an in-person option would be mid-January to February.

We will be in touch soon when we have updated information and the family intent survey to share with you.

Thank you and have a good evening!


October 14, 2020 Update from Dr. Atkins

Dear Charlottesville families and staff–

The Covid-19 Advisory Committee met earlier today after discussing the pros and cons of returning to in-person instruction in November. The committee recommended continuing predominantly online instruction for at least the first part of the second nine weeks, which begins on November 9.

Specifically, the committee recommends: 

  • For PreK-grade 6: students would have the option of in-person instruction 4 days/week phasing in on January 11 and January 19. If possible, the committee would like to offer some “trial” in-person instructional days during the week prior to winter break. The committee notes that if demand for in-person instruction is high, this 4-day/week model might need to shift to a 2-day/week model to maintain adequate spacing and staffing in the building.
  • For Buford/CHS: students would have the option of 2 days/week of in-person instruction beginning at the start of the second semester on Monday, February 1. For 7th- and 9th-graders and other students new to our schools, the committee recommends scheduling Friday orientation visits during the month of January. Students at Lugo-McGinness might follow a different cohorting system.
  • As a reminder, all students will have the option of remaining in online-only instruction with an emphasis on making both in-person and online instruction comparable and high-quality experiences.

For details about these recommendations, you can view the slides from the meeting here.  Also of note is a report from the facilities working group.

Why Not Offer In-Person Instruction In November?
Much of the committee’s conversations have focused on Charlottesville’s data, including its higher-than-recommended new case counts (presently 2x higher than the CDC’s threshold for “highest risk”). Additionally, the impact of the arriving flu season has yet to be seen. And finally, the coming disruptions (and increased travel) during the Thanksgiving and winter breaks reduced the value and safety of returning prior to January. 

Next Steps
These are preliminary recommendations, not a definite plan. At this point, the committee has made these recommendations to the superintendent, who will in turn present an official recommendation to the School Board. One possible initial recommendation is that Charlottesville City Schools will continue predominantly online learning in November and December while exploring the likelihood of offering the option of online instruction starting in January/February.

Other next steps include providing families and staff additional information about in-person operations, and giving families an intent form for learning plans and an application for bus ridership (likely in November).

Continuing Conversations and Planning
Like many parents, guardians, students, and community members, the committee is eager to return to offering the option of in-person instruction, and the division will continue to refine our in-person protocols to support a smooth reopening both for families who choose to return to in-person instruction and for those who remain in online-only instruction. We will be in touch with the community partners who have supported our efforts this fall.

Continued Partnership
We know this timeframe is disappointing to some of you. Earlier this year, we began making individual accommodations for special education students as needed, and we encourage families to be in contact with your teachers, counselor, or other school staff so that we can partner with you to meet the needs of your students this fall and winter.

We know this is challenging. Just because the pandemic is no longer “new” doesn’t make it any easier. Yet even so, I am proud of our community — parents, students, teachers, community partners, and more — for a willingness to keep learning together. Have a good evening.

Dr. Rosa Atkins
Superintendent


Updated 10/14/20:

The superintendent has convened a committee to guide our response to Covid-19, primarily to help us plan a safe return to in-person learning.

We will post documents and updates related to this committee’s work on this page.

Superintendent Update from October 8, 2020 issue of News and Highlights

Dear families and staff —

portrait of Dr. Rosa Atkins

Thanks for your continued partnership in online learning. As I mentioned earlier, I’m so proud of our teachers for rising to this occasion, and I’m so proud of our students for engaging so meaningfully. We know it’s not perfect, but we are continuing to modify how we offer special education services and more in response to your feedback.

And of course, we’re also looking ahead, to see how and when we can offer an option for in-person instruction. As you know, I have formed a committee to explore these topics, and at this point, we do not have a fixed plan of action (only topics for further discussion). The earliest we would offer any form of in-person instruction would be the start of the second quarter on November 9.

At the next meeting of our Covid-19 Advisory Committee on October 15, we look forward to the committee’s working groups bringing forward grade-level recommendations for my consideration. (Keep in mind, those recommendations may be to maintain online learning.) If needed, the School Board may hold a second October meeting to hear and vote on my official recommendation, either to continue online learning (as a number of other Virginia cities have done) or to begin offering an in-person option for at least some students. We will let you know when a firm plan has been developed. And in the meantime, you can sign up for updates on the process at charlottesvilleschools.org/covid-committee.

Thanks again for your patience. The number of new cases in Charlottesville is still higher than what the CDC would recommend (to see data, click here and select Charlottesville), but the CDC notes that health data is only one factor — and our own risk mitigation efforts are strong.

Remember, one thing you can do now to prepare is to develop a plan for how your child can get to and from school without relying on the school bus. When the time comes to ask for your intent to remain in online or in-person instruction, we will also offer you the opportunity to apply for limited bus spaces. The more people who can create a walking/biking/car-riding plan for their child, the more we can give bus spots to those who really need them.

Thanks for your continued support!

 

 

Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

Week 3, September 30

In week 3, the committee met to provide information and assign tasks to working groups. The three groups are focused on elementary schools, secondary schools, and facilities. The groups will report back to the whole committee on October 14 .(There will be no whole committee meeting on October 7.) To review the slides and accompanying materials, click here.

Note: The groups will offer feedback about the possible timeline for returning to in-person instruction. After a decision is made, we will need adequate time to conduct a family intent survey (whether students will opt for in-person instruction or remain virtual) and plan accordingly. 

Week 2, September 23

Meeting Notes and Materials:

Summary:

  • There was further clarification that the draft proposal presented last week was intended as a starting point for conversation, not a set plan.
  • There was a data presentation from the Thomas Jefferson Health District showing key Charlottesville indicators in the low to moderate risk category.
    • There was continued conversation about the impact of the UVA community on Charlottesville’s risk factors.
    • There was a call for feedback from the committee in the areas of
      • Learning model
      • Timeline
      • Plan for bringing students back gradually by grade level
    • Notes on learning models:
      • All students will retain the option of 100 percent virtual learning regardless of the model adopted for in-person instruction. To the greatest extent possible, we will try to honor instructional staff’s requests to work in-person or virtually.
      • One option is a 2 day/week hybrid plan for all students who elect in-person instruction. The other 3 days/ week, the students would learn from home.
      • The other option would offer 4 days of in-person learning for students in PK-grade 6 who elect in-person instruction. As with our current plan, those students would work mostly asynchronously on Fridays. Students in grades 7-high school (including post-grad) would follow the hybrid plan of 2 days in-person and 3 days at home.
      • Committee members were also invited to share other possible models.
    • Notes on timeline:
      • Several proposals ranging from November 9 through January were proposed, along with requests for committee members to present others.
      • Due to feedback received, we are no longer considering the October starting dates that were presented during the first meeting as a starting point for conversation.
    • Notes on plans for returning “cohorts” of students.
      • At the first committee meeting, a plan to return students over a 3-week period was proposed. At this meeting, the possibility of returning students over a 2-week period was proposed. (PreK-grade 2 plus 5th, 7th, and 8th grade would return in the first week; grades 3-4, 6, and high school would return in the second week.)
      • Again, this is just a proposal for consideration.
    • Committee members split into break-out groups for discussion.They reported back ideas and questions, but no consensus on the key topics. See break-out group slides for some of the ideas they shared.
    • The possibility of asking families and staff to specifically declare their intent/preference for their students’ (or their own) learning preference (in-person or online) was discussed with a possible release date of October 2.

Week 1, September 16

As part of this process, a draft plan was presented to the committee as a starting point for conversation. You can find these and other slides below, but please know that these are not firm plans.

Returning to in-person instruction will take time, information, and multiple revisions to a plan. Once our advisory committee — which is comprised of staff, parents, students, medical professionals, and more — has a more concrete plan to share, we will let you know. Keep in mind that we will continue to offer families the choice for all-online learning — and to the greatest degree possible, we will allow staff this choice, also.

Even as we begin this planning process, we are committed to making online learning successful.

  • First Meeting: September 16