Una actualización sobre nuestra expansión de oportunidades opcionales de aprendizaje en persona

Henrico families,

I am so proud of the way the Henrico community has continued to prioritize meeting student and family needs during this challenging time. Throughout the pandemic, our approach has been to be flexible and innovative in the way we provide services. We’ve learned and grown as we’ve faced each challenge: gradually expanding from our spring 2020 emergency school closure, starting a new school year in a predominantly virtual format, and scaling up our efforts for limited in-person instruction for targeted student populations.

Our ongoing efforts to ensure that we are responsive to our students’ academic and social-emotional well-being bring us to this important next step, which involves bringing more students into our classrooms for in-person learning.

As you’ll recall, in October our School Board voted on a plan to expand in-person learning options for our students. In November, that timeline was delayed in order to monitor health conditions and further consult with health officials as our region began to see a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. As promised then, the HCPS Health Committee continued to meet during the Winter Break and deliberated most recently on Monday, Jan. 4, to bring me and the HCPS Division Leadership Team a recommendation related to how current local conditions may impact our in-person learning timeline. Today, I’m writing to share an updated timeline related to expanded in-person learning for the families who chose this option. 

The HCPS Health Committee reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making, which include metrics related to the number of cases in our community as well as indicators about our school-based health risk-mitigation strategies (protective barriers, physical distancing, mask-wearing, signage, etc.) that have previously been described in the HCPS COVID-19 Health Plan and that we’ve worked to implement for months. Having weighed all these indicators, the committee has brought forward a recommendation to continue with our plan to expand in-person learning, but with a slight delay.

The committee’s recommendation to move forward with implementation on a delayed timeline is responsive to its assessment of our ability to implement strong risk-mitigation and safety practices. I concur with the committee’s recommendation and the representatives from the Virginia Department of Health who have expressed to me their confidence in the effectiveness of the risk-mitigation strategies that are currently in place in our schools. As always, an important element of our approach moving forward will be continued monitoring of health and safety conditions at each school and being responsive at the individual school level.

Our revised timeline for in-person learning will impact pre-K and elementary schools the most. The timeline will remain largely the same as previously communicated for middle and high schools:

Pre-K and elementary schools

  • Friday, Jan. 22, 2021: A new half-day for students in grades pre-K through 5 only. (This will take the place of the student half-day scheduled for Jan. 29.)
  • Monday, Jan. 25: Return to in-person learning for ALL students in grades pre-K through 5 whose families chose this option (the return dates had previously been either Jan. 11 or Jan. 14). Starting on Jan. 25, students in grades pre-K through 5 who will be returning to school in-person will do so on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays except when there are school/student holidays. Virtual learning with currently assigned teacher(s) and the current daily schedule will continue through Friday, Jan. 22.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27: Virtual learning day for all pre-K through grade 5 students (this will be the first “Wellness Wednesday” for pre-K through grade 5 students). As a reminder, beginning on Jan. 27 for pre-K through 5 students, all Wednesdays for the remainder of the school year will be known as “Wellness Wednesdays” and be characterized by:
    • Additional deep cleaning of schools.
    • Two hours of teacher-led virtual learning (elementary schools).
    • Additional independent student learning time.
    • Academic and social/emotional support.
    • Teacher planning and professional learning time.
  • Friday, Jan. 29: A full instructional day for students in grades pre-K through 5. (was previously a student half-day.)

Middle and high schools

  • Monday, Jan. 25, 2021: Secondary integrated services students whose families opted for in-person learning will return (these students had previously been slated to return on Jan. 14.)
  • Thursday, Jan. 28, and Friday, Jan. 29: Asynchronous (independent learning) days for middle and high school students (teacher planning/preparation days). The new independent learning day on Jan. 29 will replace a previously scheduled student half-day.
  • Monday, Feb. 1 (start of second semester): Return to in-person learning for students in grades 6 and 9 whose families chose this option (this date is unchanged). Starting on Feb. 1, students in grades 6 and 9 who will be returning to school in person will do so on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays except when there are school/student holidays. Virtual learning with currently assigned teacher(s) and current daily schedule will continue for grades 6 and 9 through Friday, Jan. 29.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3: Virtual learning day for all students (this will be the first “Wellness Wednesday” for middle and high school students). As a reminder, beginning on Feb. 3 for middle and high school students, all Wednesdays for the remainder of the school year will be known as “Wellness Wednesdays” and be characterized by:
    • Additional deep cleaning of schools.
    • Additional independent student learning time.
    • Academic and social/emotional support.
    • Teacher planning and professional learning time.
  • Thursday, Feb. 4: Return to in-person learning for students in grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 whose families chose this option (this date is unchanged). Starting on Feb. 4, students in grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 who will be returning to school in person will do so on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays except when there are school/student holidays. Virtual learning will continue for grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 through Wednesday, Feb. 3.
  • Thursday, Feb. 4: HCPS will begin participation in the Virginia High School League schedule for Fall sports. More information will be communicated through each school.

In closing, evolving guidance from health experts plus our own experience and increased implementation of safety measures give us improved confidence that schools can be safe with the right risk-mitigation in place. From the start, we have maintained not only our commitment to serving our students, but to keeping an eye toward prioritizing the health and safety of our staff, students and community. Moving forward will be no different. As mentioned earlier, an important element of our approach moving forward will be continued monitoring of health and safety conditions at each school and being responsive at the individual school level. 

I do apologize for any inconvenience this additional delay may cause. Given the confidence in our health risk-mitigation plans, I anticipate that this will be the last adjustment before we implement our plans for expanded optional in-person learning for students on Jan. 25.

As we prepare to welcome more students back into our schools, let’s continue to model the expectations we have as a community. Let’s wear our masks, practice physical distancing and respiratory etiquette, wash hands frequently, and stay home when sick! Together, we can do amazing things to help our students achieve their best.

Sincerely,

Amy E. Cashwell, Ed. D.
Superintendent

P.S. This message is already more than 1,300 words long. In the days to come, please expect additional communication from me and other HCPS departments on topics related to:

  • Health risk-mitigation strategies.
  • Contact tracing.
  • School-based contingency plans (“What ifs”).