Arlington, VA

Arlington Public Schools says any in-person return to classrooms will be phased, bringing back certain student groups before others.

That was revealed in a School Talk message sent to APS families on Tuesday. Officials also announced plans to help connect working families in need of childcare during remote schooling with local options.

The email, sent by Superintendent Francisco Durán, said students with disabilities would be the first to return once APS determines that it’s safe to resume some in-person instruction. Students in Pre-K through 3rd grade, as well as English Learner students, would phase in next, followed by all other students who opt in to the hybrid model of two in-person instruction days per week.

To decide when a hybrid model can safely begin, APS is looking at metrics like family and employee preferences, global availability of PPE and custodial supplies, and COVID-19 health metrics at local to national levels, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

“As we prepare for distance learning, I want to reiterate that we remain in close contact with state health officials and the Arlington County Public Health Division to monitor health data and evaluate opportunities to gradually phase in hybrid, in-person instruction,” Durán wrote. “I will notify you well in advance as plans progress and circumstances change.”

The letter also said Arlington County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has identified 328 available slots in childcare centers and family day care homes located throughout the county.

These facilities are not affiliated with APS and families would have to pay to send their children there. The department is currently looking for additional slots and ways to expand options for low-income families.

“APS is providing childcare for staff only in our buildings. We are not providing childcare for families in our facilities,” Bellavia said. “Instead, APS is working with Arlington County to identify current childcare centers and in-home childcare facilities that can accommodate additional children.”

DHS is working for a way to prioritize children and families with the highest need when filling these slots, according to Bellavia.

More from Durán’s letter:

We know childcare is a major challenge for working families. We are working with the County to make some options available. The Department of Human Services has been working to expand availability among existing childcare providers, encouraging closed centers to reopen, and helping potential providers overcome obstacles such as licensing and land use processes. Through this work, DHS has identified more than 300 available slots through existing providers, based on numbers reported at the end of July:

  • Childcare Centers (63 total): 32 currently open with approximately 145 slots available
  • Family Day Care Homes (120 total): 109 currently open with approximately 183 slots available

More than 20 of these providers have indicated interest in expanding their hours and age ranges to accommodate school-aged children. DHS is supporting those efforts and creating a process to prioritize available slots to support children and families with the highest need. We are also working with the YMCA and other local non-profits and to expand options for low-income families. More details and how families can access these childcare options will be communicated through APS and the County as this work progresses.

The new school year is set to start online only, on Tuesday, Sept. 8. In July, Durán said he hoped to start transitioning students back in-person instruction in October.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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