Alexandria, VA

Alexandria City Public Schools promised a group of students inquiring about the upcoming school year that the new format will be smoother and more accessible than the spring and summer classes, whether that’s online-only or a hybrid model.

In a virtual Q&A session, school administrators spoke to elementary, middle and high schoolers about what they can expect in the upcoming school year.

Many of the questions focused around the day to day, like the inclusion of recess in the schedule or how lunches will operate. Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for ACPS, said that the

“If we go online, we would do something like dance or yoga, so you can still engage in physical online activity,” Mozingo said.

Mozingo also emphasized in the Q&A session that the schools are working to develop some way of setting students up students to be able to converse in small groups easily.

For the school system, however, there are still lingering questions about the logistics of how any potential in-person school system can operate. In an in-person school scenario, students would dine without masks in their cafeterias, but Superintendent Gregory Hutchings noted that some school facilities were already crowded before the six-feet of separation requirement.

The answer to this could be bringing students to school on a rotating schedule. Under this scenario, administrators said Monday would be a workday form home, while one group of students would go to in-person school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays while the others do asynchronous learning at home. The groups would switch off on Thursday and Friday.

“It is not possible for everyone to be back at one time,” Hutchings said. “Many of our schools a little overcrowded already, would not be in our best interest to bring everybody back at once.”

This reduces, but would not eliminate, the challenge of social distancing in the school. School buses, for instance, will require one student per seat with students in every other row, reducing buses to one-quarter of their usual capacity.

ACPS staff told ALXnow they are keenly aware of those problems.

“The logistics around transportation, the size of our classrooms and movement within our facilities are indeed challenging,” said Helen Lloyd, the ACPS director of communications. “These are all areas being considered by the Cross-functional Planning Teams that are working right now on drawing up plans for the fall.”

Some of the students who spoke with administrators had their own concerns about the online side of classes, citing challenges in the spring and summer classes and limited options to speak with teachers or other students. Mozingo said more time for teachers to be available to students is being worked into the schedules.

“What you might have experienced this summer will be very different in terms of 4.0 and that instructional plan,” Mozingo said.

On Friday, Lloyd said ACPS will announce whether there will be any in-person classes in the fall.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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