With the debate on whether or not to resume in-person classes continuing, the superintendent of the York County School Division has recommended starting the school year with remote learning.
At least for the first nine weeks.
“By beginning in a Remote Learning Model, we not only protect our students and staff, we also create a more stable learning environment for the start of the school year,” Superintendent Victor Shandor said in the status update during a school board meeting Thursday night.
Officials during the meeting presented two options for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
The proposals were developed with the help of 20 school division employees, eight subcommittees, and approximately 80 focus group participants, including parents, administrators said.
The first option, a “Flexible Framework,” included four models of operation. The models include traditional, hybrid, leveled and remote.
“We consider this a Flexible Framework as we may need to move between models based on COVID-19 conditions within our area, as well as within individual schools,” Shandor said in a status update released Thursday night. “Additionally, other factors such as staffing, transportation, and student enrollment may also prompt the need to move between models.”
The traditional model would have all students in school five days a week, while the hybrid model would have students alternate between being in school and learning at home.
School officials also said if the in-person, traditional model is selected, then students and staff will be required to wear facemasks in the instance a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained. Staff will be provided with cloth masks, clear masks and face shields. Disposable masks will be made available if students have forgotten or damaged their masks.
In the leveled model, elementary students will alternate between being in school and learning at home, while only the secondary students will learn remotely from home five days a week.
In the remote model, all students learn from home full time. Students will receive both synchronous and asynchronous instruction through programs like Microsoft Teams and Canvas. Officials said students with additional academic needs may receive remote and/or face-to-face instruction, as outlined in their individual learning plans.
Meals would also be provided twice per week for pick-up/deliver under the remote learning model.
Teachers will have the option to teach from their classrooms in the remote model as well.
The “Flexible Framework” is just the first option. In the second option, families have a choice. If they do not want their children to participate in the Flexible Framework models, then they can opt for Virtual Academy, which spans grades Pre-K through 12.
Licensed teachers from the York County School Division, Virtual Virginia and Virtual High School will also staff instruction for the Virtual Academy. The division will also offer specialized instruction and remediation where needed.
One downside of virtual learning is that some courses or programs might not be made available. Students may be required to report to school to complete some standardized testing mandated by the Virginia Department of Education and the school division.
The board also discussed what would happen if a person tested positive for COVID-19 during in-person instruction. They said the school would likely close for two to five days for disinfection and contact tracing. Students and staff in close contact with the diagnosed person will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
A survey will be sent out to families on July 27 regarding transportation services for the fall, the division’s 1:1 technology program, and whether families will be following the Flexible Framework or opting for Virtual Academy.
The parent’s choice commitment forms must be turned in no later than Aug. 2 at midnight. Details of each learning model are available on the division’s Return to School website.
The school division is also providing two public comment sessions, on Monday, July 27 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, July 28 at noon. Sessions will be live streamed on the division’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Public comments will be accepted via video which can be uploaded to Dropbox by Monday at 8 a.m.
Voicemails will also be accepted by calling 757-833-7127 between 8 a.m. Friday, July 24 and 8 a.m. Monday, July 27.
All comments must begin with the speaker’s name and address, one comment per person and may be no more than three minutes in length.
The school board will have another special meeting on July 30 at 5 p.m. to reach a decision.
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