Staffing issues kept Alexandria City Public Schools from expanding in-person learning this week, as young special education students were told Tuesday that they wouldn’t be able to go back to school as scheduled.

Families received a note from ACPS on Tuesday morning stating that school for students with disabilities in grades 3-5 and who are in the citywide Special Education program would need to stay home.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to return students in the (grades) 3-5 program as part of our targeted date of November 17, as the superintendent has said that all of our plans are contingent upon staffing and building capacity issues,” Terry Werner, the ACPS executive director of specialized instruction told parents in a Zoom call on Wednesday night. “We ran into some issues around staffing and we were not able to staff classes to bring students back from our next phase of students are scheduled to return on 30th.”

Werner spoke with concerned parents with the ACPS Special Education Advisory Committee. Parents said that communication issues were the biggest problem with the school system.

ACPS reopened schools to kindergarten through second graders with disabilities at  Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 International Baccalaureate School on November 5. There are more than 60 students eligible to return to in-person instruction, but the school system only brought in six students.

“Nowhere has there been communication that you know only six students were able out of 60 were able to return,” one parent said at the SEAC meeting. ” I think we have a communication problem with parents.”

Werner said she has been working 14 hour days on the phone trying to convince staff to come back, and that ACPS still plans to reopen schools to early childhood special education students in grades K-5 on Nov. 30.

Additionally, ACPS is still working with this general timeline:

  • November 30: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades K-5 who receive self-contained Language Arts and Math instruction who opt into in-person learning
  • December 2020: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades 6-8 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning
  • January 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades PreK-5 who opt into in-person learning
  • February 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades 6-8 who opt into in-person learning

“We’re still trying to determine if we have teachers,” Werner said. “I have people from one day to the next say, ‘I’m not coming back.'”

Werner said that families should receive a family choice form on Dec. 2, and that the results of a staff “Intent to Return” form will be available for discussion at a School Board meeting on Monday.

Photo via ACPS

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