This evening at the School Board’s work session, the Board adopted a plan that would enable a phased expansion of in-person learning, starting Nov. 30 with younger elementary students having the option to return in-person, and concluding with middle and high school students having that same option in February.
The expanded plan will incorporate the HCPS Health Committee’s safety measures (more on that later) as we phase in more in-person learning. Highlights of the plan approved by the Board are to:
- Keep a fully virtual option for students.
- Expand optional in-person learning opportunities.
- Adopt a phased-in approach to expanded in-person learning that prioritizes pre-K and elementary students:
- Monday, Nov. 30: Grades pre-K, K, 1 and 2 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Monday, Dec. 7: Grades 3, 4 and 5 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Jan. 4-8: One week of virtual learning for ALL students (including pre-K through grade 5) during the week after Winter Break.
- Monday, Feb. 1 (start of second semester): Grades 6 and 9 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
- Thursday, Feb. 4: Grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 would have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week.
Under this proposal, what would daily schedules generally look like?
- Fully virtual students would remain on a five-day schedule (with an abbreviated schedule on Wednesdays.)
- In-person students would be in school buildings four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Virtual “Wellness Wednesdays” would be characterized by:
- Additional deep cleaning of schools.
- Two hours of teacher-led virtual learning (elementary schools.)
- Additional independent student learning time (all grade levels.)
- Academic and social/emotional support (all grade levels.)
- Teacher planning and professional learning time.
HCPS Health Committee Report:
Earlier this afternoon, the HCPS Health Committee made its recommendations about what health conditions say about the learning environment. After analyzing current conditions, the committee recommended expanding in-person learning, along with specific risk-mitigation measures. The Committee’s recommendation would allow for:
- Using 6-foot distancing for classroom seating, as well as other safety measures detailed in our COVID-19 Health Plan booklet.
- Maintaining cohort groupings as much as possible.
- Creating one-way traffic patterns in hallways.
- Adjusting the secondary master schedule to stagger and extend transition times.
- Continuing to implement a host of specific safety improvements, including staff training, cleaning, use of masks, three-sided Plexiglas guards for all desks, HVAC air flushing and other measures.
I understand the concerns that some of you have expressed about expanding in-person learning. We hear you and are seeking every measure we can to make an expansion of in-person learning as safe as possible. We feel confident that, given conditions as they exist now, we can offer families an in-person choice while implementing effective risk-mitigation and safety measures that will prioritize the safety of students and staff.
I hope you know that our plans during a pandemic are never set in stone. As conditions change, we will continue to monitor the health data closely and our plans will change if they need to. I am grateful to the many who have passionately shared their views on this important subject.
We will continue to answer your questions in the weeks ahead. Tomorrow, look for a brand new Frequently Asked Questions document that will begin to explain this plan in greater depth. Also, please mark your calendars for a virtual (in order to accommodate thousands of people at the same time) HCPS community Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 6-7:30 p.m. Send us your questions in advance using this Google Form, which will help us make the session as informative as possible. We’ll send you additional details on this event soon.
That’s a long enough message for now. We have come a long way (and still have far to go), but in closing I want to thank you for your active participation and valued feedback during this extraordinary school year. I will continue to keep you informed every step of the way.
Amy E. Cashwell, Ed. D.