Dear families and staff —
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
Cville Schools PTOs Raise Money to Meet Pandemic Needs
As the schools started planning for fall, the PTO leaders across the city formed their own plans to raise financial support to meet the extra needs arising during online learning and the pandemic.
At the October 3 School Board meeting, Jackson-Via PTO officer Chris Meyer announced that thanks to matches provided by the Bama Works Fund of Dave Matthews Band and The Smith Family “Always Am” Fund, the PTOs have jointly raised more than $130,000, which is being distributed to schools according to their percentage of students who qualify for free & reduced meals. From virtual learning supplies to grocery cards, you are helping the schools help families!
Changing the Narrative, Both Locally and State-Wide
To create a more inclusive and honest social science curriculum, Charlottesville City Schools continues to partner with historic sites, school divisions, and educational nonprofits. This anti-racist and anti-bias work has focused on highlighting African-American and local perspectives, as well as representing various racial, ethnic, and gender identities.
Similarly, Dr. Atkins co-chaired Virginia’s Commission on African-American History Education, which has made several recommendations — including updating Virginia’s state history and social science standards. The Virginia Department of Education is seeking public comment on these revised standards. Find them on the VDOE website (Item H and attachments A-E). The public is invited to email comments to the board at BOE@doe.virginia.gov by 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 13.
Addressing STEM Disparities, Pandemic-Style
From kindergarten to CHS, Charlottesville City Schools has made a significant investment in STEM education with iSTEM teachers, brand new fifth and sixth grade engineering courses, and acclaimed middle and high school engineering classes and clubs. This is all possible through partnerships with UVA, the Smithsonian, and others. But continuing this good work in the midst of online learning is challenging.Two groups have stepped up to meet the need.
Doctors at UVA fundraised more than $30,000 to create at-home STEM kits to make sure that all learners grades K-4 have the same learning tools at home to continue hands-on STEM learning. With help from the Shannon Foundation, STEM kits will also be sent home to all 5th through 8th grade students so they can continue exploring science and participating in challenging STEM activities in a hands-on way.
Similarly, Buford and CHS were among the first engineering programs in the country to shift their online learning to a new 3D design tool called Onshape. Now the company that owns Onshape has given $5,000 to financially support our work with the program. Thanks to all the teachers who are making sure that math, science, tech, engineering, coding, and design thinking are still part of the curriculum.
CHS Finds New Ways to Connect Students to College
The CHS Counseling Department created two new ways to connect students and families with college: Virtual College Day and a Life After High School workshop. The Virtual College Day on October 2 featured information about the college planning process and resources for students and families. On September 29 and 30, seniors were invited to learn more about life after high school with information about the college application process and other post-secondary opportunities.
Librarians Find New Ways to Connect Books and Kids
A trip to the library was a common school highlight, pre-pandemic. Elementary librarians are finding new ways to put books in the hands of students with a library book curbside pickup program. Check with your school for days and times. Come and get your books!
“We really miss our students and this is a chance to get to [make connections], and of course also to keep their love of reading up and really just encourage or maybe just share some new books that they haven’t seen before,” said Katie Plunkett, Greenbrier librarian.
And when families can’t come to them, the Books on Bikes team of Charlottesville librarians and teachers goes to them, with a regular schedule of visits.
Growing the Rank of School-Based Social-Workers
Charlottesville City Schools received a donation from an anonymous private foundation that will support five additional clinical social workers in our schools. We are grateful! There will be two new positions at CHS and Buford, and one at Walker.
One goal of the new positions will be to create consistency and continuity of care between the three schools. Complementing the work of our other school-based mental health professionals, our social workers are always important, but in this unique and challenging time, this gift will allow us to offer trauma-informed care to students and families with acute needs.
CHS Class of ‘20 Excelled on SAT, Graduation Rates
Charlottesville High School’s 2020 on-time graduation rate remained high at 94.5 percent overall, surpassing the state’s rate of 92.3. This comes after a school-high graduation rate of 95.7 in 2019.
Charlottesville has one of the state’s highest graduation rates among cities.The school’s rate tops the state’s averages in several categories, including for black students and students with disabilities. Charlottesville’s black students’ rate rose from their already-high 2019 figure (95.9) up to 96.7. Similarly, the school’s already-strong rate for students with disabilities increased from 95.3 to 95.6. The cohort’s SAT rates also continued a long tradition of exceeding state and national averages.
- Farm to School Week, October 5-9: Thanks to Cultivate Charlottesville and our nutrition team for helping us celebrate with videos and a from-scratch meal on Friday!
- Virtual Buzz-by-Belmont Family 5K. October 9-12. Learn more.
- Update: School Board Meeting, October 22, 5pm to discuss but not vote on proposal to offer an option for in-person instruction beginning in January or February.
- Response to Essential Needs Drive-Through Event, October 24, 11am-2pm at CHS: distributing free family essentials such as clothes, hygiene products, and activity kits. Learn more.
- Charlottesville Night Out, October 31, 2-4pm at CHS: a safe drive-through alternative to trick-or-treating.
- Early Dismissal Virtual Learning Days, November 2-3. These mostly asynchronous learning days will follow a typical Friday schedule. We’ll “double-up” on meal deliveries on Monday, and there will be no meal deliveries on Tuesday.
- Last day of the first quarter, Friday, November 6. Now is a good time to check grades in Canvas or PowerSchool — and any time you have questions, please be in touch with your teacher or school. As students and families continue to navigate online learning, here are some tips to help your child.
School Board Updates
At their October meeting, the School Board approved revisions to the policy concerning school names to support the work of the superintendent committee that will soon consider whether any school facilities should be renamed. Other superintendent committees created this fall include the Covid-19 Advisory Committee and the School Safety and Security Advisory Committee.
In addition to some of the updates presented in this newsletter, the Board also learned more about how the schools are addressing the needs of students with disabilities, including in-person options as needed.
Kim Powell presented enrollment information (about 190 students fewer than projected), and Renee Hoover reviewed the draft budget development process.
As noted above, the Covid-19 Advisory Committee has not reached a recommendation for how to continue learning in the second quarter. If needed, the School Board will hold a second October meeting to hear a recommendation.
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