“No chapter on pandemics” when instruction resumes
Superintendent David Jeck provides an update Friday, April 3, for the Fauquier County Public Schools plan for instruction, connectivity and meals for needy students.
It is like being pushed out a window and kind of growing your wings on the way down.
— School Superintendent David Jeck
The superintendent asked for everyone’s patience as Fauquier County Public Schools prepare to resume instruction Tuesday, April 14, without students or teachers in classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s no playbook for this; there’s no roadmap for this,” Dr. Jeck said in a video posted online Friday. “We have a good crisis management plan; there’s no chapter on pandemics.
“It is like being pushed out a window and kind of growing your wings on the way down.”
The school system will use a combination of online and hardcopy options in the effort to deliver instruction to more than 11,000 homebound students.
But, for hundreds of families, connectivity remains extremely challenging.
Dr. Jeck said 5,096 households responded to a school system survey of internet access and connected devices, which revealed:
• 841 have no computer.
• 407 have no internet connection.
To help address the digital divide, the school system will set up a curbside pick-up program to distribute mobile WiFi hotspots and other devices.
The system also will equip 10 school buses with “high-powered” hotspots — similar to those the county has begun establishing in public parking lots, Dr. Jeck said.
Still, those devices won’t solve the problems for everyone. Hard copy materials also will be available.
The grading will use a pass/fail approach, Dr. Jeck and Major Warner, the assistant superintendent for instruction, explained in the 34-minute video.
Mr. Warner described April 14 to 17 as “the first week of school,” for teachers and students to get reacquainted and work through inevitable glitches.
“That week is designed to get into what’s happening,” he said, later adding: “We do expect teachers to be available to students at least once a week. It can be more,” by email, phone and/or Blackboard, Google, Zoom or other means.
“Kids and parents can expect the (instructional) platform to be digital and non-digital,” Mr. Warner said.
The administrators expect to provide the details Thursday, April 9.
The school system already had determined that students in good standing March 13, when classes ceased, would advance to the next grade or, in the case of seniors, would graduate.
Dr. Jeck noted that since schools closed, the system and nonprofit partners have provided 12,000 meals for students in need through the “grab-and-go” program.
But, suppliers’ food deliveries to schools could dwindle in coming weeks, the superintendent said.
“The most important thing is to make sure kids have something to eat,” he added. “It won’t be perfect, but we’re gonna figure it out.”
The county board of supervisors already cut $3.8 million from the schools’ requested local funding in the new fiscal year that starts July 1, and the state also might reduce its planned financial support, Dr. Jeck said.
“We don’t know, but it could mean we have to make cuts,” he said.
“This is time for grace,” the superintendent concluded. “We are in such a difficult, unprecedented time. But we are remaining positive; we are remaining upbeat about the delivery of instruction . . . .
“It’s a time that we all must recognize nothing is perfect . . . . But, we’re gonna do the best that we can. We’re not gonna point fingers . . . . I’m asking you to do the same thing. There’s gonna be bugs, there’s gonna be frustration.”
It seems that the FCPS & Supt./staff have a game plan for resuming school instruction for home situated students. The digital divide can be overcome with electronic creativity and teachers' access by conductivity.