Some students and staff at five Alexandria City Public Schools have been advised to stay home and self-monitor for signs of COVID-19, and the school system is working out the logistics of shutting down completely.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. discussed the school system’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in a web conference on Wednesday.
As of yet, no one in the school system has tested positive for the coronavirus, but Hutchings said that an undisclosed number of students and personnel have been advised to stay home from the T.C. Williams Minnie Howard campus, Charles Barrett Elementary School, Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School, Cora Kelly School and Jefferson Houston PreK-8 IB School.
“We do not have anyone at this moment that has tested positive for coronavirus in Alexandria City Public Schools,” Hutchings said. “This is a situation that continues to evolve, and we’re in constant communication with the health department.”
The city reported its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus on Wednesday night. Nearby, the coronavirus has prompted Loudoun County Schools to close from March 12-20. Students in Alexandria are currently being provided with disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, and school buses are being disinfected twice a day, according to Hutchings.
Hutchings said that the school system is working on a continuity plan and what shutting down the school system would entail. That includes how a meal program for students on free and reduced lunches would be conducted.
“This situation is not going to be over tomorrow, this is going to be a long haul,” he said. “This is going to require an indefinite amount of time to really resolve and we are not in a situation where we have been recommended or required to close our schools and to move into an online distance learning kind of service.”
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted Thursday morning that city administrators are making “decisions without precedent.”
Please remember: There are dedicated public administrators at every level of government who are right now making decisions without precedent.
They are using the best facts they have and with the knowledge that they will impact many, including those most important to them.
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) March 12, 2020
In case the school system does shut down, Hutchings said it would provide some households with computers and information on discounting their monthly internet service. He added, however, that in the event of a shutdown, students would not be primarily learning online.
“We do not want our kids on a screen all day doing instructional work,” Hutchings said. “If we were put into a situation where we had to close our schools, we still want our students to have an educational experience outside of the classroom. That is going to require us to provide our families with hard copies of learning activities.”
Hutchings added, “And these are learning activities and not lessons, because this is not new information that we’re going to expect someone in the household to teach our young people if we happen to close our schools, but it is more so enrichment activities. It is extension activities of work that they’ve already been exposed to in their classrooms, as well as different, engaging opportunities for them just to keep their learning experience viable and engaged.”
Looking ahead, spring break in Alexandria is April 6-13, and Hutchings said there are no plans, so far, to push back graduation in June for T.C. Williams High School seniors.