Alexandria, VA

Fall 2020 is going to be an unusual start to the school year for all involved, but ACPS is taking some special precautions to help guide parents and students who have the additional challenge of being new to schools.

Within the Virtual+ model ACPS is pursuing, some specific measures are aimed at the school system’s new Pre-K and Kindergarten families.

For starters, the usual kindergarten prep is being replaced with what ACPS staff described as “kindergarten kickoff.”

“All kindergarten teachers who typically do K-prep are going to be making phone calls and having zoom meetings with families that have signed up for kindergarten,” staff said at a School Board meeting last Friday. “They have quesitons we’re going to ask them, like ‘does your child know their colors’ and ‘have they ever had a vision and hearing screening’ to plan for them.”

Once class lists are assigned, staff said teachers will be calling families individually to welcome them. Teachers will also be available to speak with parents during office hours.

“We’re hopeful we’re able to work this out,” staff said.

The plans for how to proceed with early childhood education recognize a common refrain school administrators have said throughout the planning process: that the online learning program is a necessity that does not reflect the best way to educate children.

“Young children benefit from positive adult-child interactions, a predictable routine, and a play-based approach to learning,” ACPS said in its Virtual+ guidelines. “Teachers support children’s learning through differentiation of instruction and by addressing students’ strengths and needs through flexible grouping, support for social-emotional and self-regulation skills, Guided Language Acquisition Development strategies (PreK-GLAD), and one-on-one instruction.”

The Virtual+ model outlined how Kindergarten and Pre-K instructors are expected to handle instruction without being able to communicate with students in-person.

“Evidence-based instructional practices will include actionable feedback, non-linguistic representations, cooperative learning, and work samples,” ACPS said. “Pictures, visuals, real objects, and physical movement will be embedded into the learning. Learning will be synchronous and asynchronous, and access to these opportunities will be facilitated by the district’s provision of tablets for each of our youngest learners. Preschool families will receive a choice board activity packet and materials kit to support and supplement teacher instruction.”

ACPS also announced as part of the changes to Pre-K care, the school system will also expand its technological distribution services to:

  • Ensure each student has a device issued to them, and that these devices will work on private and public as well as school Wi-Fi when available and if needed due to special circumstances ACPS supplied hotspot.
  • Provide PreK through 1st grade students tablets and 2nd grade through 12th grade students with chromebooks.
  • Select a central facility to streamline activities and serve as our main storage and distribution hub. Other satellite and pop-up sites will be made available for support.
  • Provide Wi-Fi and Internet Access so that families have the access that they need.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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