Alexandria, VA

The COVID-19 shutdown has brought an early summer slide to Alexandria City Public School students.

On Friday, the School Board discussed the issue in its first online meeting since canceling all in-person meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed the school system until April 14.

“I know we’re probably all concerned this is a whole new definition of summer slide that many of our lower-income kids are going to be experiencing,” School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said, and asked if any additional outreach could be made to children in lower-income families.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that ACPS, during the month-long COVID-19 system-wide shutdown, is legally prohibited from grading any work or providing new learning material to students. Every elementary school student was given instructional packets to take home, and students in grades 3-12 went home with Chromebook laptops.

“It is definitely important for all of us to know that summer slide is real,” Hutchings said. “And it’s not just for our students who are low income, but all of our students at this time, because we are not able to provide any new information to students right now.”

Hutchings said he is planning on opening schools back up after spring break ends on April 13, although the nature of the coronavirus has resulted in historic shutdowns throughout the area.

“Right now we are planning on opening on April 13, but we do have a continuation plan if we are ordered by either the governor or the Virginia Department of Education to keep our schools closed past that date,” Hutchings said. “We’re working on a plan if we were to have to do that and what that would look like.”

There are more than 15,700 students in ACPS, which is releasing staff updates at noon every day and notices to families every day at 1 p.m. in ACPS Express. Hutchings also hosts a daily webinar at 3 p.m. during the week.

Hutchings and other superintendents from around Virginia are meeting online once a week with James Lane, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Discussion topics include getting waivers for students to account for time lost in the classroom and what happens if school is closed for the rest of the year.

“That is our question every week, ‘So what do we do if schools remain closed through the end of the school year? How do we get that time back in regards to instructional time for our students?'” Hutchings told the board. “And then what does that look like? Are we going to have waivers for our schools for July versus September or August?”

The school system has also provided educators with instructional suggestions, and to constantly connect online with students to make sure they are thinking academically.

“We have a conference with the teachers once a week,” a T.C. student told ALXnow. “The work takes like four hours a day, normally. Most people are doing the work, because you will be very behind next year if you don’t… I do like two-thirds of it.”

School Board Member Meagan Alderton asked about erecting signs outside of schools, since receiving an email she received from a parent about a packed playground at Matthew Maury Elementary School.

“The email was about looking across the street and seeing tons of kids and tons of people playing on the playground together,” Alderton said. “Can we do something about that? Can we put some notices up to support this notion that we are social distancing, so lets please not convene 20 on the playground at our school?”

ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony said that signs will soon be erected warning people to not congregate. All ACPS playgrounds and facilities are officially closed to the public.

On food distribution, Hutchings said that staff are finalizing the details on a mobile pop-up, which will provide for people who can’t make it to the other food distribution locations. He also said that staff will soon have a multilingual phone hotline for parents with questions about receiving food.

The entire meeting is below.

Image via ACPS

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