Arlington, VA

Virginia schools may be closed for the rest of the academic year, but Barrett Elementary staff members haven’t gone anywhere.

That’s the message from a new music video uploaded to YouTube last night, featuring teachers dancing in their homes and yards to a cover of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”

“Check out this amazing video that our music teacher put together to bring some smiles to our students and their families,” Marissa Mulholland, a special education teacher at the school, told ARLnow. “It was so fun to be a part of this video… almost like music therapy for us teachers!”

Arlington’s public schools are still educating students via online distance learning, though curriculums have been pared back and standardized tests cancelled.

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Morning Notes

Local Coronavirus Test Results Delayed — “When we talked to an Arlington man Tuesday, it was approaching 11 days since he’d been tested for COVID-19, and he still hadn’t received his results. ‘It’s just so frustrating,’ Daniel Miller told us via FaceTime. ‘I just want my results back. I want to be able to know what I have. I want to know if this is COVID or not.'” [WJLA]

APS to Rethink Budget Proposal — “Arlington School Board members have given Superintendent Cintia Johnson direction to start battening the hatches as the school system – like the county, state and nation – move into rough economic waters. ‘We’re going to have to look at potential tough budget times’ and ‘figure out a way to move forward,’ School Board Vice Chairman Monique O’Grady said.” [InsideNova]

Window Smashed at Rhodeside Grill — Someone smashed one of the large front windows at Rhodeside Grill in Rosslyn, which is currently shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. [Twitter]

Local Restaurant Owner Still Optimistic — The outbreak has been devastating for the restaurant business, but some local owners are making the most of it. Amir Mostafavi, founder of the South Block juice chain, is giving away free fruit to kids in need during the crisis. “We’re going to come out of this as stronger people, as stronger businesses,” Mostafavi told NBC 4. [LinkedIn]

Bayou Bakery Closing Its Takeout Service — “Having persevered for three weeks through the limitations of the current public health situation, Arlington’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery is temporarily closing its doors to ‘Call-In, Carry Out’ service on April 1, 2020. Chef/owner David Guas will continue his mission to provide the community and underserved kids and families with free, grab-and-go meals.” [Press Release]

Shuttle Bus Company Helps Collect Food — “FLARE, an amenity electric shuttle service, along with the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, collected and delivered over 800 lbs. of food donations from the Crystal City area for the Arlington Food Assistance Center on Saturday, March 21, and announced that food collection efforts will continue in the Crystal City area starting today.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Allison Bredbenner

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Arlington Public Schools, now in its second week of students staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic, is working to determine what the rest of the school year will look like.

Monday’s announcement by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam means that APS will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, with educational activities continuing to be held online.

The move to teleworking has some concerned that disparities in access to technology will deepen already existing achievement gaps in public schools. But APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said students brought home their school-issued iPads and laptops before schools closed and students without access to the internet at home were given MiFi cards, allowing all to stay connected to their teachers.

APS is now working to figure out how to finish the school year, given the governor’s order.

“For now, we will continue to provide the continuity of learning plans in place through Canvas, Seesaw and other platforms through April 3,” APS said following the governor’s announcement. “We will be honoring Spring Break and no new assignments will be issued during that week. We will soon announce plans for programming for the weeks following Spring Break.”

In another message to parents earlier this week, before the announcement, APS said that the amount of new content introduced will depend on their grade level.

“Elementary teachers will not introduce new content within the timeframe that schools are currently set to be closed,” APS said. “Secondary teachers may begin introducing new content the week of March 23. We recognize that all students do not have the same ability to regularly access and attend to learning new skills or content while at home. Secondary teachers who are introducing new content are mindful of the opportunity gap that this is likely to create and will plan strategies to address it.”

“While virtual learning can never replace classroom instruction, teachers are providing instructional activities meant to help students maintain their skills and knowledge and prepare for what’s coming next,” APS said. “We understand this comes with both challenges and perks as adults and students work to establish new routines.”

If there are problems with the tech tools given to students, parents are encouraged to email the school system’s IT teams.

Catholic schools in Northern Virginia, meanwhile, have moved to entirely distance learning, the Diocese of Arlington announced yesterday.

“Distance learning is now in place, offering interactive, personalized instruction to students through the remainder of the academic year,” said a press release. “The Diocese has 37 parish (K-8) schools and four diocesan high schools serving almost 17,000 students.”

Update at 10:50 a.m. — Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson sent the following update to APS parents Thursday morning:

Dear APS Families,

As we all continue to support each other during these challenging times, I want to provide a brief update on our plans, based on guidance we have received from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to date.  But, first I want to acknowledge the impact this is having on family routines and thank you for your continued partnership in working through our present set of circumstances due to the coronavirus.

I understand the emotions our students, families and our staff are feeling, and I am confident we will move forward through this in a way that continues to serve all our students. Below are a few updates I can share now, with more to come.

Continuity of Learning Plan: Teachers will continue to engage in distance learning based on plans in place through Friday, April 3. Spring Break will proceed as planned the week of April 6-10. Monday, April 13 will remain a Grade Prep Day for teachers, and therefore APS will resume distance learning on Tues, April 14 with adjustments to our instructional model that will be announced prior to that time. Those plans are being shared with our advisory committees for input prior to sharing with families.

Graduation: State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Tues, March 24, that high school seniors who were on track to earn a diploma later this spring will be able to graduate. We are currently exploring creative alternatives to celebrate the Class of 2020. These students have worked hard and have been looking forward to this moment for years, so we want to make sure we honor and celebrate their monumental achievement. This will take more time and is a priority for us all. Once a final plan has been reached, we will share it with students and families.

Grade-Level Placement: Students who were in good standing as of the (end of the third quarter) closure of schools on March 13 will proceed to the next grade level while students in need of support or students with failing grades will receive the necessary help during the fourth quarter to make up work and grades in preparation for the next grade level. More information will be provided in the coming weeks.

Assignment Grading: We are following VDOE guidance to develop a process to ensure grading is fair and equitable while schools are closed. While distance learning cannot replace the work that happens in the classroom, all students will have the opportunity to make progress and to learn and grow.

Special Education Support: Special Education teachers are connecting with families via virtual video check-ins to provide students with the reassurance of a familiar face, as well as consultative support. Related service providers are collaborating with special education teachers to design accessible instructional activities or adapt existing activities for home learning.  Additionally, if individual students or parents are experiencing difficulties accessing instruction, related service providers will set up a consultation with the parents.

AP/IB Exams: The May 2020 IB examinations have been cancelled, but students still must complete their required assessments. Students will take their AP tests online in place of the traditional face-to-face test. The College Board will release the AP test schedule in the beginning of April.

Standards of Learning: SOLs have been canceled for this school year. The VDOE is currently in the process of officially applying for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, so additional information on SOLs will be released soon. Not having to take SOLs this year takes a lot of pressure off our students and teachers while allowing them to focus on instruction and essential skills during the closure.

Food and Nutrition: On March 16, APS began serving free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for children ages 2-18 at Kenmore Middle School and Drew Elementary. On March 25, APS added three additional sites at Barrett, Campbell and Randolph elementary schools. Meals are served from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday – Friday. To date, we have served 10,034 meals, just over 1,200 per day.

On the Friday before Spring Break, April 3, APS will provide a week’s worth of meals to families who come to one of the sites to ensure they have food during Spring Break.

We are currently evaluating plans for food distribution through the remainder of the year. Those plans are being developed based on state guidance and will be communicated when finalized.

I want to extend my appreciation to the food services workers who have been coming in to prepare the food for our students, as well as the APS executive leadership team and administrators who are volunteering at each of these sites. Thank you to our custodians and facilities staff who continue to clean and prepare our buildings. We also want to thank school PTAs, community partners, non-profit organizations and business who are supporting families through meal distribution and food drives. We have them listed on our website under Meal Services.

Telework and Schedule Adjustments

The transition to distance learning and telework has made it easier for continuous contact at any time of day, so I am asking everyone to please try to limit contact with teachers and staff to the hours they have communicated they are available as much as possible.

We will continue to keep you informed through our website with additional resources and updates on services as they are finalized.

In the meantime, please be safe and take care of yourself and your families.

File photo

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Morning Notes

APS Expands Grab and Go Meal Locations — “Beginning Wed, March 25, APS will expand the number of sites that provide free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to five locations to better reach families. Meals will be set up outside the building for distribution from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday.” The new locations are Barrett, Campbell and Randolph elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Massage Therapist Charged with Assault — “At approximately 6:31 p.m. on March 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 7, the victim was receiving a massage when she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the suspect. Following an investigation by the Special Victims’ Unit, a warrant for Assault and Battery.” [Arlington County]

Rosslyn Launches Restaurant Support Program — “The Rosslyn BID is… launching #RosslynRewards, a program to support Rosslyn restaurants that are still operating during these uncertain times. When you order takeout or delivery from participating Rosslyn restaurants and share on social media with the hashtag #RosslynRewards, the BID will give you a $10 reward for every $20 you spend.” [Press Release]

ART Bus Rides Now Free — “Starting Tuesday, March 24, Arlington Transit bus riders will enter and exit all ART buses using the rear doors only. Customers who require the use of a wheelchair ramp can still enter the bus through the front door. ART will also be suspending fare collection on all ART buses since the farebox is located at the front door.” The ART changes mirror those implemented by Metro today. [Arlington Transit]

Signature Cancels Performances — “In response to guidance from the CDC and state and local authorities, Signature Theatre has made the decision to close its doors to the public through the beginning of June.” [Press Release]

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all schools in the state to remain closed through the end of the academic year and certain non-essential businesses to close.

The governor made the announcement Monday afternoon, citing the need to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads, and to protect the capacity of our healthcare systems,” Northam said.

All schools public and private are to stay closed at least through the end of the academic year. As a result, Arlington Public Schools says it is now working on a plan for what to do going forward, while awaiting further guidance from the state Dept. of Education.

Earlier Monday, APS told parents that it would start to introduce new instructional material to middle and high school students this week.

Elementary teachers will not introduce new content within the timeframe that schools are currently set to be closed. Secondary teachers may begin introducing new content the week of March 23. We recognize that all students do not have the same ability to regularly access and attend to learning new skills or content while at home. Secondary teachers who are introducing new content are mindful of the opportunity gap that this is likely to create and will plan strategies to address it.

While virtual learning can never replace classroom instruction, teachers are providing instructional activities meant to help students maintain their skills and knowledge and prepare for what’s coming next. We understand this comes with both challenges and perks as adults and students work to establish new routines.

Given the extended school closures, state officials are going to with localities on a plan to provide childcare to essential workers, like those who work in healthcare, Northam said.

Northam also announced today that, as of just before midnight on Tuesday, he was ordering certain non-essential businesses closed. That includes recreational and entertainment businesses, like bowling alleys, as well as personal care services that can’t social distance, like barber shops and salons.

Restaurants will only be able to remain open for carryout, curbside pickup, and delivery, Northam said, finally providing the state backing to what Arlington County leaders had been calling for since last week.

The business restrictions will be in effect for at least 30 days, Northam announced.

“We do not make these decisions lightly,” the governor said. “But COVID-19 is serious and we must act.”

“We’re acting judiciously and with full regard to the consequences,” Northam added. “Our priority is to save lives. We have a health crisis, and we have an economic crisis, but the sooner we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover.”

Among the businesses deemed essential, which will be able to stay open, are grocery stores, pharmacies and banks. Construction activities will be allowed to continue, and “construction product retail stores” can stay open, the governor said. Virginia ABC liquor stores will also stay open.

Northam did not order churches and other houses of worship closed, but he encouraged them to practice social distancing.

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Dr. Gregg Robertson, the beloved principal of Washington-Liberty High School, is retiring at the end of the school year.

With students out until at least the end of spring break as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Robertson made the announcement yesterday via email. He said he is retiring to go back to teaching, this time at the college level.

Robertson said he’s hopeful the school year will resume and he’ll be able to close out his 17-year tenure as W-L’s principal with a proper farewell.

“I look very forward to when we are all back in school and the current situation is behind us,” he said. “I miss seeing you all in the hallways and can’t wait until we are together again.”

The full letter is below.

Dear Students,

I am sending you this message via Naviance because we are currently not together face-to-face. I originally intended to share this information with you in person, but the current situation does not allow me to do so. I will be retiring at the end of this school year. It has been my pleasure to serve as your principal at W-L.  I am completing my 17th year at W-L and have loved every single day! I have always claimed to be the luckiest person in the world to have been given the opportunity to get to know all of the current Generals at W-L and all the ones who have come before you. As you know, your high school continues to be one of the best high schools in the country. This is true due to all the wonderful and dedicated teachers, all the hard-working and caring students, and your supportive parents. I have met and gotten to know so many incredible students over the years — many with whom I still remain in contact.

I know each of you are going to do great things in life because you are receiving one of the best educations that can be had. I look forward to hearing about all the great things you accomplish over the years to come. I plan to continue my career in education by teaching at the college level. After all these years as a principal — I still miss being in the classroom. So who knows, maybe I will see some of you in class some day! In the meantime, stay safe and well. I look very forward to when we are all back in school and the current situation is behind us. I miss seeing you all in the hallways and can’t wait until we are together again.

With care and respect for all of you,

Dr. Robertson

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Morning Notes

APS Creates Learning at Home Guide — “We have created a Learning at Home webpage that pulls details on instruction, additional educational resources for families, activities and resources for coping with stress. If you have questions, please send them to [email protected]” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

How to Report Price Gouging in Virginia — “If you see excessive price increases for coronavirus (COVID-19) necessities, report it to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.” [Facebook, Attorney General Mark Herring]

Costco Encouraging Social Distancing — Costco in Pentagon City has had lines out of the door every morning since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The line has gotten longer — and more spread out — in the interest of social distancing. [Twitter]

Airports Remain Open — Reagan National Airport remains open, reportedly with no plans to limit access. Most stores and restaurants at DCA also remain open, but with modified hours. [Twitter, Twitter]

Signature Theater Show Goes Online — “Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is looking to make its production of Dani Stoller’s ‘Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes’ available online to ticketholders.” [New York Times]

Ramen Shop Offering Free Food for Seniors — “Gaijin Ramen Shop management and staff are heartbroken by elders without food because of the COVID-19 pandemic… We are offering FREE delivery of fresh vegetable ramen soup to any elderly in need.” [Community Post]

Free Pizza for Kids at Troy’s Italian — “On March 20, from 12-8 p.m. we will be doing free pizza slices for kids. We are also offering contactless curbside pickup. Call us at (703) 528-2828 when you get here, and we will bring the food out, and put it into the trunk of your car for you.” [Facebook]

Vehicle Inspection Enforcement Suspended — “Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

New Local Facebook Page — “Community activist and Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth has centralized tools and resources for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak. His Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, is up to 2,000 members in just one day of its existence.” [WDVM]

Nearby: Coronavirus Strikes Falls Church Senior Center — “A resident at The Kensington assisted living center in the City of Falls Church has tested positive for COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today. It is the first reported case of the coronavirus in the City.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

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(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) While Arlington Public Schools works to get meals to students who aren’t in school, a group of teachers have gone the extra mile and are working to get grocery gift cards to families on the free and reduced lunch list.

A GoFundMe campaign for Arlington students in need is approaching $170,000 raised, with an $830,000 goal. The hope is to provide a $100 grocery gift card into the hands of every APS student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

“Arlington Public Schools has approximately 8,300 kids who receive free or reduced lunches,” the fundraiser’s founders wrote on GoFundMe. “These food-insecure families may face challenges feeding their families. This problem may be compounded if employers start cutting hours or closing their doors and wage workers end up without work.”

The fundraising push has made headlines nationally, on Good Morning America, CNN and People Magazine, as the teachers try to spread the word about Arlington families in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

The fundraiser is not associated with APS — which is currently distributing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches — but the teachers said they’re working with others in their schools and with the PTAs.

“They know the kids in need in their schools and are getting the cards to those families,” teacher Aaron Schuetz said, who started the fundraiser with fellow Yorktown High School science teachers Laurie Vena and Deborah Waldron. “Sometimes [delivery is] by mail, or pickup, etc.”

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Update at 3/23/20 — The number of meal distribution locations has been expanded to five.

Earlier: Arlington Public Schools will be offering free breakfasts and lunches to those who need them during the month-long school closure.

APS announced Friday evening that meals will be provided for pickup from Kenmore Middle School and Drew Elementary, starting Monday, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The meals will be available to any child ages 2-18, but children must be present to receive the meals.

The program will help fill a need in the community, particularly among those eligible for free or reduced price lunches at school, as families hunker down during the worsening coronavirus outbreak. For some families, the outbreak will mean a loss of hourly wages for an extended period of time.

More from APS:

Beginning Mon, March 16, APS will provide free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches at two school sites – Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) and Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School (3500 S. 23rd Street). Meals will be set up on a table outside the building for distribution from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday.

APS will provide one (1) lunch for that day and one (1) breakfast to take home for the following day. These meals will be free to any child aged 2 to 18. Children must be present to receive the meals; no meals will be given to parents without their child or children present. We will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and make adjustments as needed.

Meals will be provided to all children without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.

Meals will be provided Monday-Friday beginning 3/16/2020, at the sites and times as follows:

Kenmore Middle School
200 S. Carlin Springs Road
11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School
3500 S. 23rd Street
11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Also on Friday, APS announced that it would be offering instructional activities for students during the school closure, via a combination of hard copy materials and electronic means.

The school system provided the following guidance to families:

We have prepared to deliver instruction to our students during this period. Please note the last day of the third-quarter grading period has been altered due to the school closure. All teachers will now complete their grading of third-quarter content by March 20, and it will only include student work submitted by that date. Report cards will still be sent home to families at the end of April as previously scheduled.

  • For Early Childhood and Elementary students (PreK-Grade 5), instructional materials have been prepared and should have been distributed by individual schools either in hard copy or electronically. If you have questions about how to access the instructional materials for your child, please contact your student’s teacher.
  • Secondary students (Grades 6-12) will be able to access assignments using Canvas. Teachers will spend the week of March 16 fulfilling their normal duties and working to transition course content, assignments and activities online.
    We want to acknowledge that we can never replace the work our teachers do with students in our classrooms; no one expects learning to be as effective as what teachers accomplish directly with students. These activities are meant to help our students maintain their existing skills and knowledge, extend their learning, and prepare a foundation for topics and concepts to come in the fourth quarter.

During our school closure, teachers will provide instructional activities that both review previously taught information and introduce new topics and concepts. While teachers have been instructed not to grade assignments or quizzes of newly-introduced topics or concepts, they may offer assessments to inform their teaching. These formative assessments will be used to monitor student progress and evaluate the effectiveness of instructional activities.

Teachers will be able to grade assignments assigned prior to Friday, March 13, for use when calculating third-quarter grades. It is important to note that the last day for students to submit third-quarter assignments is Friday, March 20, unless otherwise arranged with the teacher.

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(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools are closing starting Monday and are expected to remain closed through the end of spring break in April.

The school system made the announcement shortly after noon on Friday. APS previously cancelled or postponed non-essential events due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Falls Church City Schools are also closing. Alexandria City Public Schools made a similar announcement around the same time.

Elsewhere, Fairfax County closed schools Friday and cancelled all school trips and extracurricular activities. Loudoun County closed its schools from Thursday until March 20. Schools in the District will be closed the remainder of the month starting March 16, and all public schools in Maryland are closing from March 16 through March 27.

APS and Falls Church City Schools sent the following announcement to parents.

Dear APS Families and Staff:

In response to growing concerns and anxiety in our community about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Arlington Public Schools and Falls Church City Public Schools have aligned, and in close collaboration with other Northern Virginia school divisions, will close beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. The present plans are to remain closed through Spring Break, with students scheduled to return on Tue, April 14, 2020. We will continue to evaluate and monitor the situation on a daily basis and will provide an update on our plans as new information is available.

Given all the information available now, including other closures throughout the National Capital Region that impact our staff and families, we believe this is the best decision to make at this time.

All of us, school administrators, staff, and parents, want the same outcome–keeping our kids and community safe.

Each of our divisions will send additional logistical details of the closure to our staff and families later today. Thank you for your continued understanding and patience.

Sincerely,

Cintia Z. Johnson
Interim Superintendent, Arlington County Public Schools

Peter J. Noonan Ed.D.
Superintendent, Falls Church City Public Schools

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The timing could hardly be worse: during the coronavirus outbreak, as people are urged to frequently wash their hands, Wakefield High School is experiencing water pressure issues in bathrooms.

Emails sent to parents and staff report occasional but recurring water pressure problems that affect second and third floor bathrooms in particular. We’re told the issues cropped up again earlier this week.

As a result, school officials say they’ve propped open bathroom doors — so users don’t have to touch handles — and put hand sanitizer in place. The school is also awaiting delivery and installation of a “booster pump” to help solve the issue.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia suggested it’s an issue with water pressure from county pipes.

“We have identified the problem and are working on a solution,” Bellavia told ARLnow. “The problem is occurring because Wakefield sits at a high point at the end the line.”

Wakefield Principal Chris Willmore sent the following email to parents last night.

Good Evening Wakefield families,

I wanted to share with you recent steps we have taken to protect against the coronavirus.

We are aware of the urgent issue related to low and inconsistent water pressure on the second and third floors and are working closely with Facilities to address it as quickly as possible. Please note that this issue related to water pressure does occur on the first floor occasionally as well, but not as often as the upper floors. While there are no problems with the water pressure on many days, there are days in which it will disappear for 5-20 minute periods of time. This fall and winter, APS Facilities staff repaired or replaced all broken sinks, faucets, and dead batteries and looked closer into the water pressure situation. Facilities is expediting the purchase of a “pump booster” that will supplement the pressure when there is not enough when water enters the building from the county lines. We do not have an estimated delivery or installation date yet and will keep you informed.

In the meantime, we are continuing to work with the Facilities department to identify interim solutions to ensure students can practice good hand-washing hygiene while we await the installation of the booster pump. As an immediate first step, we have secured bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer that we will place outside the administrative offices on the second and third floors and at the welcome table in the Town Hall. If there is no water pressure, staff and students can go get hand sanitizer. While it is not convenient, since many times there is water pressure on the first floor, coming down to a bathroom is also an option.

We have also ordered additional door stops for all student bathrooms so that students will not need to touch door handles as they enter or exit.

I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this challenging time. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Best,

Chris

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