Alexandria, VA

Most of Alexandria’s students will not be going back to in-person schooling, but many parents likely will be going back to work, which leaves some local parents figuring out how to provide care for their children during the day.

As part of the Virtual PLUS+ program approved by the School Board, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has committed to providing child care for families in need. Following on the way programs were handled this summer, that could entail prioritizing spots to families most in need.

“We talk about our most vulnerable families, we’re talking specifically about families that have jobs and their livelihood can be impacted if they don’t have the necessary child-care options,” said Superintendent Gregory Hutchings at a School Board meeting on Aug. 7. “Many of the criteria [this summer] was families most in need of these services were afforded that option first, and if there were opportunities or spots available they were opened to members of our community.”

Hutchings said they were looking specifically at students with special needs, english learners, and students performing below reading level or grade level. Beyond childcare, Hutchings said those were the being considered for additional virtual supports.

With 30-40 partnering organizations on the table, however, there was some concern about getting parents connected to whichever programs might be best suited for them in time for

“I am kind of concerned, once we figure out what those needs are, how will we be able to connect families with community partners,” said school board member Heather Thornton.  “[That] seems like a logistical challenge.”

School administrators said they’re working to address that issue, but the clock is ticking. ACPS was one of the last systems in the region to announce back to school plans and school is scheduled to restart in less than one month, on Sept. 8.

“That’s all in-progress,” said Kurt Huffman, executive director of community partnerships and engagement for ACPS. “We’re turning over every stone to make sure we’re serving the most needy families and that it’s free or affordable for everybody to take advantage of.”

Huffman said school officials have been meeting in “think tanks” with potential child care providers to discuss issues such as limitations or safety concerns.

“I could list off 30-40 incredible partners who have already said ‘we will pivot as needed to help whoever we can, however we can,'” Huffman said. “There are still plenty of questions to be answered but rest assured, we’re continuing to lay everything on the table as we look innovatively to support our families and students with the highest level of collaboration.”

Top photo by Jay Westcott, slide via ACPS

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