ACPS announces Virtual Academy, will open to 4-days a week for special needs students

While Alexandria City Public Schools plans on reducing distancing to three feet in classrooms on April 26, the school system will also reopen to four days a week of in-person instruction for students in the citywide special needs program.

Additionally, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. has announced that the VirtualPLUS+ hybrid learning model will come to a close. In its place will be an ACPS “Virtual Academy”.

Since the pandemic began, 16,000 ACPS students have alternated between completely virtual and two days per week of hybrid instruction. Hutchings said that families will have to fill out a survey next month on whether they want their kids to attend school virtually or in-person, and that the virtual students will be taught by teachers who will have to be hired.

“This survey is going to be for our planning purposes,” Hutchings said in a Zoom chat Thursday. “We’re going to have to determine how many teachers there will need to be, if we’re going to have to hire virtual teachers. We have to begin to hire them now… because there will be no teachers available to hire in August. So we are trying to ensure that we give ourselves enough planning time so that we can be prepared for the fall and have a very efficient, smooth and effective opening.”

Hutchings continued, “Now two separate pathways, when we’re talking about the fall, students will either be in-person, five days a week, or they’ll be virtual five days a week, (with) no overlap or hybrid of the two.”

Hutchings said he hopes to have a date on when that will happen at tonight’s School Board meeting.

I’m hoping to have an exact day tonight,” Hutchings. “Our specialized instructional team has been working on this specific day for this to start. We’re working through those logistics.”

Additionally, any hybrid learning students who have not attended in-person instruction by April 13 will be automatically considered virtual students, according to a staff presentation.

Meanwhile, the school system is working out a plan to keep six-foot distance requirements in lunchrooms, and Hutchings said that lunch plans will be released next week.

“We do not have a division-wide solution (for lunch) because every school has a different size campus, they have different spaces, they have different spaces being occupied, they have different staff members,” he said. “We wanted schools to have the autonomy to be able to work through their solution as a team, which they have done, and they will be released for every school next week.”

ACPS is also working with the Alexandria Health Department on a plan for school playgrounds. That plan currently includes:

  • Strict hand washing or sanitizing before and after recess
  • A recess zone schedule, which includes the playground area as a zone, must be followed for contact tracing measures
  • Students must maintain a minimum of 6 feet from others while playing due to increased exhalation
  • A sanitation plan for cleaning the equipment daily is in place at all school locations
  • Others outside of ACPS are prohibited from using the playgrounds during school hours

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