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APS Outlines Return Timeline, As County Considers Community Centers for Supervised Learning

Arlington County is considering a plan to host some children of working parents in community centers for supervised learning, while Arlington Public Schools readies its plan for a return to in-person learning.

The use of community centers would be a relief valve for families that are unable to have a parent stay home during the day and do not have the means to pay for daytime child care. It would serve as an interim step until APS again offers full-time, in-person learning — whenever that may be.

“There’s no one silver bullet that’s going to fix the whole situation for schools or for childcare,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said at a virtual COVID-19 town hall meeting on Friday.

“We are looking at opening a couple of our community centers for children to have supervised learning when their parents have to be working,” Garvey continued. “I know that the school system and we too are interested in trying to get students back [to school] or get students into childcare who need it. We’re trying to do it in a priority order for those who are most at risk and having the toughest time with the current situation.”

Asked for more information on any such planning, Deputy County Manager Michelle Cowan issued the following statement to ARLnow.

The County has been exploring multiple options for care for school-aged children with APS and non-profit partners, with the initial priority being at-risk children. All options are being evaluated with the understanding that the County must comply with COVID and safety requirements when these types of services are provided in either County or APS facilities, and in many cases, child care licensure requirements. We are using some community centers for activities related to COVID (e.g., testing at the Arlington Mill Community Center) and for early voting; the County is working to ensure that the mix of uses is appropriate in light of COVID requirements.

Arlington’s public schools remain closed, but the school system is “continuing to plan for returning to hybrid, in-person learning,” Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said in an email to families on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, both the Fairfax County and Loudoun County school boards voted to start bringing some students — starting with those that are younger, at risk or have special needs — next month.

Durán is expected to announce a similar plan at tonight’s School Board meeting.

The tentative plan is for some students with disabilities to return by the end of October; PreK-3 students, career and technical education students, and other students with special needs to return by “early to mid-November;” and for all students opting for a hybrid learning model — two days per week in classrooms — to return in early December.

The plan is contingent on there not being a deterioration of health metrics in Arlington County.

“Our teachers and students are doing incredible work to adapt to distance learning, and we are doing everything we can to support their efforts,” Durán wrote on Tuesday. “We are working to bring in small groups of students based on level of need and will define that further at this Thursday’s meeting.”

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