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In a release to parents and staff put out today (Sunday), Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said everyone in Alexandria schools will still be required to wear a mask despite an order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to the contrary.

The state executive order came as a result of a back and forth between Virginia Democrats and Republicans over requiring masks in schools. Both Arlington and Fairfax County have issued similar messages to parents and staff.

ACPS and other school districts’ legal authority to defy the state order is still in question.

The full release from ACPS is listed below:

Dear ACPS Staff & Families,

We hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Tuesday.

We want to address any questions or concerns about whether masks will continue to be worn in our schools in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses.

Masks, combined with multiple other ACPS mitigation measures, have been effective in helping to protect the collective health and safety of our students and staff and keep our schools open for in-person learning. This continues to be our commitment as we grapple with the challenges that this pandemic has posed for our schools.

We have begun to receive shipments of KN95 masks for students and staff, and expect deliveries to be completed by Wed., Jan. 19. ACPS will continue to be diligent in exploring all options to place additional orders for the KN95 masks and continue to work with a community partner to secure additional masks through a donation. We have also delivered additional surgical masks to schools for double-masking as an alternative option.

Thank you for all you do to help keep our schools safe and open! For up-to-date information about ACPS’ health and safety guidelines, please visit www.acps.k12.va.us/domain/1607.

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(Updated at noon, Jan. 12) In the midst of declining enrollment, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wants to give all ACPS employees a raise.

That’s the gist of Hutchings’ $346 million fiscal year 2022 Combined Funds Budget, which he presented to the School Board last Thursday night (Jan. 6). The proposal is a nearly 4% increase over last year’s budget, and asks for approximately $248.7 million from the city. The City Council ultimately provides ACPS with 80% of its operating fund.

Hutchings is asking for a 2.6% salary step increase and a 2.5% market rate adjustment for all eligible ACPS employees. The school system is also continually adapting to the pandemic, as exponentially rising case numbers recently prompted the School Board plans on reverting to virtual formats on a school-by-school basis.

“Enrollment is projected to continue to decline,” noted a staff presentation to the School Board. “FY 2023 Operating Budget proposes maintaining school staff to provide continued supports due to effects of Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Systemwide, ACPS enrollment fell 3% (474 students) between summer 2020 and now (fiscal years 2021 and 2022) — a challenging period of the pandemic after more than 16,000 students transitioned to fully virtual, hybrid and then in-person learning. The school system now projects an increase of only nine students at the beginning of FY 2023 in July.

“This budget is aligned with the priorities set by the School Board for the 2022-23 school year,” Hutchings said in a press release. “It provides the support our students and staff need to succeed and mirrors our core values that ensure ACPS is empowering, equity-focused, innovative and results-driven.”

The school system is not alone in wanting raises for staff, as the Alexandria Fire Department and Police Department are also struggling with retention and Mayor Justin Wilson says the city needs to do more with less in the days ahead.

ACPS will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget on Jan. 21. The School Board is expected to pass it (with revisions) on Feb. 18, and then go to City Council for deliberation until it passes the city’s budget in early May.

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Alexandria School Board members say they want to keep in-person instruction going, but amidst a surge in Covid cases the Alexandria City Public Schools system now has an official plan to revert to virtual learning on a school-by-school basis.

“There may be cases in the future where we have to transition into a virtual learning setting due to that and we want to just prepare for that,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., told the Board Thursday night.

The ACPS Protocol for Transitioning to Virtual Instruction is a roadmap for how schools will operate based on COVID infections within a particular school. Like stoplights, the plan is broken up into three zones — green for in-person instruction; yellow for the consideration to transition to virtual learning; and the full-blown transition to virtual learning.

More than 15,000 ACPS students haven’t been back to school since Friday, Dec. 17. This week’s snowstorm prompted ACPS to take immediate action by reverting to virtual learning, like a test run in case schools have to do the same thing because of a rise in Covid infections.

“The decision to transition temporarily to virtual learning will be made after careful consideration of the factors that impact instruction and operations at each school on a daily basis as conditions warrant,” ACPS said. “Note that regardless of the instructional plan, all students will bring home their devices at the end of every school day.”

With Covid numbers surging since Thanksgiving, the Health Department expected cases to rise again after the winter break. That break was extended, so to speak, after in-person classes were switched to virtual all week after Monday’s snowstorm. Just prior to the winter break, 174 reported cases within the school system in December alone. There have been 411 positive cases reported within ACPS since school began in August.

“I strongly believe that it is of the utmost importance to keep our schools open for in-person learning,” Vice Chair Jacinta Greene told ACPS staff at the meeting. “But there are segments of our community that are truly afraid right now to send their their kids to school. And many we’re not going to send them back this week. You know, had we not had snow they weren’t going to send the kids back because of the extreme surge and Omicron cases.”

Greene asked about the possibility of hybrid learning (both virtual and in-person instruction) for families who are concerned about exposing their children by sending them back to school. Hutchings said that the hybrid model, which ACPS used in the fall of 2020, was not successful.

“The hybrid model, it was just not the best practice,” Hutchings said. “It was not providing for our students who are home, a lot of times (teachers) couldn’t engage with the students who were in class.”

ACPS also reported to the Board that, upon returning to school, all students and staff will get brand new N95 surgical masks.

“I am so exhausted by Covid,” said Board Chair Meagan Alderton. “I just look forward to this being over. I can’t emphasize enough the effect that this has had on our education system. It’s almost dumbfounding at times. I feel like I don’t have words anymore, but I just appreciate everyone for digging in. I appreciate families as well. The uncertainty causes a lot of anxiety, and you know the more that we are all in this together the end will come hopefully sooner rather than later.”

The full ACPS description of the plan is below the jump.

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As it turns out, Wednesday was the last day this week kids would return to Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) as both students and teachers get their snow day.

At 5 p.m. today (Thursday), ACPS announced that school would be fully closed on Friday. All activities in school or on school grounds are canceled, and ACPS officials told ALXnow that there won’t be virtual school tomorrow either.

The closure comes ahead of anticipated snow tonight.

Students had today off as well for a work-day with faculty and staff, but most staff will have tomorrow off.

“All essential personnel, including building engineers, custodians, maintenance shop employees and security staff must still report if safe to do so,” ACPS said on its website.

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Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has announced that school is canceled for tomorrow (Thursday) after three days of virtual learning to allow for a virtual workday.

Classes were held online Monday, Tuesday and today as the city continues to recover from Monday’s snowstorm and as the city goes through a resurgence of COVID-19. Extracurricular activities are also canceled.

ACPS announced the decision at 7 p.m. today (Wednesday).

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With the pandemic and snow prompting a completely virtual ceremony, the new Alexandria School Board was sworn into office on Tuesday (Jan. 4).

Board Chair Meagan Alderton was also unanimously reelected by her colleagues to serve as leader for another year, and Member Jacinta Greene was named vice chair.

“I am looking forward to another fun ride with you all this coming year,” Alderton told the new Board. “I really appreciate the support, and I definitely will always hope to never let you guys down.”

After a tough term overshadowed by COVID-19, only three members sought reelection in November — Alderton (District C), Greene and Michelle Rief (both in District A).

“Thank you for your everyone for your vote of confidence in me in this role, and I will to the best of my ability wholeheartedly serve you as vice chair,” Greene told her colleagues.

Also in District A, former City Councilman Willie F. Bailey took the oath. In District B, Ashley Simpson BairdTammy S. Ignacio and former School Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz were sworn in, as were Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi and Christopher Harris representing District C.

The School Board’s next meeting is on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Via Zoom

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For the third day in a row, in-person school is canceled and Alexandria students will be expected to attend virtual classes.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said ongoing icy conditions are to blame for the cancellation of in-person classes.

Schools were virtual on Monday during the winter storm and again today, though these plans were frustrated in part by widespread internet outages — and some bemoaned the end of the snow day.

Around 95% of the city’s arterial roads are passable, according to the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, and nearly 65% of the secondary streets are passable. As of Tuesday afternoon, plow trucks were starting to work through residential streets.

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Due to Monday’s snowstorm and rising COVID infections, the induction ceremony for new members of the Alexandria City Council has shifted to a virtual-only format. The School Board’s induction ceremony has been moved to a larger building for distancing.

Mayor Justin Wilson, who is stuck in Spain after contracting COVID, will be sworn in with City Council at 6 p.m. on Zoom. Councilman-elect Kirk McPike also recently tested positive for COVID and is isolating at home.

The new Council will be made up of Wilson, McPike, Sarah Bagley, Alyia Gaskins, and incumbents Amy Jackson, John Taylor Chapman and Canek Aguirre. Council is then expected to elect Jackson as vice mayor, since she received the most votes among council candidates in the November election.

A recording of the installation will also be available on Tuesday (Jan. 4) and on Cable Channel 70/1084.

Additionally, newly elected Sheriff Sean Casey was officially sworn in last week, and his new portrait and biography have been uploaded to the Sheriff’s Office website.

School Board installation

(Left to right) Blaine Jackson, Alexandria Vice Mayor-elect Amy Jackson, School Board Member Michelle Rief and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. at the 50th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria School Board’s induction ceremony will be virtual-only at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Jan. 4).

According to Alexandria City Public Schools:

The Alexandria City School Board Induction Ceremony and Organizational Meeting on Tues., Jan. 4, 2022, has been moved to the School Board Meeting Room located at 1340 Braddock Place, at 6:30 p.m., in order to limit the number of people in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) buildings. We will follow the current COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place in the School Board Meeting Room which include occupancy limits.

The ceremony can be seen on Zoom, and will be available on the Alexandria City Public Schools website.

The new Board will be made up of Chair Meagan Alderton, Tammy S. Ignacio, Chris Harris, Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi, Willie F. Bailey, Ashley Simpson Baird, Kelly Carmichael Booz and incumbents Jacinta Greene and Michelle Rief.

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Today (Monday) marked a return to virutal learning due to a severe snow storm, and with many roads still dangerous or impassable, Alexandria City Public Schools has announced that tomorrow will be a virtual day as well.

ACPS announced late last year that snow days might be a thing of the past after the school division became relatively proficient in virtual learning — a necessity caused by COVID-19.

Even as crews work to recover from today’s heavy snowfall, it’s expected to snow again Thursday evening.

The full ACPS press release is below:

Due to winter weather conditions, all ACPS schools and offices will be closed for in-person learning and activities on Tues., Jan 4, 2022. Per our previous communications to families on winter weather decisions, schools will implement virtual learning on Tues., Jan. 4, 2022.

Class times will include virtual teacher-led office hours and asynchronous instruction times. Asynchronous learning happens when students learn the same material but at different times and locations without live instruction.

Please see https://www.acps.k12.va.us/weather for updates, details and answers to frequently asked questions. Students should have their computers/learning devices at home with them. Attendance will be taken through logging into Clever and Canvas. No new content will be taught and grades should not be assigned on virtual learning days.

Elementary School Students: Virtual learning at the elementary level is intended to keep students engaged academically when inclement weather prevents in-person learning. Time on task with the curriculum-based apps and computer-adaptive programs that students access routinely at school is the primary means of providing a meaningful virtual experience on snow and inclement weather days. Although there will be no delivery of new content, students will be able to devote time to completion of projects and assignments already in progress as posted on Canvas and Clever.Teachers will host office hours ranging from 30 to 60 minutes at the beginning of each day. We do not expect students to operate on a time schedule, but aim for two hours of asynchronous learning in grades Pre-K – 1 and up to four hours in grades 2 – 5.

Middle School Students: Each middle school will follow its normal schedule in regard to asynchronous work completion and specific teacher office hours. The blocks of time will be asynchronous with teachers being available during each block they teach for office hours and student support during the first 45 minutes of each class. Students may access the zoom link for office hours from each teacher’s Canvas page.  Elective teachers who have daily classes will be available for office hours for the first 20 minutes of each class. Advisory teachers will be available during the first 15 minutes of the advisory period to assist students with questions and organization.

High School Students: The high school will follow its normal schedule. The blocks of time will be asynchronous with teachers being available during each block they teach for office hours and student support. During these timeframes, students will work on assignments posted on Canvas. The work will be done asynchronously and the “amount” of work should not exceed the length of the traditional class period. The teacher will be available for at least 45 mins during each period for office hours to assist students.

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Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will be closed for in-person instruction tomorrow (Monday) with classes shifted to virtual learning.

With a winter storm warning in effect for tomorrow from 1 a.m.-4 p.m., ACPS announced at 6 p.m. on Sunday that Monday would be a virtual learning day.

It’s the fulfillment of warnings that snow days — as a reprieve from schoolwork — could be a thing of the past for students in ACPS.

On Mon., Jan. 3, 2022, all ACPS schools and offices will be closed for in-person learning & activities,” ACPS said on its website. ACPS schools will provide virtual learning on Jan. 3, 2022.”

ACPS has guidance for parents on the school system’s website for how to handle virtual learning days. No new content is taught on virtual learning days are not assigned, but attendance is taken.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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