Saturday, December 2, 2023

Remote learning updates for local schools

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

The York County School Division and Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools have updated their learning plans for students because of the recent surge of coronavirus cases in the community.

Here is the most recent announcements from each school division as of Friday.

York County School Division

The York County School Division announced that Monday, Jan. 11, only students who have already returned to school in the Hybrid Model will resume in-person learning (grades PreK-6, EL, self-contained programs) as scheduled. Tuesday, Jan. 19, high school seniors will enter the Hybrid Model. At that time, high school schedules will be adjusted for all students. Additional details regarding bell schedules, transportation, etc. will be shared in the next few days.

The county intends to continue following a phased-in approach for grades 7-11 they announced in a YCSD. However, the last few months have shown that as more students come into buildings, the staffing levels – especially their substitute pool – become more strained. Therefore, we feel it is prudent to evaluate our status weekly before identifying specific dates for grades 7-11 to begin in-person learning. Next steps for those grade levels  will be discussed at Monday night’s School Board work session.

As part of the division’s Return to School plan, all families were given the opportunity to select either the Flexible Framework or the YCSD Virtual Academy, as the instructional model for their children at the beginning of the school year. As we prepare for the second semester, all families are asked to complete the commitment form for the 2nd semester (which begins on Monday, February 1) for each child enrolled in the division. Commitment forms must be completed in Rycor by Midnight, Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Completion of the form will allow the county to work through staffing and scheduling constraints for both in-person and online learning for the second semester. As York prepare for the potential of mid-year transitions, it is important that parents and students understand the following:

  • student schedules may be impacted for the second semester, including the possibility of a class/teacher change, whether the student changes model or not (while we will work to avoid changes, they may be necessary due to staffing availability and/or to achieve physical distancing)
  • the option selected will be a commitment for the entire semester (February 1-June 17)
  • it may not be possible to accommodate all learning model changes if a significant number of families request a change
  • the division may shift students between formats of the Flexible Framework (Remote, Hybrid, and Traditional) based on changes in health and staffing metrics and COVID-19 guidance.

For more information on York County’s return to school timeline click here.

Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools

In an email to families and school staff on Jan. 5, WJCC Superintendent Olwen E. Herron extended remote learning for all students for one week from Jan. 11-15 because of the rising number of cases.

Previously the school division required all students to attend school remotely for at least a week in anticipation of more coronavirus cases around the holidays and following winter break.

RELATED STORY: WJCC Schools go virtual because of COVID spread

“This decision aligns with recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health to reduce the spread of illness following the holidays,” Herron wrote. “It is also supported by local health data, which shows 683 new cases per 100,000 people within the last 14 days in James City County and 208 new cases in the City of Williamsburg.”

“Staff will have the flexibility to telework Jan. 11-15 before returning to schools and offices on Jan. 19,” she added.

Herron announced the division created a new Health Advisory Group to review local, state and national data and are meeting weekly due to spike in local cases. Starting in January, WJCC Schools’ “Health Safety Teams” will visit the schools and offices to make sure CDC guidelines such as face masks, social distancing measure and cleaning procedures are being followed correctly.

She added WJCC is working with the Peninsula Health District on contact tracing.

As for when students can return to school, Herron wrote WJCC Schools expects guidance from Virginia Department of Education and Virginia Department of Health later in the week. Once reviewed, WJCC will share a hybrid schedule for all students next week, which comprises three remote learning days and two days in-person.

On Friday, WJCC Schools announced in their family newsletter, the division’s timeline for students to return to the classroom is based on several factors including the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for staff.

“According to Governor Northam, the next phase of state vaccinations should include teachers,” according to the WJCC’s family newsletter. “The division will work with the Peninsula Health Department to keep employees informed about when the vaccinations are available.”

According to the WJCC COVID-19 Dashboard, 28 students and staff members tested positive for the virus this week with 29 staff members currently in quarantine. You can view the data by each school here.

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