(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) Most Arlington Public Schools students will not return to classrooms until 2021.
Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán announced today that the planned “Level 2” return for younger and technical education students “will pause through the remainder of this calendar year.” On the other hand, the “Level 1” return for students with disabilities will proceed as planned this coming Wednesday.
The delay follows an increase in local coronavirus cases.
“I have made the decision to pause Level 2, which we had projected to begin November 12,” Durán wrote in an email to APS families. “We continue to see the case incidence rate in our area increasing, not decreasing. Level 2 comprises significantly larger numbers of students and staff. Moving too quickly to Level 2, while case levels are still rising, represents a safety risk and could cause further disruption to schedules.”
Durán said the school system will continue “to solidify staffing plans and capacity for Level 2 students” and will provide regular updates through December.
Arlington Parents for Education, a group advocating for opening schools for in-person learning, said in a statement that “Arlington’s children will feel the effects of this decision for years to come.”
No words. APS just delayed kindergarteners from seeing their classrooms until 2021. At some point, we have to learn to live in a world where covid exists and where children are allowed to attend school. There is no such thing as a zero-risk environment for anything. Try harder.
— Arlington Parents for Education (@ArlParentsforEd) November 2, 2020
The full email from Durán is below.
With in-person learning for Level 1 beginning on Wednesday and with November 12 fast approaching, I am providing my weekly Return-to-School Plan update today instead of tomorrow.
Last week we received interim guidance for schools from the Virginia Department of Education and Virginia Department Health. We will be making modifications to the APS COVID-19 Dashboard this week to reflect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention primary and secondary indicators for schools. Our dashboard reporting will continue to show the regional weekly transmission information from the Virginia Department of Health in addition to these core indicators.
Based on our review of the updated guidance and latest health metrics, we are proceeding with Return-to-School Level 1 beginning on November 4. We are prepared to provide in-person learning support to the 236 students in Level 1, using every recommended health and safety protocol to make this transition safely. Schools have communicated details regarding this transition to Level 1 families, and transportation information for Level 1 students is available in ParentVUE.
I have made the decision to pause Level 2, which we had projected to begin November 12. We continue to see the case incidence rate in our area increasing, not decreasing. Level 2 comprises significantly larger numbers of students and staff. Moving too quickly to Level 2, while case levels are still rising, represents a safety risk and could cause further disruption to schedules.
We will pause through the remainder of this calendar year. This decision allows us to carefully monitor the effective implementation of all CDC mitigation strategies, while continuing to solidify staffing plans and capacity for Level 2 students. I will provide continuous updates on our planning and progress through my regular weekly messages and in our School Board Monitoring Reports on November 5, November 17, December 3, and December 17.
As we plan for in-person learning, we continue to strengthen our distance learning offering. Teachers, students, and classes have established meaningful routines together during the first quarter of the school year, and our teachers and staff are working harder than ever to provide a quality distance learning experience. We remain committed to providing all students the best educational experience possible, with the academic and social-emotional support they need to learn and grow during these challenging times.
Thank you for continuing to work collaboratively with us to support all students, by sharing your questions, comments, and ideas.
Dr. Francisco Durán