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Growing Pains: ACPS and Families Adapting to Virtual School Year

It hasn’t been an easy start to the 2020-2021 school year in Alexandria, and parents should expect the Alexandria City Public Schools system to make frequent changes to its VirtualPLUS+ program.

“I can feel everybody’s anxiety and pain, growing pains, as we make it through this,” ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the School Board at last Thursday’s meeting. “I can totally feel and understand your pain.”

Parents of younger kids say they are de-facto teacher’s assistants, and that requiring kids to sit through more than six hours of daily screen time is excessive.

“We’re concerned about the structure of this for our youngest learners,” a parent of an ACPS kindergartener told ALXnow. “It seems to be an extreme amount of screen time — 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is an extreme amount of time for a kindergartener. The lack of flexibility puts strain on working parents.”

ACPS will send out a survey to parents on Friday to rate their experience so far this year. Hutchings said that the school system will hold off on making division-wide changes to VirtualPLUS+ after receiving feedback from the community.

“There will be adjustments that are made based on concerns that families are having right now,” Hutchings said. “The division-wide expectations or refinements, they won’t be happening until after we get a clear idea of what is working after three weeks of VirtualPLUS+.”

Hutchings also said that attendance has been high, with 93% of students checking into online classes, and that attendance tracking won’t completely be in order until the end of the month.

“It’s not just something that’s because of COVID-19,” he said. “This is a typical situation for us that our data doesn’t really look clear in regards to attendance and making sure all the right students are in our system until the end of September.”

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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