Is York County on track to start in-person classes following remote learning students are going through at least for the first nine weeks of the school year?
That’s just one of the updates presented during Monday night’s York County School Board meeting.
School division Superintendent Victor Shandor presented target dates for returning to in-person instruction.
Self-contained programs, level 1 English language learners, and outdoor athletic conditioning have a target date of Sept. 28. Pre-K through first grade are Oct. 5, Grades 2-3 are Oct. 19, and additional grades are Nov. 5.
Those dates are in accordance with the board’s vote on July 23 to establish target dates to begin in-person teaching before the end of the first nine weeks.
Shandor stressed the dates heavily depend on health and operational metrics.
Division staff continue to meet weekly with Peninsula Health District representatives to discuss county updates regarding COVID-19 statistics. As of Sept. 10, the cases in York County are fluctuating, since there has not been a consistent increase nor decrease of cases for at least 14 consecutive days, said Chief Operations Officer Jim Carroll.
Carroll gave a presentation on operational updates regarding the 1:1 Computer Program, food service, health metrics, and classroom return policies.
The school division is still supplying food seven days a week. Last week, the division provided over 19,000 meals to families.
As for the technology program, on Aug. 27, the division started distributing devices to elementary school students. They had six distributions over nine days, and in that time span, they gave out 2,500 laptops and chrome books, according to the presentation.
But the delivery of the secondary devices arrived late. According to surveys given out to families, about 4,500 secondary students said they are not supplying their own devices. On Labor Day, the division was able to make a third of those devices available. This week they invited more than 2,100 students to pick up their devices.
To measure the need of devices, Carroll said the division continues to use absence lists from the first day of school, along with the device lists from last spring and input from schools and help desk appeals. The division is expecting to pass out another 1,300 devices this week, and are expected to reach the 4,500 student threshold by Sept. 23.
Carroll added once the division reaches the threshold, they will disburse any additional stock to schools for loaners, for repairs, and for new enrollees.
Regarding technical assistance during the first week of school, Carroll said the help desk usually has three people manning it, but they added five field techs and also had members of the school administration and the instruction departments helping to reset passwords and answer questions about the canvas learning platform.
“In the first two days, we answered hundreds of inquiries and we did have some programming conflicts with the Chromebooks on the second day which we were able to remedy quickly. We also had a power outage in the Seaford area that day,” he said.
On the third day of school, the division continued to have more programming issues with a fraction of the iPads. There was also a power outage in the Waller Mill area, including Waller Mill Elementary School. The division had to dispatch teachers to other schools or to their homes so they could resume instruction as soon as possible.
“So all in all, I think given the size of the task, the late delivery of our units, and the inevitability that we would have some technical hiccups, and the added fun of those outages, I believe we fared well, and we continue to work with families on any individual struggles,” Carroll said.
Chief Academic Officer Candi Skinner presented instructional updates regarding the canvas learning management system, Virtual Academy, instructional hours, and testing and progress monitoring.
Skinner said the division has received positive feedback about the implementation of Canvas from parents, students, teachers, and administrators. She added teachers are still refining their Canvas pages and will most likely continue to do so throughout the school year.
She said 2,648 families selected Virtual Academy for their students. Out of the total, 1,270 were elementary school, 698 were in middle school, and 680 were high school students.
She said the Virginia Department of Education sent out its final instruction regulations to localities on Aug 28. The regulations involve two time requirements.
For the first regulation, each locality is required to meet 990 hours or 180 teaching days, but the state has offered a waiver if localities are unable to meet the time requirements.
The second requirement involves core instructional hours, and Skinner said there is no waiver offered. Core instructional hours vary among elementary, middle and high school levels. Skinner added the state does allow schools to count both synchronous and asynchronous instruction to those hours.
Skinner said they may still need to make instructional time changes, but if they do, the division will be sure to give families notice.
Students will still be taking SOLs this year, but in what fashion, she did not specify.
As for PSAT and SAT testing, Skinner said 10th graders will be testing for the PSAT in January, while 11th graders can take the SATs in October. The first SAT testing day will be on Oct. 3, and families can check the CollegeBoard website for more information.
According to an update from YCSD posted Monday, 2020 SAT scores have been released. Students from the division tested 98 points above the national average and 33 points above the state average.
Chief Financial Officer Bill Bowen said there has been a huge loss of enrollment by 836 students. The division was expected to have 13,138 students for the 2021 fiscal year but has only 12,302 students enrolled so far.
He said this is troubling because the division’s annual budget is based on enrollment projections.
He added part of the loss of enrollment can be credited to an increase of homeschooling by 248 students. He said the number of homeschooling applications continue to grow.
But it has also been difficult for the division to track military students because the impact aid survey has yet to be done.
Bowen said the division could lose about $4.3 million because of this enrollment loss. Since enrollment is still open, Bowen said he does not believe they will completely lose 836 students, but board members should be wary of this number.
Bowen said the division has a self-funded health and dental plan, meaning they have to pay for their claims as they occur. As of April 30, the division projected a health insurance balance of $1.3 million compared to their usual $3-6 million. But they ended the 2020 fiscal year with $350,000 instead.
To amend tat loss, Bowen recommended the board consider reallocating some funds from the operations budget to the health insurance fund at a later date.
But there is hope for school divisions with legislation proposing Senate Bill 5069. The bill would allow schools to claim the higher numbers of either FY2020 or FY2021.
Bowen said the bill is currently stuck on the senate level and advised board members to write to state officials to pass the bill.
Chief Human Resources Officer Tony Vladu said the division continues to be in a hiring freeze, with nine licensed positions open and about 66 non-licensed vacancies. These numbers were consistent with last year’s.
There were 36 resignations and 26 retirements last year, a number Vladu said was also lower than the previous year.
In his presentation, Vladu pointed out a majority of teachers did not require the accommodations of teaching from home. According to the data he presented, about 197 employees are working remotely, while there are 13 with approved employee leave. About 33 employees said they needed in-person work accommodations.
Vladu added when the division returns to in-person instruction, they should have enough teachers for instruction.
As for hiring, Vladu said the division is only filling critical vacancies. A critical vacancy is if a teacher is needed for a course that is required for students to graduate, for example.
He ended his presentation by adding the division has multiple mental health options for staff, including telehealth counseling if needed.
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