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 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.