In an effort to increase engagement with parents and the community around educational issues, the Albemarle County School Board posts summaries of our meetings here, recognizing that parents and community members may not have time or the opportunity to attend our meetings or connect through our live stream.
The summaries below are organized by meeting date in descending order. Each entry highlights the topics addressed within the update. Click on the desired meeting date to read the corresponding summary.
Dear Community Members:
I hope you and your families are hanging in there and enjoying the fall weather.
At our October 8 virtual School Board meeting, we discussed and voted on the Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) reopening stage for the second quarter of the 2020-21 academic year. At the October 22 meeting, we held a work session to discuss updates on high school redesign in ACPS.
Second Quarter Return to School Stage Decision
At our October 8 meeting, we heard Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas present his recommendation for which stage of school reopening will be implemented at the start of the academic year’s second quarter (November 9). ACPS is currently in Stage 2 of school reopening, which means that there is virtual learning for most students and in-person school for a limited number of students. This approach to reopening has worked well in the division so far, and that is in large part thanks to the CDC-aligned COVID-19 mitigation strategies that we have implemented in our schools.
Our school division has been working closely with the Thomas Jefferson Health District to monitor the spread of COVID-19. ACPS has also sought feedback from community stakeholders about the possibility of opening our schools’ doors back up to students. Based on all available public health data and guidance as well as as community input, Dr. Haas recommended to the school board that the division move to Stage 3 of school reopening.
That stage would mean virtual learning for most with in-person learning for a moderate number of students, including special education students in A-base and C-base programs, English Learners, students without internet access, and students who would most benefit from in-person instruction. Stage 3 would also mean hybrid learning for Grades PK-3, which would include two days per week of face-to-face learning for those grades. This would create a total of approximately 5,000 students in our school buildings. All in-person learning remains optional, though, and the families of children who are invited back into schools have the choice of whether to allow their children to go back into schools.
As Dr. Haas stated in his, our teachers say, by a two-to-one margin, that they know their students less well than they did when they were doing in-person learning. Dr. Denise Bonds of the Thomas Jefferson Health District as well as the Virginia Department of Education have both suggested that efforts should be made to safely increase the number of students returning for in-person instruction. We believe that face-to-face learning must be a priority for our youngest learners and that, in continuing to implement the mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC, we can invite students back into our schools while keeping them—and our employees—safe and healthy.
Further, our school division has emphasized the importance of ending the predictive value of race, class, gender, and special capacities on student success by working together to ensure each individual student’s success. The pandemic is driving ever wider the equity gap in our society, and studies have shown that COVID-19 has already led to a staggering decrease in academic equality. Overall, some scholars say that COVID-19 will cause a 30% loss in reading and math scores; for vulnerable populations (low-income, minorities, English Learners, special education), however, there could be a decrease of 50% in reading scores and a possible 70% decrease in math scores.
Based on Dr. Haas’s presentation, the board voted 4-3 for the division to open schools in Stage 3. Again, we want to emphasize that all in-person learning is optional for families, and we encourage members of our community to consult the Return to School website to keep themselves informed about school reopening as well as the mitigation strategies that we are using to keep our students and employees safe.
High School Redesign
This work session was a follow-up conversation on a meeting about high school redesign that we had in February. Since that meeting, ACPS has held community conversations to discuss the details of high school redesign in order to better understand the priorities around that topic, particularly through the lens of our Anti-Racism Policy and our equity mission. Specifically, we learned more about two components of high school redesign, which included the Academies of Albemarle and the ACPS Programs of Study.
Academies of Albemarle: Our academies are aligned with the Virginia Department of Education’s career clusters and are intended to give our students the chance to explore career pathways that interest and excite them. We believe that this model provides one of the best ways to engage our students and prepare them for their future careers. The academies are meant to help close persistent opportunity gaps by being open to all students, to motivate students by creating learning experiences that help develop their sense of control and autonomy, and to help orient students down a path that will expose them to work-based opportunities and special skills that may inform their post-secondary trajectories.
The division is making every effort to ensure that the academies themselves do not create opportunity gaps. We want them to be a place where all students can pursue their interests and be motivated by learning experiences that interest them. One step that the division is taking to eliminate practices that perpetuate the opportunity gap in academies is to work toward eliminating the application process for academies.
Programs of Study: Our division annually provides updates on the status of our programs of study, specifically the Advanced Placement (AP) program in our high schools. Based on prior evaluations of the AP program, we know that it can introduce significant stress into students’ lives. Teachers and students also agree that there is too much content in these courses, that students often feel pressured to take them at the expense of courses that might interest them more, and that the AP courses are too test driven.
Thus, ACPS stakeholders would like to see a cap on the number of AP courses that students can take. During our work session, we discussed what criteria should be considered to determine the AP limit as well as the number at which the AP limit should be set. We will hear further updates on this subject at future meetings as the division continues to examine our programs with regard to opportunity gaps.
Our next regular meeting is scheduled for November 12 at 6:30 p.m. You can access our meeting schedule and agendas through ourwebsite. You can tune into our meetings through our . You can through our web page.
Albemarle County School Board Chair
Dear Community Members:
I hope you and your families are enjoying the beautiful weather as we transition into autumn.
At our September 10 virtual School Board meeting, we heard an update on changes to the Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) grading policy, as well as updates on hiring in the division. At our September 24 meeting, we heard updates on the division’s capital improvement program.
New Grading Policy
In 2018, a survey given on grading practices in secondary classrooms showed that grading practices vary in those classrooms, which prompted secondary teachers to come together to review and analyze those findings. Based on what they learned, teachers determined that they wanted clear guidelines that would promote more grading consistency in the division. Thus, 2019 saw the launch of a sustained professional development plan to address the issue. ACPS created cohorts of teachers charged with learning about best practices and instituting classroom-level changes accordingly.
To date, 215 ACPS teachers have joined this effort. They are creating consistency in grading across schools, grade levels, content areas, and teachers. They also aim to improve communication around grading with both students and their families that are based on research and best practices.
The grading policy creation has an objective of aligning grading practices with School Board priorities so that grades create a culture of high expectations for all, remove practices that perpetuate the achievement gap, and maximize opportunities for students at all levels to identify and develop personal interests. The policy went before renowned grading experts, members of the community, and the teacher cohorts who are charged with implementing the policy.
Division teachers will continue their professional learning to promote these best practices in grading, and the division is also launching a micro-credentialing course on grading to increase the knowledge base among our educators.
These changes are important to our division as we continue to seek equity and opportunity for all of our students. This policy equates to a transformation in ACPS, and this work will make assessments of our students fairer and more meaningful for students and their families.
Our division has as its teacher hiring goals to hire highly-qualified educators whose beliefs and values align with the vision, mission, core values, and goals of ACPS as well as to hire a teaching staff whose racial demographic aligns with the student racial demographic of ACPS. Our human resources (HR) department has been strategic in its hiring process in order to achieve those goals.
Among the strategies it has used is the implementation of the Educator Professional Inventory (EPI) candidate assessment. The EPI is a research-based instrument that allows principals to quickly identify the candidates who are most likely to provide high student gains. It also decreases bias in the hiring process and allows for a personalized professional development pathway that identifies a teacher’s strengths and opportunities for growth. In addition to the EPI, human resources has introduced training for administrators that reduces bias in hiring.
Along with these strategies are active recruiting practices, such as purposeful relationship-building with minority teacher candidates and job fairs at HBCUs and other universities. HR has created a new recruitment video meant to illustrate the many benefits of working for ACPS while showing the diversity of its current employees. It has also redesigned the teacher job description to include indicators around culturally responsive teaching, and it has done an equity audit to further understand equity in hiring practices more generally.
For the 2020-21 school year, 124 teachers were hired to work in our school division. Twenty (16%) of these new hires represent minorities, and 20 are men. Eighty-nine (72%) of the 124 hold a master’s degree. All are enthusiastic and eager to serve our school division and its diverse and bright student population. We know that we need to further increase the minority representation in our teacher population, and our dedicated human resources team will continue to be aggressive in finding ways to do that.
Capital Improvement Program
Some of the division’s long-term projects have lost portions of their funding due to budget revisions that took place because of COVID-19. Specifically, three larger projects do not currently have the funding that they need to move forward as planned.
One of the division’s important long-term projects is the construction of Center II. Its schematic design phase was February through September of this year, and the design development phase was October 2020 through January 2021. This project’s design money was carried forward in the budget, but not the money for its construction, which was planned to begin early next year. The FY21 budget will need to be amended with funding for construction in order to prevent delays to that project.
Similarly, the Crozet Elementary School expansion project already has design underway, and its schematic was approved by the Board in July 2020. To keep this project on schedule, the division would need to begin the bidding and construction process in January of 2021. The FY21 budget will need to be amended for that project to stay on its current timeframe of opening in August of 2022.
The Mountain View Elementary School expansion is also among the projects that require budgetary consideration. Mountain View is the division’s second largest elementary school, with 700 students in attendance. The planned expansion would remove the need for trailers and also address other current challenges at the school, like parking, outdoor play areas, and the cafeteria. This expansion was originally recommended as a capital improvement program before budgetary revisions took place, and the Board plans to keep this project in mind as it examines need moving forward into the upcoming fiscal years.
Upcoming Meetings. Our next regular meeting is scheduled for October 8 at 6:30 p.m. You can access our meeting schedule and agendas through our ElectronicSchoolBoard website. You can join our meetings through our live video stream. You can sign up to provide public comment through our School Board web page.
Albemarle County School Board Chair
Dear Community Members:
I hope you and your families have had a smooth transition into the new school year.
At our August 13 virtual School Board meeting, we heard updates on the school name review of Sutherland Middle School; the development of the new ACPS strategic plan; and the professional development that has taken place across the division this summer. At our August 27 meeting, we heard updates on the progress of reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year.
School Name Review: Sutherland Middle School
ACPS has continued its efforts to review school names, and Sutherland is the school currently under consideration. We learned at this meeting that Lakeside Middle School was voted as the number one choice by both the students and community members as a new name for Sutherland thanks to its prioritization of geography, inclusivity and recognition of the nearby lakes that contribute to the beauty of the neighborhood.
The Sutherland Advisory Committee made great efforts to ensure that whatever new name was chosen represented the voice of the majority of those who go to the school and also live or work in that community. The committee consists of school administrators, community members who do and do not have children in the school, and even a student. There was an informational session for students and a student feedback session. Three surveys were circulated and two community meetings were held to gather input regarding a new name.
At our August 27 meeting, the Board voted to change the name of Sutherland Middle School to Lakeside Middle School. We are very excited to welcome students to Lakeside Middle School on July 1, 2021.
The school division is currently in the process of developing its new strategic plan. The first step in this process will be the creation of a new Portrait of a Graduate, which will be developed by a Design Team consisting of students, ACPS employees, and community members. The composition of this group is demographically representative of the student population in our county.
The Portrait Design Team will meet five times to produce a portrait that represents all voices in our community. A draft of the Portrait should be completed by October or November, and that will go before the Board at around the same time. Once the Portrait has been finalized, it will serve as a foundational vision for the development of the rest of the strategic plan.
There will be opportunities for the entire community to participate in this process when we hold Community Forums, scheduled tentatively for November. We will make sure that all members of the ACPS community are aware of these meetings so that we hear from everyone.
In light of the pandemic and virtual school reopenings, our division has worked hard to offer professional development opportunities for staff that will address current needs in education. With all professional development taking place virtually this summer, it was possible to increase the amount of content that our educators were able to access.
Teachers in K-5 engaged in professional development that addressed the use of Seesaw, the virtual learning platform they are using this fall, as a learning tool. They also learned more about how to remain mindful of equity within the virtual learning framework. Teachers in grades 6-12 had modules related to Schoology, the platform secondary teachers are using for virtual instruction, that gave them more tools to facilitate the robust educational experience that students will get this fall.
Over 450 teachers attended optional workshops as well. Many of these workshops focused on the socio-emotional elements of learning, and online collaboration and technological support tools for educators were offered among these courses. In terms of ongoing support through the 2020-21 school year, teacher wellness, accessibility tools, additional Seesaw and Schoology sessions, and building classroom community will be incorporated into further professional development sessions.
Further, 116 new teachers attended our New Teacher Academy on August 11-14. It is always an exciting time for our division when we bring new educators into the ACPS community. While they certainly are starting their career with our division at an unusual time, we are delighted to have them join us as we begin another year.
At our August 27 meeting, we heard updates on the reopening of schools on September 8. So far, there are 13,447 students enrolled in ACPS. These numbers tend to be fluid at this point in the summer, so we will hear updates on this number at the next School Board meeting. There will be 324 students in elementary school buildings as of the first day of school. Likewise, there will be 155 middle schoolers and 206 high schoolers doing in-person school.
As far as employees go, 1,352 teachers will be serving our school division, 121 of whom are new to ACPS. Nineteen teachers and 66 teaching assistants will be working in person for special education and 22 will be serving ESOL students.
ACPS staff also gave us a glimpse of what virtual school will look like this year. In elementary school, schedules were developed based on supporting student learning; having flexibility for students and their families; providing time for both synchronous and asynchronous work; and giving teachers time to collaborate. Teaching will take place Monday through Thursday, giving students time for independent learning on Fridays. Generally, synchronous learning will take place in a block either in the morning or in the afternoon, and asynchronous learning will take place in the other. This system will give teachers the ability to see each of their students on the screen when they instruct them, which allows for real-time feedback from teachers and direct learning experiences. We also saw a demonstration of how Seesaw, the learning platform that ACPS will use for K-5 students, can be used most effectively by students and families.
Additionally, the principles guiding the reopening of schools on the secondary level relate to supporting student learning in a hybrid environment; creating consistent schedules for students regardless of the stage of school reopening; and leaving time for teachers to collaborate and engage in professional development. Like elementary school, there will be a Monday through Thursday schedule where students will engage in synchronous and asynchronous learning.
On the middle school level, students will have classes in four blocks. Social and emotional well-being are an important focus for students, so they will have plenty of breaks and time to walk away from their computers in order to limit time spent in front of a screen. Synchronous learning will be limited to 35 minutes per block for this reason. The day will start with an advisory period for students so that relationships are being built with students and they are staying as engaged with their school community as possible. Friday will be a day for independent learning, but there will be office hours available for students who would like to check in with their teachers for any reason.
Similarly, high schools will also have four course blocks, which will be 90 minutes long. Synchronous learning will be limited to 45 minutes per block so that students have time away from their screens, and they will have office hours available to them on Fridays so that they can reach out to teachers as needed. They will also have time for clubs and enrichment programs on Friday. There will be a morning advisory period as well.
Schoology Learning Management System will be used for middle and high schools as a learning platform. It allows students, teachers and parents to access content any time on one platform, and it is a user-friendly tool that helps build community, encourages collaboration, and even allows for extracurricular participation.
Our next meeting will be a virtual work session on September 24 at 6:30 p.m. You can access our meeting schedule and agendas through our ElectronicSchoolBoard website. You can join our meetings through our live video stream. To provide public comment, please visit our School Board homepage and click on “Public Comment Sign-Up.”
Albemarle County School Board Chair
Dear Community Members:
I am proud to announce that I am the new Chair of the Albemarle County School Board. At our July 9 meeting, our Board had a transition in leadership as Jonno Alcaro stepped down from his role as Chair. The Board voted for me, Graham Paige, the former Vice-Chair, to be his successor. Katrina Callsen will replace me in the role of Vice-Chair.
At our July 9 virtual School Board meeting, we heard an update on the renovations and additions taking place at Crozet Elementary School. At our July 30 meeting, we heard updates on the school division’s plans for reopening schools.
Updates on Additions and Renovations at Crozet Elementary School
At the July 9 meeting, VMDO Architects presented the latest schematic design for additions and renovations at Crozet Elementary School for the Board’s approval. Prior schematics were presented at the May 28 and June 11 School Board meetings; the School Board directed staff to engage owners of the adjacent property regarding those plans. Staff subsequently invited all adjacent property owners and any other interested community members to a neighbors’ meeting on June 23. During that virtual meeting, the Design Team heard from the neighbors, many of whom expressed concerns regarding the addition’s proximity to the stream buffer. They also wanted assurances that noise and light pollution would not carry over the property lines.
In a response to that feedback, the design team has realigned the addition so that it and all hardscape features are wholly outside the stream buffer. The only remaining improvement within the stream buffer is a proposed biofilter, which will enhance and improve the stormwater quality before it enters the Parrot Branch stream. Inclusion of this biofilter means that some construction will be necessary within the buffer, but construction activities will not extend any farther toward the stream than necessary for the construction of the biofilter.
The Design Team recommended that this updated schematic be approved by the Board in order to proceed to the Design Development phase.
Opening Plan for 2020-21 School Year
At its July 30 special meeting, the Board voted 4-3 to reopen in Stage 2 of returning to school for students and employees, which is one of five possible stages that were presented at this meeting. This stage comprises virtual learning for most students with a plan for in-person learning for a limited number of students. It comprises virtual teaching for most teachers with a limited number choosing to teach in person.
This choice was made with many factors in mind. We collected data from our students and employees and, based on that, we learned that the majority of employees do not feel comfortable returning to work at ACPS as normal due to their concerns around COVID-19. Further, a majority of families indicated concerns regarding sending their children back to school in person. Given this information along with the concerning COVID-19 infection trends that we are seeing throughout Virginia, Stage 2 of returning seems the best option to meet the learning needs of as many students and employees as possible while also protecting their health and well-being.
Implications for Students
We know how many students do and do not have good access to internet, and we plan to get access for as many students as possible in order to facilitate virtual learning. Students who cannot get internet access will have the option of going to schools for in-person learning or to get learning packets. We have other options, including hotspots with unlimited data paid for by the schools, to make virtual learning possible for every student. We will work with every student to ensure that everyone has what they need to access their schoolwork.
Plans have also been made for our students with special needs. Individual Education Programs (IEPs) that were written in the spring of 2020 will be implemented this fall. Only those students with disabilities who cannot receive any meaningful education benefit virtually will have an IEP proposed that may include in-person learning. Students invited to receive in-person instruction are the students with the most intensive needs; that will include children served through the C-BASE, Functional Skills, Community-Based Instruction, and Post High Programs in addition to A-BASE programs. This in-person access is being offered, and families can choose to stay at home if they prefer. This population should include approximately 100 students.
We have also developed plans for our English Learners. Research shows that English Learners with WIDA levels 1 (entering English) and 2 (emergent bilingual) in grades 4-12 need direct instruction in order to acquire the language needed for them to access the academic content presented in schools. Thus, those students will be allowed in-person instruction in Stage 2 of returning. This is optional, and these students may stay at home if their families prefer.
Implications for Employees
Stage 2 for teaching staff means virtual teaching for most teachers with a limited number choosing to teach in person. For support staff, it means modified work schedules and telework or alternate work for most employees, with a limited number working on a regular schedule. These details should be clarified with supervisors, and the division is committed to working with all employees to ensure their safety and well-being during the school reopening process.
Schools will reopen in Stage 2 on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Reopening will be reassessed by the Board after the first nine-week grading period, which will run from September 8 to November 6. Halfway through this period, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas will make a recommendation to the Board as to whether the division can move into a new stage based on various factors. Any shifts in stages will occur after this nine-week period unless it is necessary to move to a lower stage, which could happen immediately.
For more details on our plans for reopening schools, please consult ourwebsite.
Our next regular meeting is scheduled to be held virtually on August 13 at 6:30 p.m. You can access our meeting schedule and agendas through ourwebsite. You also can tune into our meetings through our . To provide public comment, please sign up here: .
School Board Chair
Meeting summaries from the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years can be accessed on our School Board Meeting Updates page.