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ACPS Faces Reopening With Around Half of Staff Still Unwilling to Return

As of late November, a little under half of ACPS’ staff said they are unwilling to return to work.

Stephen Wilkins, chief of staff for ACPS, said at a School Board meeting last Thursday that 45% of ACPS staff reported an inability to return in a survey sent out in late November. The highest reason — 43% of those who said they would not return — said it was due to fear and anxiety, while 29% said it was because of underlying medical conditions.

“Since that time, in just a few days, the work environment change dramatically,” Wilkins said. “We have a vaccine on the way, and access to rapid testing improved, while at the same time we face a rise in cases and are headed into the flu season. This is a very dynamic situation.”

Michael Carson, Director of Employee Engagement and Relations, said that ACPS would be working on providing “wellness” opportunities for employees worried about the pandemic-related stress of returning to work, including virtual emotional support meetings. Carson said ACPS was planning on addressing these issues as “health factors” because they can be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Currently, ACPS is planning to begin phasing students back into classrooms in January. The phased reentry to schools is scheduled to start on Jan. 19, when students with disabilities in grades K-2 return to in-person special education programs. In January and February, students would return to classrooms on an opt-in basis.

Throughout the rest of the month and February, phased entry would continue with:

  • Jan. 26: Additional students with disabilities in grades 3-5 and expanded students with disabilities numbers for grades K-5, early childhood special education students, and English learners in grades K-5.
  • Feb. 2: Students with disabilities in grades 6-12 and English learners in grades 6-12.
  • Feb. 9: All students in grades PreK-5
  • Feb. 16: All students in grades PreK-12

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings warned that the plan is still subject to changed base on the course of the virus and urged everyone involved to remain patient.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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