Fall 2020 is going to be an unusual start to the school year for all involved, but ACPS is taking some special precautions to help guide parents and students who have the additional challenge of being new to schools.
Within the Virtual+ model ACPS is pursuing, some specific measures are aimed at the school system’s new Pre-K and Kindergarten families.
For starters, the usual kindergarten prep is being replaced with what ACPS staff described as “kindergarten kickoff.”
“All kindergarten teachers who typically do K-prep are going to be making phone calls and having zoom meetings with families that have signed up for kindergarten,” staff said at a School Board meeting last Friday. “They have quesitons we’re going to ask them, like ‘does your child know their colors’ and ‘have they ever had a vision and hearing screening’ to plan for them.”
Once class lists are assigned, staff said teachers will be calling families individually to welcome them. Teachers will also be available to speak with parents during office hours.
“We’re hopeful we’re able to work this out,” staff said.
The plans for how to proceed with early childhood education recognize a common refrain school administrators have said throughout the planning process: that the online learning program is a necessity that does not reflect the best way to educate children.
“Young children benefit from positive adult-child interactions, a predictable routine, and a play-based approach to learning,” ACPS said in its Virtual+ guidelines. “Teachers support children’s learning through differentiation of instruction and by addressing students’ strengths and needs through flexible grouping, support for social-emotional and self-regulation skills, Guided Language Acquisition Development strategies (PreK-GLAD), and one-on-one instruction.”
The Virtual+ model outlined how Kindergarten and Pre-K instructors are expected to handle instruction without being able to communicate with students in-person.
“Evidence-based instructional practices will include actionable feedback, non-linguistic representations, cooperative learning, and work samples,” ACPS said. “Pictures, visuals, real objects, and physical movement will be embedded into the learning. Learning will be synchronous and asynchronous, and access to these opportunities will be facilitated by the district’s provision of tablets for each of our youngest learners. Preschool families will receive a choice board activity packet and materials kit to support and supplement teacher instruction.”
ACPS also announced as part of the changes to Pre-K care, the school system will also expand its technological distribution services to:
- Ensure each student has a device issued to them, and that these devices will work on private and public as well as school Wi-Fi when available and if needed due to special circumstances ACPS supplied hotspot.
- Provide PreK through 1st grade students tablets and 2nd grade through 12th grade students with chromebooks.
- Select a central facility to streamline activities and serve as our main storage and distribution hub. Other satellite and pop-up sites will be made available for support.
- Provide Wi-Fi and Internet Access so that families have the access that they need.
Photo via ACPS/Facebook
Updated 9:30 p.m. — A UMDGC representative noted that the program is available for staff, not for residents. The article and headline have been updated
Alexandria senior care facility Goodwin House — a non-profit organization offering housing for seniors — has announced a new partnership with the University of Maryland Global Campus that will allow staff and their families access to affordable college degrees.
“The alliance brings together [University of Maryland’s] pioneering online degree programs and commitment to low cost, accessible higher education and [Goodwin House’s] commitment to expand support for staff who want to grow their skills and credentials,” Goodwin House said in a press release.
Goodwin House manages two locations: one in Alexandria’s West End at 4800 Fillmore Ave and one at Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax County.
The partnership is the first of its kind for UMDGC. The program will allow the nearly 1,000 employees at Goodwin House, along with their spouses and dependents, to waive the university’s application fee and take classes at discounted tuition rates.
“Goodwin House’s mission focuses on older adults and also on those who support their success – our employees,” said Rob Liebreich, President and CEO of Goodwin House, in the press release. “As part of our growing dedication to our staff to enhance their skills, we are ecstatic to align with the world-renowned University of Maryland Global Campus and make online college education more affordable for our staff.”
The classes will be available entirely online, UMD said, with discounts on digital resources.
Photo courtesy Goodwin House
After some initial confusion on whether students would be required to participate in the upcoming summer school program, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) clarified in a School Board meeting last Friday that the summer learning program is “expected but not mandatory.”
School officials said they hoped to clear the air and emphasize the flexibility of the program. Gerald Mann, executive director of elementary and secondary instruction, said families traveling over the summer or students who tend to not wake up in the morning over summer can still be accommodated in the new schedule.
“The summer program lets people do this wherever they like,” Mann said. “We’ve tried to make one-stop-shop. If you [to participate] later on do not want to start at 9 a.m., you can start at 9 p.m. All videos will be recorded.”
Mann said the emphasis on choice means families will be able to choose what types of classes students can opt-out of. The schools will also be offering to mail learning kits to homes with materials like science experiments of books.
A summer education program that would be available to all students has been a goal under Superintendent Gregory Hutchings a few years, Mann said, but the pandemic has finally given the schools the opportunity to try to implement that.
Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for ACPS, said the goal is to get students who have been out of school for months even before summer started to be ready to move to the next grade level.
“[The goal is] to engage, to enrich, and prepare the students,” said Mozingo. “We’re trying to mitigate and minimize summer loss and getting students to grade-level content.”
So far, 495 families have opted out of the program. While the School Board agreed with the goals of the program, there were still some lingering concerns about the implementation.
“Unless people are digging into the Q&A, I’m sure there are a lot of questions out there,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “At the beginning of most years, families receive a letter, but this process is different. I’m concerned if there’s going to be individual, tailored outreach.”
Hutchings said the idea behind making the default an opt-in was making sure no families that wanted to join were left out and figured that the new system would be easier to manage. Mann added that having students be automatically included would help give a better idea of how many students would be in classes.
Hutchings acknowledged that the rollout of the program could have been done better and that one of the lessons learned is that if school staff need more time to put the program together they should tell the community.
Mann also noted that the new summer program includes no longer charging for course credit recovery for students.
Photo via ACPS/Facebook
Alexandria City Public Schools are closed for the remainder of the school year.
Governor Ralph Northam made the announcement on Monday, effectively closing all public schools in Virginia.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that he and his team need a few days to finalize a continuation plan for students.
“Tomorrow, we are expecting more guidance from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) around graduation requirements, high school credits, Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, and how to move forward with continuity of learning that meet Special Education requirements,” Hutchings said in his daily 3 p.m. video announcement.
Hutchings added, “Once this information is released from the VDOE, we will begin to share our refined plan for the extended school closures with our families and staff.”
Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted that the move is “heartbreaking as it is expected.”
The announcement by the @GovernorVA this afternoon that our schools will not be reopening this school year is as heartbreaking as it is expected.
We ALL have work to do now to ensure the health and welfare of our kids during this vulnerable and sad period of their young lives.
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) March 23, 2020
There are more than 15,700 students in ACPS, which is releasing staff updates at noon every day and notices to families every day at 1 p.m. in ACPS Express. Student attendance is not being tracked during the shutdown, and teachers are legally prohibited from grading any work or providing new learning material to students.
There are currently six positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria.
“I can’t say I’m shocked because I knew it was gonna happen,” said a student at T.C. Williams High School. “It’s crazy to think about. I feel bad for the seniors because they’re missing the best parts of high school.”
Every elementary school student was given instructional packets to take home, and students in grades 3-12 went home with Chromebook laptops. The school system has also provided educators with instructional suggestions, and have ordered them to constantly connect online with students to make sure they are thinking academically.
We know you have many questions following @GovernorVA's announcement today. Send us your questions at https://t.co/cWEWn9PeYi. We will address them in the next few days via @DrHutchings' daily video Q&A at 3pm (https://t.co/s7Les6Zvnn) and in our FAQs (https://t.co/pnAlLWEuaL). pic.twitter.com/HDjXXxrNwg
— Alexandria City Public Schools (@ACPSk12) March 23, 2020
(Updated 3/12/20) The Campagna Center in Old Town could be getting a facelift and a new addition as the local early learning organization struggles to find a way to make good use of their historic, but in many ways outdated, building.
Plans submitted to Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review show a new expansion of the building at 418 S. Washington Street.
“As the success of the Campagna Center has grown through the years, it looks to construct an addition to its facility on South Washington Street,” the applicant said. “The addition will extend across the back of the existing building, with a smaller footprint width to minimize the visual impact from the streetscape view.”
“The addition will be three stories in height (one below grade and two above grade), consistent in height and slightly below the roofline of the existing structure,” the report continued.
Along with the new addition to the Campagna Center, upgrades are planned for the current building. Part of the project will involve connecting the new addition and completing replacement of the existing windows and roof.
Inside the building, new partition walls will help break up some of the building’s large spaces and make it more functional.
The building was constructed in 1888 as The Washington School, according to the application, and replaced an earlier school that had been there since 1812. It continued to operate as a school until it became the Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters in 1955. It was turned over to a group called Alexandria Community Y in 1981, which became the Campagna Center in 1991.
Renovating the existing building was not the Campagna Center’s first choice. The building was considered for condo development in 2016, but those plans were canceled last year, according to Alexandria Living.
The new designs are scheduled to be reviewed at the Board of Architectural Review’s April 1 meeting.
The Campagna Center told ALXnow they are in the middle of a busy week and could not comment on the upcoming changes.
A relay at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, a private school in the Seminary Hill neighborhood, is planned this weekend to help raise money for early childhood education in Alexandria.
This is the second year for the relay, which raises money for Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC). The organization has raised $31,120 so far but aims to raise $120,000 to help provide free pre-kindergarten to at-risk children in Alexandria.
The organization says it costs approximately $12,000 per year, per child for a Pre-K education.
According to Relay for Pre-K’s website:
“Our families make just too much to qualify for Head Start, but not nearly enough to afford private preschool. A child’s ability to be ready for school impacts their life’s future. Getting them ready for school is one of the only changes we can make in a child’s life that will change the odds that predict who they will become when they are middle-aged adults. The path that determines who a child becomes links all the way back to preschool. When you invest in CFNC, you are investing in the child, the family, and the City of Alexandria.”
Registration for the event opens at 9 a.m., with the walk starting at 10 a.m. Teams can register in advance online.
Photo via Amy Jackson/Facebook