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ACPS looking for more space this fall, opening 4-day instruction for special needs students in early May

Alexandria City Public Schools will open to four days of in-person instruction starting the first week of May, according to ACPS staff.

There are 1,700+ special needs students in ACPS, and only a fraction of those students who require services in specialized citywide programs will return four days a week, according to ACPS.

“Of the 275 students in this group, 125 have opted to return to in-person learning, while about 150 have opted to remain virtual,” ACPS told ALXnow in an email. “Please note that even from an entire system perspective, not all families of students with disabilities elected in-person instruction at this time.”

All other students will have to deal with two days per week for the remainder of the year, as the school system adjusts from six feet to three feet distancing in classrooms, which starts on Monday, April 26.

“This is an effort that requires collaboration, a lot of time, tireless hours, and a lot of hard work and dedication,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchigns, Jr. told the School Board on Thursday night. “We are transitioning to three feet beginning next week, and this is so that we can accommodate more students into our classrooms. The goal of us having a two days per week is because we really want to be able to provide our families and as many families as we possibly can with option of having some form of in- person learning.”

Since the pandemic began, 16,000 ACPS students have alternated between completely virtual and two days per week of hybrid instruction. In the meantime, neighboring Fairfax County Public Schools are operating four days per week of in-person instruction, and Falls Church City Public Schools expanded in-person offerings to five days a week.

Alicia Hart, the ACPS director of educational facilities, said that learning space is an issue, as the school system is looking on expanding in-person offerings to four days a week for summer school and five days a week this fall.

“We are also looking into the feasibility of installing mobile classrooms at select sites,” Hart told the Board. “Ultimately, this will be based on available land space as well as compliance with zoning regulations. It is important to share that mobile classroom manufacturing and delivery is tracking months out and is currently at an October 2021 eta. The team and I continue to investigate options for lease space as well.”

Hutchings said families will have to complete a survey next month on whether they want their kids to attend school virtually or in-person. ACPS will also have to hire new staff to teach virtual-only students in the recently announced Virtual Academy.

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