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July 28, 2020

School reopening will start with student assessment

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Outside the Fauquier High auditorium before Monday’s school board meeting, Fauquier Education Association members call for “virtual” reopening.
We want to make this as close to normal as possible.
— Nick Napolitano, Taylor Middle School principal
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Contributing Journalist
When Fauquier public school teachers return to leading classes Aug. 24, they will face many challenges, including assessments of their 11,000 students’ knowledge and skills more than five months after the last in-person classes.

Principals and central office administrators Monday night provided an exhaustive overview of the plan to resume instruction in the county’s 20 public schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The school board listened to almost four hours of “Path to Reopening” presentations in the Fauquier High auditorium.

> Document at bottom of story

But, Chairman Duke Bland (Marshall District) first read a brief statement, quickly rejecting the Fauquier Education Association’s request to start the fall term with all-virtual instruction.

“We, the board, will continue to support the superintendent’s plan” for blended instruction, with most students in classrooms two days a week and learning remotely three days a week, Mr. Bland said. Parents also can choose 100-percent virtual instruction for their children.

The teacher’s union last week sent the board a letter withdrawing previous support for that approach after surveying members, most of whom expressed concerns about health risks.

About 40 FEA members — many holding signs that said, “# Only When It’s Safe” — stood outside the FHS auditorium before the meeting started.

Most parents had pushed the board to reopen schools with four or five days a week of in-person classes.

Primarily because of the “social distancing” guideline of 6 feet between people, the board July 13 approved the blended plan.

Elementary, middle and high school principals Monday night explained how instruction will resume next month. At all levels, teachers won’t give tests for the first several weeks. They will use a variety of tools to assess student progress and adjust instruction, according to the presentations.

“We want to make this as close to normal as possible,” Taylor Middle School Principal Nick Napolitano told the board.

Middle schools will continue to operate on a seven-period day, but students won’t use lockers because of the social distancing challenges, Mr. Napolitano said.

“We’re gonna be focusing on project-based learning” and using outdoor “classrooms” when possible, he added.

“We want to establish this culture of what it means to be an Eagle, a Cougar or a Falcon,” Liberty Principal Sam Cox said of the three high school mascots.

“Establishing normalcy is key, but normal is gonna be a little different” with only half of a school’s student body in the building at a time, Mr. Cox said.

“We can say to you we are a united front,” W.G. Coleman Elementary Principal Joy Seward said of the 11 administrators who lead schools at that level and who meet twice a week on Zoom to refine their plans.

Among the reopening plan details highlighted Monday night:

• “Social, emotional learning” and mental health services will rank among priorities.

• Schools will ask parents to screen their children each day for symptoms of the coronavirus, including high temperatures, and keep sick students home. The schools won’t have the capacity to conduct screenings of all who enter the buildings.

• Everyone in schools must wear a mask. The system will provide two cloth masks and a face shield for every staff member. Schools will have extra masks if students arrive without them.

• Students won’t be allowed to make up absences by attending school beyond their assigned days. They will be grouped alphabetically for Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday attendance.

• Schools will discourage visitors and operate without field trips.

• Buses will operate at only one-third of their capacity, hauling 22 to 26 students. Assigned seats, riders will board back to front and disembark the opposite way to minimize contact. One student will occupy each seat, alternating in window and aisle positions.

• Schools will have “sneeze shields” in offices and cafeterias, along with hand sanitizers at entrances and in or near every classroom.

• Clinics will have isolation rooms for those suspected of coronavirus infections, and students must have appointments to visit school nurses.

• If/when students or staff members test positive, the school will respond on a case-by-case basis. The number of people exposed to someone infected with help determine the level of restrictions.

• Administrators have budgeted $500,000 to $1 million for specialized cleaning in cases of infection. That effort would include specialized cleaning companies and overtime for custodians.

• All cafeteria food will be individually prepackaged with touchless transactions. Kindergarteners and first-graders will eat in their rooms. Second- through 12-graders will eat in cafeterias or other designated places, with social distancing enforced.

• The system will provide day care for employees’ children in the schools where they work. Administrators estimate 400 children will use that service.

• Students will have all the materials and instructions they need for three days of remote learning when they leave schools Tuesday or Friday after two days of classes.

• The system has ordered 7,400 Chromebook laptop computers to complement the 3,000 on hand. When the new computers arrive, which could take months, every student in Grades 2-12 will have one. The schools continue to distribute WiFi hotspots to address poor connectivity and/or lack of internet access throughout much of the county.

• Students who qualify will continue to receive meal packages for the days they don’t come to school.

The school system will continue to update its new website devoted to reopening, with answers promised to virtually every question parents, students and staff members submit.

“This is a much more specific plan about reopening,” Superintendent David Jeck said at the start of Monday night’s marathon presentation. “It’s a long document, but it’s a living document.”

FCPS Path to Reopening_ the... by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Scarlet65 · September 21, 2020 at 6:16 am
We, the committee, will think about it to aid the supervisory system” for the integrated approach, with many students in classrooms two days a week and remote writing three days a week, Mr Bland said. He had college paper review for me now. Parents can also choose one-hundred-percent virtual guidance for their children.
JanetteeTurnerr · September 17, 2020 at 2:32 am
Knowledge check after quarantine is correct. During the quarantine, many students did not understand anything and bought essays from because the distance format does not provide an opportunity to explain all the material to all students well.
MirandaD · August 24, 2020 at 8:22 am
I am very glad that schools are finally opening, it is not known for how long, because there is information in the news that a new wave of the epidemic will begin soon. Of course, I am very worried about the test of knowledge, because in quarantine I was very relaxed and I just downloaded some written works on the Internet, and then paraphrased them to me and I handed over a unique text to the teachers. And I'm afraid that I have lost my writing skills. Now I'm working hard on it.
J Obrokta · July 29, 2020 at 7:08 pm
Savefauquiercounty, Mspare,

Thank you for your support. We all appreciate hearing positive feedback from the community.

Speaking with my colleagues, it seems everyone is excited to get back to the important work that we do. Everyone is putting in extra hours at the end of our summer revising lessons and taking additional professional development courses so that we can make this difficult situation into the best that it can be.

Thanks again.

Best regards,
Jim OBrokta
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
MSpare · July 29, 2020 at 2:20 pm
I wish to congratulate all of you for you decision Monday night on keeping school open. I wish it would have been for a longer duration, 4 days instead of 2 days,  but open just them same. It is important to have our kids in an actual classroom and I am happy to see that all of you feel the same. I am hoping that we will get back to at least 4 days by October. After your final vote a couple of weeks back where you took 4 days of school off the table I just predicted that you would succumb to the demands of the teachers union and follow all the other counties in our area and go all virtual . Thank you. I was wrong in assuming it would go that way. My apologies.
jim goodwin · July 29, 2020 at 1:59 pm
Meanwhile, the media is busy squelching any information about drugs that are currently available and are shown to be effective in preventing and early treatment of COVID-19.
Mark House · July 29, 2020 at 10:14 am

"As the death toll escalates in coronavirus hot spots, evidence is growing that young people who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns, are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members.

Front-line caregivers, elected officials and experts in Houston, South Florida and elsewhere say they are seeing patterns of hospitalization and death that confirm fears this would happen, which were first raised in May and June. That was when Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and other states reopened in efforts to revive their flagging economies.

The emerging trend highlights the difficulty of relying on the Trump administration’s strategy of sheltering the most vulnerable while the young and healthy return to work and school. That approach runs the risk of transmitting the virus when two or three generations share the same home and when many lower-income workers have little choice but to brave exposure to do their jobs."

Savefauquiercounty2019 · July 28, 2020 at 6:19 pm
Thank you for supporting our teachers and their children. Please continue to recruit and retain the best teachers. We want our teachers and all employees of our schools to know they have the hardest, most challenging jobs. Taking care of children is exhausting and challenging. Please keep them safe, do not cut corners. God bless.
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