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September 23, 2020

Students back in schools 2 days a week in November

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Transportation presents one of the greatest challenges, with buses running at a fraction of their capacity because of social distancing.
We do expect there will be some outbreaks; we do expect there will be some quarantining.
— Superintendent David Jeck
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
All students have the option of returning to Fauquier County Public Schools for some face-to-face instruction in November.

The school board Wednesday night voted, 5-0, to approve a revised plan for “hybrid” instruction that will start Monday, Nov. 9.

With the exception of some special education and career/technical students, all have studied remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March.

Students can opt to continue completely “virtual” instruction or to attend classes two days a week and to work on their own the other three days. The new plan mostly mirrors the one the school board adopted in July and then abandoned in August because of staffing problems.

But, this time each teacher will lead in-person classes, livestreamed for those who select virtual instruction.

> Document at bottom of story

“We’ll need to order about 900 cameras and have them installed by Nov. 4,” Superintendent David Jeck told the board Wednesday night. “We have no doubt we’ll have them installed.”

Teachers will wear headsets with microphones. Students who study remotely will have the ability to interact with their teachers in real time. Although the cameras will point to the front of their classrooms, teachers will have the ability to move without losing audio contact with online students.

The previous plan for “hybrid” instruction called for separate teaching staffs to lead in-person and online classes.

But, while more than 3,000 students signed up for the virtual option, only 37 teachers either qualified, because of pre-existing medical conditions, or volunteered to lead virtual classes, according to administrators. Additionally, four of 20 schools lacked nurses — critical to dealing with the pandemic.

Two weeks before the Aug. 24 start of classes, Dr. Jeck recommended pivoting to the all-virtual model, which the board reluctantly approved.

For the most part, teachers sit in front of computers to lead classes that resemble video conferences.

Thousands of parents — most of whom wanted at least four days a week of in-person instruction — bashed the decision. Enrollment dropped about 750, and the school system started classes with 10,241 students. Private school enrollments and home schooling soared.

Meanwhile, online instruction has worked poorly for many students, despite the system’s efforts, which include distributing thousands of laptop computers and hundreds of WiFi “hotspots,” along with the establishment of “internet cafes” in nine schools.

Those challenges will remain for students in many rural areas if they choose to continue virtual instruction.

Bringing thousands of students into buildings also will depend on help from parents, a quarter of whom have indicated they would drive their children to and from schools to address transportation challenges.

The school system will post another online survey with just three questions — about transportation and the selected instructional model, Dr. Jeck said. Parents will have until Oct. 4 to respond.

Board member Suzanne Sloane (Scott District) asked if responses to any of those questions could disrupt the new plan.

“If that 25 percent (of parents) who said they’d drive their kids to schools becomes 4 percent, then we’ve got a problem,” Dr. Jeck replied.

Transportation remains one of the greatest challenges, because of social distancing requirements and Fauquier’s already complex system of bussing 7,000 students living all across the sprawling, 650-square-mile county.

Buses will run at lower capacity with students widely spaced.

The system also will rely on parents to conduct five-point screenings of their children each morning before they go to school and to keep sick students or those with virus symptoms at home, Dr. Jeck stressed.

Inside schools, the situations become more manageable, health department epidemiologists April Achter and Daniel Ferrell confirmed Wednesday.

They work each day with the public school systems in the health district’s four other counties — Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison and Orange — that already conduct in-person classes, along with private schools throughout the region.

Ms. Achter and Mr. Ferrell answered board members’ questions about the response to positive COVID-19 tests among students and school staff members. Each situation will call for a unique response, but the epidemiologists expressed confidence in the school system and health officials’ abilities.

The region’s case numbers and rate of positive tests for the virus have declined, they added.

The school system also has filled its nursing vacancies, according to the superintendent.

“We do expect there will be some outbreaks; we do expect there will be some quarantining” and possible individual school closures, Dr. Jeck told the board.

The system will install “a dashboard” on its website that will provide “transparent” information on cases in each school, he said.

The school board will review the plan and results of the new online survey during its annual retreat Tuesday, Oct. 5, at the Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park.

The hybrid plan calls for students with last names beginning with A to K (Group A) to attend in-person classes Mondays and Tuesday. Those whose names begin with L to Z (Group B) will attend in-person classes Thursdays and Fridays.

Teachers will prepare them to work independently other days.

Wednesdays will serve as planning days for teachers, when they also will have “office hours” to answer student questions.

Substitute teachers also remain extremely scarce. The system has fewer than 100, compared with “330, 320 in prior years,” Dr. Jeck said.

Board members and administrators urged anyone interested to contact the school system, which has ramped up recruitment and increased pay.

“I just want to emphasize that the safety of our staff is a primary concern,” board member Stephanie Litter-Reber (Lee) said.

Dr. Jeck repeatedly said any staff member with a health condition that could affect his or her ability to work in a school with students should contact the human resources department.

“I know we’re asking more of our teachers than ever before,” Ms. Litter-Reber said.

The school board has faced intense pressure from parents advocating in-person classes and from teachers expressing health concerns. The Fauquier Education Association lobbied for virtual instruction before classes resumed.

Despite the intensity of those debates, Chairman Duke Bland (Marshall) on Wednesday night thanked those who have called and emailed to express their opinions.

“We are your representatives,” Mr. Bland said. “We do try to make thoughtful decisions on your behalf.”

He added that the Nov. 9 return to classrooms will give teachers and other staff members time to adapt to yet another significant change.

Donna Grove (Cedar Run) asked administrators to find ways to provide relief for parents of elementary school students who face particular challenges with the all-virtual model.

Deputy Superintendent Major Warner promised to present Ms. Grove’s suggestions to elementary school principals, who will meet Friday.

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

FCPS Path to Reopening Upda... by Fauquier Now

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OceanDean · December 21, 2020 at 11:09 am
I think this is disgusting,people are making situation dangerous for all family.
No matter who is going out - man is a possible walking disease for all family.
I think that all kids should stay on a remote studying, I can see the future in it.
We should make our kids technologicaly wise, we have to teach them using internet properly (here you can read how to do it our kids will live in a future with new technologies, without table&desks;,understand it.
MirandaD · October 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm
I was also very pleased with this information, because I consider distance education to be ineffective. When you are at home, you find a lot of other things to do or play and study goes to the last plan. It's good that some writing services, like for example help to get good grades. But we all know that good grades are not an indicator of knowledge. Therefore, I lean towards traditional education and hope that the pandemic will end soon and we will all go to universities, colleges and schools.
Evil · October 21, 2020 at 12:14 pm
This is good news
Losepturiff · September 30, 2020 at 7:24 am
It can be seen that the author tried very hard when writing this article. I also want to help students and tell you about the five most useful online services for students. If you are interested, then be sure to visit the site for a great article about it. I would like to add that it is much easier to study now than it used to be, since you always have the opportunity to find any answer on the Internet, before students could not enjoy this luxury.
AngryBob · September 28, 2020 at 9:43 am
@Madness: The problem is that the governor "declared" that students have to be 6 feet apart at all times. The school board doesn't really have a choice. There isn't enough space.

So put the blame where it belongs - Governor Ralph Northam.
Madness · September 27, 2020 at 12:39 pm
2 days of in-person teaching vs. 4 days of virtual teaching. Does anyone think this new plan is going to help any of the school kids further their education? What was the school board thinking? Less instruction time equals better education?
Tony Bentley · September 26, 2020 at 8:38 pm
anonymouslyanonymous - Ms. Rodgers didn't say you weren't do the work, you did. She said all she was hearing were excuses for not doing your work.

Don't apologize then say you're sorry, it invalidates your argument.
anonymouslyanonymous · September 26, 2020 at 1:10 pm
Cammie Rodgers - literally every kid that is having problems that i've talked to have said they don't have the motivation anymore . at school we have more motivation because we have the teachers physical presence . i have been doing my work , i've just been struggling with it and it's causing me to fail . you can't say i'm not doing my work when you barely know me and i'm sorry if that sounds rude but it's the truth .
ConcernedMom · September 25, 2020 at 10:16 am
I do not agree with allowing kids another pass fail grade. Our children need to get an education, and accountability for their grades and education. Our staff members all showed up to teach these kids, drive them to school, make hot meals and provide bagged food for those who are struggling. They are working hard and as a team. They deserve recognition and a raise! They're showing up for our children.
The rest of you who are constantly putting down the school system. You have enough time to bash them why not be a part of the solution to the underlying problems like substite shortages? If you participate in becoming a solution then our kids have a better shot and this school thing.
As for anonymouslyanonymous, don't just give up because you are in a different environment every one of your peers have similar circumstances and you should want better for yourself and push your self. The teachers have office hours and are more than happy to help you with any questions you have.
Open that laptop up and get back at the school work and make your grades count. Don't be another brick in the wall. Be your own beautiful person
Silii · September 25, 2020 at 7:20 am
Bestkeptsecrets: If you have a GED or high school diploma, you qualify to be a substitute teacher. I suggest you apply today. Once that is done, then you can provide guidance on how to recruit teachers, somethin that is a growing problem across the country. For the most part I'm not seeing any constructive, mature, useful comments here. The pandemic is a major problem across the country and everyone is being forced to make all sorts of lifestyle adjustments. It seems many just aren't capable of that. Previous generations, especially WWII and prior, had many life adjustments to make to survive. Those folks had grit. Stong people are creative and adjust and make it through while showing their children how to cope, adjust, keep going, be creative, and make it through. Out teachers and other school staff are doing a fantastic job, as are the administrators and school board.
NewBmore · September 24, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Bestkeptsecrets - sounds like you've got it all figured out. The DNC, Bloomberg, and Soros are definitely pulling strings over at the FCPS school board.
NewBmore · September 24, 2020 at 6:18 pm
Theater for All - what do you think the kids are going to be doing? Group projects?

There are two options: (1) give the kids a "traditional" school experience, which inherently requires some flouting of COVID precautions or (2) strictly adhere to guidance (everyone 6 feet apart, lunch at desks, teachers rotate between classrooms, etc.) and those two days a week the kids are in school become two days in prison.

There will be an outbreak in the first few weeks. Book it. Is that worth a few days of zero price childcare?
BestKeptSecrets · September 24, 2020 at 4:26 pm
Hmmmmm, sounds political to start this AFTER the elections. We need competent leaders and administrators who can retain and recruit qualified, experienced teachers.
FalconDad · September 24, 2020 at 10:59 am
Warrenton Middle School is great and so is the Principal. My problem with their virtual implementation is that some teachers there use Zoom, some use Google Meet and some use Blackboard Collaboration for their virtual classrooms. I wish they could at least standardize on one meeting app.
Theatre for All · September 24, 2020 at 10:54 am
If you re-read the article note there are neighboring districts open. WHERE is this idea of “worksheets all day” coming from??? Complain if you must BUT viable safe solutions are more helpful and apt to be considered as possibilities.
“They work each day with the public school systems in the health district’s four other counties — Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison and Orange — that already conduct in-person classes, along with private schools throughout the region.“
wr54920 · September 24, 2020 at 10:04 am
It is likely all about money. State and Federal funding comes down to the number of students. When the school system loses a number of enrollees to private schools or other options, the pot of money shrinks. I am sure they are concerned about the health of the student body and the staff/teachers but at the end of the day - it comes down to money. It is always about the money.
NewBmore · September 24, 2020 at 9:54 am
This isn't about education. Your kids will not be getting any semblance of the education they received pre-COVID. Virtual learning allows for more engagement than can be achieved in a classroom where proper distancing and protection measures are in place. You think virtual has been a joke so far? Wait until your kids spend 8 hours a day at their desk doing worksheets. At least with virtual you have the opportunity to teach them about self-reliance and accountability.

Or you parents can just admit the truth - you just want day care.
HearBetweetTheLines · September 24, 2020 at 9:54 am
And now we sit back and watch teachers take early retirement or leave. Same with bus drivers. This schoolboard, Dr Jeck, Major Etc has grossly mishandled how to manage this Pandemic and people is sick of it regardless what side you are are on. Republican, democratic, union, non-union.
School won't be able to open due to the lack of employees. They are leaving in drones come November 8th.
AngryBob · September 24, 2020 at 9:42 am
I had to put my kids either in private school or group tutoring. Still no Wuflu in either of those settings.

This will help with their social interactions (critical, in my opinion), but not so much with academics. So my six year old gets two days a week in class, then she gets a stack of worksheets for the next three days? That is still not acceptable.

How about matching up the students who want to be virtual with the teachers who want to teach virtual. Then everyone else goes to class five days a week.
Cammie Rodgers · September 24, 2020 at 9:06 am
anonymouslyanonymous - "i just dont have the motivation......." All I am reading are excuses for you not doing your work.
Cammie Rodgers · September 24, 2020 at 9:02 am
Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities.

This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.

“Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota."
SkylinesSuck · September 24, 2020 at 7:57 am
So for all the parents pushing for this because they need to get back to work, just want the kids out of the house, or think this will result in better instruction--you realize they will now only have 2 days a week of instruction either in person or live online, right? The other 3 days a week will be a couple of busy work assignments like they get now and the kids are still your problem to actually parent. Mind blowing. The "school" they have been doing up to this point has been problematic and lacking for sure, but it's something we have to deal with because of the virus. This? This new move is hot steaming garbage. I hope all you parents turning your kids education and even safety into a political issue are happy.
anonymouslyanonymous · September 24, 2020 at 4:56 am
DonkeyFarmer - enough parents pushed them to change it . they couldve sent us back in august if they had prepared correctly . what you said about them being "incompetent fools" is absolutely 100% true and i agree with you . the teachers union in my opinion lost all their students besides maybe a small amount because no one signed up for this , more of us picked in person , not virtual . i know they definitely lost me , i stopped doing my classes and im currently failing because i dont have a teacher physically pushing me to do my work , i just dont have the motivation and ive always worked better in person .
DonkeyFarmer · September 24, 2020 at 12:24 am
So what changed to now allow in-person instruction?

Reading this it seems like the only thing that changed was the teachers that are teaching in-person will be the same ones streaming to "virtual" students. Wow. Some genius to figure that one out... Congratulations. What a bunch of incompetent fools.

And you hired the 4 nurses we were short. Good job guys. Another 5-0 vote. Every vote is 5-0 with these cowards. Get rid of 4 of them. 1-0 is as good as 5-0.

Teachers union hope you are proud you lost 10% of your students.
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