Frequently Asked Questions, 2020-21
Last updated July 14, 2020
This page is dedicated to answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year. Please use the tabs below to explore our FAQs by topic.
As we learn more about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and progress with our planning for reopening schools, we may update answers to questions on this page and/or add new questions and answers.
- Stages of Returning: Stage 3
- Stages of Returning: Stage 4
- Student Health & Wellness
- Use of Face Coverings
- How are high school credits handled if we choose to homeschool our children for a year?
- Will part-time homeschooling still be an option next year? Can we do it virtually?
- If it is our preference to homeschool our elementary-aged children while ACPS is delivering all-virtual learning, will we have access to ACPS learning tools?
How are high school credits handled if we choose to homeschool our children for a year?
Students hoping to obtain high school credit for work completed while homeschooling when transitioning back to ACPS should enroll in an online accredited course. Credits from accredited schools will transfer directly. Credits from co-ops, Kahn Academy, or parent-created courses do not transfer. If you would like assistance determining if a course/program is accredited, please contact Ashby Kindler at email@example.com or Carolyn Herget at firstname.lastname@example.org in the ACPS Homeschool Office.
Will part-time homeschooling still be an option next year? Can we do it virtually?
If it is our preference to homeschool our elementary-aged children while ACPS is delivering all-virtual learning, will we have access to ACPS learning tools?
Once families choose homeschooling, they will no longer have access to digital learning tools that require school subscriptions (e.g., Prodigy, ST Math). Some of these programs have free and low-cost resources for homeschool students. Laptops, iPads, calculators, and other ACPS-owned technology must be returned to the student’s base school. Secondary students who are enrolled in part-time classes in the public school will continue to be provided a school computer and will be enrolled in digital resources required for the courses in which they are enrolled.
Stages of Returning: Stage 3
- How will the school board make their decision? What health metrics need to be met before progressing to the next stage?
- What is the difference between in-person access and face-to-face instruction?
- How will “a lack of engagement in the virtual experience” be defined?
- Will free meals still be available to students when they are learning at home?
How will the school board make their decision? What health metrics need to be met before progressing to the next stage?
ACPS has identified six factors that will affect progression to next stage:
- Guidance offered by the CDC and state and local health authorities;
- Applicable executive orders and local ordinances that may impact the ability to provide successful classroom learning;
- Current COVID-19 conditions in the Albemarle County region and within Albemarle County Public Schools, including, but not limited to, community transmission, testing positivity rates, and other public health data;
- Status of COVID-19 testing and tracking capabilities in the Albemarle County region;
- Ability of Albemarle County Public Schools, including staffing and resources, to implement the division’s instructional and health plans; and
- Feedback and input from stakeholders and school communities.
In preparation for the decision on October 8, ACPS is working collaboratively with our local public health officials at the Blue Ridge Health District (BRHD) to analyze the current COVID-19 conditions in Albemarle County, including case incidence and testing positivity rates. We are analyzing this data through the lens of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Pandemic Metrics Dashboard as well as Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We will utilize the VDH Interim Guidance for Mitigation Measures in K-12 School Settings combined with a partnership with the BRHD to help inform decisions about school operations and appropriate mitigation measures.
Additionally, we are gathering feedback from our advisory groups and surveys of our staff and families.
Please note: The school division’s Stage 3 of returning to school closely aligns with Virginia’s Phase II Guidance for Virginia Schools.
What is the difference between in-person access and face-to-face instruction?
How will “a lack of engagement in the virtual experience” be defined?
Will free meals still be available to students when they are learning at home?
The school division will continue to serve meals both in school buildings and along bus routes. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) waiver that allows the school division to serve meals free of charge to students and their siblings has been extended through December 31, 2020. We will monitor the status of the waiver and will inform families of any changes if it is not extended into the next calendar year.
Though school meals are currently available to all students free of charge, families should continue to apply for free and reduced meal benefits for the 2020-21 school year in order to access all of the benefits related to the free and reduced eligibility status.
- Will students have the same teacher as in the first nine weeks?
- When will parents/guardians be asked to decide between hybrid or virtual learning for their child? Will parents/guardians be able to change their minds?
- Why are there no students in the buildings on Fridays?
- In Stage 3, why was the hybrid option altered to include only two days per week of face-to-face instruction rather than four days per week?
- What will a student’s day look like when they are participating in face-to-face learning at school?
- What will a student’s day look like when they are learning at home?
- Why does Stage 3 offer a hybrid option to students in Grades PK-3, but not students in Grades 4-5?
Will students have the same teacher as in the first nine weeks?
Whenever possible, students will remain with the same teacher. The following situations will limit that option for teachers and students:
- The student is face-to-face (comes into school for hybrid learning) and the teacher remains virtual.
- The teacher is face-to-face (comes into school to teach in the hybrid learning) and the student remains virtual.
When will parents/guardians be asked to decide between hybrid or virtual learning for their child? Will parents/guardians be able to change their minds?
Families are being surveyed prior to the school board’s decision on October 8. Responses to that survey are anonymous and are helpful for planning purposes, but they are not binding. If the board elects to progress to Stage 3 for the second nine weeks, which begins November 9, parents/guardians will be asked to decide between hybrid and virtual learning by October 16. Schools will collect this information, including families’ transportation needs if they elect the hybrid option. If families want to change their decision after the deadline or after the start of the second nine weeks, approval of the change will depend on class sizes and the division’s ability to accommodate additional students, either hybrid or virtual. If families do not specify their preference, their child will automatically remain in virtual learning.
Why are there no students in the buildings on Fridays?
In Stage 3, why was the hybrid option altered to include only two days per week of face-to-face instruction rather than four days per week?
After much reflection and feedback from their teachers, elementary principals unanimously proposed to the superintendent that a two-day-per-week hybrid model would allow for a more manageable transition to face-to-face instruction.
In comparison to a four-day model, a two-day model provides several benefits:
- A smaller number of students will be in the building, which makes social distancing protocols more manageable.
- There is no need to split classrooms to accommodate social distancing, which means that each child will be with their assigned classroom teacher at all times for face-to-face instruction.
- There is no need for additional staffing to support split classrooms.
- Current space allocations for teachers can be preserved, which means that non-PK-3 teachers who are working in the building can continue to do so.
- Teaching assistants will be able to continue supporting students who are working in a virtual environment.
- All students will follow the same bell schedule (versus having to impose two bell schedules).
- We will be able to continue offering synchronous specials during at-home learning days.
What will a student’s day look like when they are participating in face-to-face learning at school?
Upon arrival at school, students will undergo temperature and health checks and then go directly to their classrooms. If students are eating school breakfast, they will pick up a bagged meal on the way to their classroom. Students will observe social distancing (stay six feet apart) during arrival and dismissal times. During the school day, students will engage in core content (language arts, math, social studies, and science) and social-emotional learning (cooperation, collaboration and communication). Students will have multiple recess times with their classmates and eat lunch in their classrooms.
What will a student’s day look like when they are learning at home?
Asynchronous days (or at-home learning days) will look like asynchronous half-days and Fridays have looked throughout the first nine weeks. On asynchronous days, hybrid students will attend specials, complete asynchronous work assigned by their teachers the day before, work in small groups, and may work with interventionists. Teaching assistants will be available for questions and some small group work.
Why does Stage 3 offer a hybrid option to students in Grades PK-3, but not students in Grades 4-5?
As our youngest learners, students in preschool through third grade are our most vulnerable when it comes to learning to read, building vocabulary, and understanding mathematical concepts. For this age group, all of these skills and understandings require more hands-on and face-to-face interactions. Developmentally, young children are moving from concrete to abstract thinking, so the more concrete and hands-on experiences they have, the more likely they are to develop the foundational skills and understandings that will build future skills and concepts.
Also, the school division’s Stage 3 of returning to school closely aligns with Virginia’s Phase II Guidance for Virginia Schools, which supports offering limited in-person instruction to preschool through third grade. Further, this phased approach to returning to school allows schools to adjust to health and safety protocols prior to bringing back the entire school population.
MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
- Why are no middle or high school grade levels returning in Stage 3?
- Who will decide which athletic and extracurricular activities are offered? Will the offerings be the same at each school?
Why are no middle or high school grade levels returning in Stage 3?
Stage 3 is part of a phased approach to bringing students back into the building. Elementary students can stay in one classroom most of the day and require no changing of classes or classrooms. Middle and high school students are able to learn more easily in the abstract; their attention spans are longer than those of elementary students; and they are better able to express their needs, frustrations and challenges in a virtual environment.
While face-to-face instruction is not offered for secondary students in Stage 3, a limited number of secondary students will have in-person access to our school buildings. In Stage 3, ACPS will expand optional in-person access to buildings to additional students in Grades 4-12, including students without internet access or with limited access that we cannot improve; all special education students in C-base and A-base programs; English Learners at WIDA Level 1-4; and students who exhibited a lack of engagement in the virtual experience during Stage 2.
Who will decide which athletic and extracurricular activities are offered? Will the offerings be the same at each school?
Secondary students may participate in athletics or in-person extracurricular activities upon approval:
- For each Virginia High School League (VHSL) sport or activity, schools must submit a plan in accordance with VHSL guidelines for review and approval by ACPS (see the ACPS Stage 3 Reopening of VHSL Athletics/Activities Plan).
- For ACPS extracurricular activities, club sponsors must submit a plan in accordance with ACPS guidelines. The principal must approve the plan first, then it must be sent to the ACPS Central Office for final approval. Jay Thomas, Director of Secondary Education; Mindy Moran, Lead Coach for Fine and Performing Arts; and Eileen Gomez, ACPS COVID-19 Coordinator, are currently working with secondary staff to finalize the procedures for request.
- What will the day of a PK-3 teacher who is teaching face-to-face in the hybrid two-day model look like?
- What are the expectations for PK-3 teachers who are teaching face-to-face regarding creating asynchronous content for their students?
- Can I continue teaching virtually if students elect not to return to school in person in Stage 3?
What will the day of a PK-3 teacher who is teaching face-to-face in the hybrid two-day model look like?
Teachers will work with two small groups of students during the week. Half of a teacher’s group will come on one day and half will come the next day. Social distancing will be observed in all activities, such as Responsive Classroom, direct instruction, and small group instruction. Teachers will work with their principal and Professional Learning Community (PLC) to establish a schedule of content, morning recess (break for teachers), lunch, synchronous physical education time, and afternoon recess (break for teachers). Teachers will have a planning time after students leave the building from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
What are the expectations for PK-3 teachers who are teaching face-to-face regarding creating asynchronous content for their students?
Asynchronous activities should support what is happening in the classroom during face-to-face learning. These activities may already be available to students through Seesaw, such as ST Math, Math Investigation games, Being A Reader, etc., or they may be follow-up assignments from face-to-face learning the previous day. Students will have the benefit of bringing materials and work back-and-forth from home. Teaching assistants will be available to work with students during asynchronous time and can assist students in completing their work through Zoom sessions. Also, synchronous specials will occur during this time.
Can I continue teaching virtually if students elect not to return to school in person in Stage 3?
Stages of Returning: Stage 4
Please visit our Stage 4 Frequently Asked Questions page for a full list of questions and answers pertaining to Stage 4 of our Return to School plan.
Student Health & Wellness
- How will schools handle keeping students and staff healthy?
- Do parents still need to provide health documents and immunization records when enrolling students and prior to the start of 7th grade?
- What are parents’ responsibilities?
- Will students and staff be required to wear masks?
- If a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, when can they return to school?
- Under what circumstances will I be asked to quarantine my child?
- If my child tests negative, can he come out of quarantine?
- Will my child have recess at school?
- Are the water fountains safe to use?
- At what point might schools close again and who makes that decision?
How will schools handle keeping students and staff healthy?
ACPS will follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to implement mitigation strategies to reduce risk. These include:
- Distancing: space between students on the bus, in the classroom, in the halls, gymnasiums, and on the playground
- Masks: We will ask all students and staff to wear face masks or cloth face coverings to protect each other and themselves.
- Handwashing: will be promoted and enforced throughout the day.
- Smaller groupings of students
- Frequent and thorough building cleaning and disinfection
- We will ask all parents to perform a daily assessment of their children before sending them to school and ask older students and staff to perform a self-assessment, and we will check temperatures upon building entry.
- If students or employees become ill at school, we will remove them from the group setting immediately and refer them to a health care provider to determine if COVID testing is appropriate, and work with the health department to notify and quarantine classmates and close contacts if test results are positive.
Do parents still need to provide health documents and immunization records when enrolling students and prior to the start of 7th grade?
Yes, parents are still required to provide a copy of a physical examination within 12 months of entering primary school for the first time as well as up-to-date immunization records. Parents of rising 7th-grade students need to provide documentation that their child has received the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) booster prior to entry into 7th grade.
What are parents’ responsibilities?
We all need to work together to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our school communities. Parent responsibilities include:
- Ensure that your contact information is up-to-date. You must be available in case your child becomes ill at school. Also, please make sure that you provide the contact information for two people other than yourself who can pick up your sick child if you are not available.
- Perform a daily health assessment before sending children to school. Keep your children at home if they are sick.
- Reinforce good handwashing.
- Have your child wear a cloth face mask or face covering that you will launder daily.
- Be able to pick up your child, or arrange for someone else to pick up your child, within 30 minutes of notification that they are ill. Take your child for COVID-19 testing if recommended by your health care provider or the local health department.
- If your child is sent home sick, follow the instructions you are given about when your child may return to school and group settings.
Will students and staff be required to wear masks?
Yes, everyone in the building will be required to wear a mask. There are some limited exemptions and circumstances to this requirement. The CDC provides direction on How to Wear Masks and on How to Wash Masks. In order to be effective, it is important to make sure your child’s mask fits properly. Pleated face coverings with elastic work best for children. Try to find a child-sized mask for younger children. The mask should fully cover the nose and mouth and stretch from ear to ear. Children will be permitted to take mask breaks when six feet of distance can be maintained and when eating and drinking and when outside for recess. Students will store their masks in individual bags (labeled with their names) when eating, drinking, or taking a mask break.
For more information, please see our Policy on Masks and Acceptable Face Coverings.
If a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, when can they return to school?
A student or staff member who is diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school once these criteria are met:
- At least 10 days have passed from the onset of symptoms; AND
The individual has been fever-free for 24 continuous hours without the use of fever reducing medications; AND
Respiratory symptoms have improved.
Helpful resources from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH):
Under what circumstances will I be asked to quarantine my child?
If your child is considered a "close contact" of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be asked to keep your child home and away from others for 14 days. Guidance will be provided on a case-by-case basis and in alignment with the advice of the local health department.
A "close contact" is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
If my child tests negative, can he come out of quarantine?
Unfortunately, no. You cannot test out of quarantine, because a negative test only reveals that the individual does not have enough of the virus to test positive at the time of the test; it does not reveal if the individual is incubating the virus. The same individual could test positive the next day or any of the days up through 14 days after exposure.
Helpful resources from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH):
Will my child have recess at school?
Since outdoor transmission of the COVID-19 virus is known to be much lower than indoor transmission, recess will be permitted and children will be allowed to use playgrounds and playing fields one class at a time. They will be instructed to wash their hands before and after playground use. Any shared equipment, like balls, will be disinfected in between class use.
Are the water fountains safe to use?
At what point might schools close again and who makes that decision?
The decision to close a school or close all of the schools in the division will be based on the number and pattern of COVID-19 cases in the community and within particular schools. It was the governor’s decision to close all of the schools statewide amidst the larger stay-at-home orders. The decision to close schools in a locality would be made by school division leadership in consultation with the medical director of the local health department.
Please visit our Technology Support page for a full list of questions and answers pertaining to technology.
Use of Face Coverings
Please visit our Policy on Masks and Acceptable Face Coverings page for a full list of questions and answers pertaining to the use of face coverings.