Arlington, VA

(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is using Microsoft Teams to facilitate its online learning and some users dislike it so much they’ve started a Change.org petition to try to get APS to use Zoom instead.

“The foundation of any good virtual program rests on the video conferencing platform(s) used,” the petition organizers said. “From our experience this past spring, Microsoft Teams was not an accessible or user-friendly solution for successful remote learning. We would like to bring your attention to the issues many of us had with Microsoft Teams and implore you to make a change.”

APS is starting the school year in September with distance learning only, making the choice of software a more weighty decision than it otherwise might be. Unlike APS, Fairfax County Public Schools attempted to teach new material via online instruction in the spring — the effort proved disastrous due to technology challenges.

The petition says Arlington teachers have had issues with getting students into the virtual rooms, which the petition noted as being among the most basic requirement for a functional online learning system.

“Getting onto their online class meetings should be as easy as walking into a school building,” the petition said. “If it is not, then it is an inequitable, non-accessible system. We have heard story after story from both teachers and families of students not able to access class meetings on Teams (despite setting everything up as directed and in many cases having made it onto calls without issue in the past).  Getting on the class calls easily is the most basic requirement in making a synchronous program viable.”

The petition also argues that Zoom has superior sound blocking and video quality to Microsoft Teams, and that parents are more familiar with using Zoom than Microsoft Teams.

“While APS banned teachers from using Zoom for APS business, parents immediately started hosting virtual playdates and class meetings on Zoom,” the petition said. “Zoom is now used for the majority of online courses, tutoring sessions (many with APS teachers), and camps our county’s children are attending. Playdates, happy hours, and parent meetings are happening on Zoom.”

While ranking which video conference system is best tends to be subjective and outside the purview of a local news organization, both have benefits and certain unique features.

The school system, for its part, says Microsoft Teams fit its needs better than Zoom.

“APS uses Microsoft Teams to support a wide variety of instructional functions,” APS said on its website. “For example, while much of the digital coursework is provided through Canvas, videoconferencing is conducted through Microsoft Teams.”

“When the Dept. of Information Services was looking at video conferencing solutions for APS, we included Zoom in our research. We concluded that Zoom was not a good solution for APS,” school spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow. “There were privacy and security concerns with [Zoom]. In addition, shifting to the paid model of Zoom would add a financial burden to the division in a time of very tight budgets. We also want to be sure that teachers aren’t asked to learn multiple tools.”

Bellavia added that Microsoft has been responsive to school needs.

Microsoft had listened to feedback from educators and is making several improvements to better align Teams with educational needs,” he said. “They are expanding the screen to support 49 faces at the same time this fall. Additionally, later this year they will be rolling out updates such as breakout sessions which is a much-requested feature to support small group instruction, attendance, data reporting, etc.”

As of Monday afternoon the petition sits at 240 signers with a goal of 500.

Top photo by Jay Westcott, petition photo via Change.org

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It’s official: Arlington Public Schools will now open on Sept. 8, and classes will be held entirely online.

Superintendent Francisco Durán announced his decision to host online-only classes on Tuesday, at least for the first half of the fall semester, and spoke in more detail about the plan at a School Board meeting yesterday (Thursday).

School Board chair Monique O’Grady said that the decision to go online-only fell within the superintendent’s domain as an operational decision and would not be voted on at the meeting. What the School Board did unanimously agree to was pushing the start date back from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8 for students.

The change was suggested by Durán, who said that if the it was approved the teaching staff would still start on Aug. 24 for training and professional development. The implementation of a hybrid in-person model would be delayed.

“The health and safety of our students has driven our decisions,” said Durán. “Beginning virtually allows us to monitor COVID-19… I believe it is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our students and staff.”

Durán said APS is still committed to resuming in-school instruction as soon as it was safe, which he said the schools were currently eyeing as the beginning of the second quarter of the school year, provided the COVID-19 situation has sufficiently improved by then.

“As of Monday, there is still community-wide spread of COVID,” Durán said. “We are definitely far from normal. Given that information, really important we pause and ensure the safety of all is at the forefront.”

Durán said that instruction will all be live with students graded on their work and attendance taken. That contrasts with the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year, when schools closed and students engaged in remote learning activities but were not taught new material.

While the School Board did not vote on Durán’s plan to go all-online, O’Grady said the decision had the support of the School Board.

“[The Board] honors and values experience the experience of the superintendent and has hired him to make those decisions,” O’Grady said.

The only concerns about the plans voiced by the School Board were from Reid Goldstein, who said he didn’t like the idea of putting out the information item and taking action in such a short timespan, but also added that he recognized that “sometimes exigent circumstances require taking action more quickly.”

Approval of pushing the start of the school year back to September was approved in a 5-0 vote.

More on the decision, below, from a School Talk email sent to APS families this morning.

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(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools would start the new school year a week later than originally planned, and with full time distance learning, under a new plan being proposed by new Superintendent Francisco Durán.

That’s according to a School Talk email just sent to APS families.

Durán says he will present his proposal to the School Board on Thursday. If approved, it would scrap the previous plan to start the fall with a hybrid model that would have most students in classrooms two days per week, while others could opt for online-only classes.

The hybrid model drew criticism from teachers and parents who said there would be no way to ensure the safety of students and school staff. On Monday the Arlington Education Association, which represents APS teachers, released a statement saying that “it is not prudent to re-open schools.”

“We believe, this fall, all learning should continue online from home,” the association said. “This is the only way to keep all educators and students safe and healthy.”

Earlier today, Arlington recorded its highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases since May.

Other parents, however, have called for a full-time return to in-person schooling, saying that online classes would disadvantage low-income students and single-parent households. A recent ARLnow poll found that about 30% of respondents supported five-day-per-week classroom instruction in the fall, while slightly more called for online-only instruction and a plurality preferred the hybrid model.

Under Durán’s new proposal, the school year would start on Sept. 8, rather than Aug. 31, to allow teachers more time to plan for online-only instruction. After the first quarter of the school year, some students may return to classrooms.

“We will continue to monitor the health data in September, with the goal of beginning to transition some students to in-person instruction in early October, which is the mid-point in the first quarter of the school year,” Durán wrote.

Over the weekend Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools released a similar plan, with an online-only start to the school year.

A tipster tells ARLnow that the decision was reached yesterday.

“Rumor has it APS administration and principals met today and agreed to start the first quarter of the school year online only,” the tipster wrote on Monday.

More from the email:

APS Families,

As we continue to see an increase in positive cases for COVID-19 nationwide, over the past several days I have taken time to re-evaluate our plan and path forward. I have met with both County leaders and School Board members to review current health data for Arlington and the state. Yesterday, we reviewed the APS health and safety plan with our Return-to-School Task Force to address concerns we have received from teachers, staff, parents, and the community.

Based on these discussions and our monitoring of local and national trends in COVID-19 cases, I am proposing to the School Board on Thursday night to postpone the start of the academic year to Tuesday, September 8, and begin our school year virtually in the full-time distance learning model for all students. Throughout our planning, the health and safety of our staff and students has been our top priority, and beginning the year with a virtual model allows us to continue to monitor the situation until we are confident it is safe to return.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) An increasingly vocal group of parents and teachers are calling on Arlington Public Schools to scrap plans to have most students return to classrooms twice per week.

The current APS “hybrid” plan calls for two cohorts of students each going into school two days per week, while wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. It also allows parents and students to opt for online-only learning.

Nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition that instead pushes for a “#OneAPS” model that starts all students with online-only classes in the fall and eventually allows a return to school for teachers and students who opt to do so.

“This will keep APS as one, united school system; protect the health and safety of students, teachers and staff; will not force teachers into options that might precipitate mass resignation; and support our most vulnerable learners,” says the petition, an excerpt of which is below.

Under the #OneAPS model:

  • APS will create a robust online learning platform and provide training for how to teach virtually. (See this article and Driver #3.)
  • All students begin school online and receive synchronous (live) online instruction four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) after Labor Day. The delayed start allows for intensive teacher training.
  • Mondays remain planning days for teachers, intervention days for small groups and asynchronous (independent) learning days for the majority of students.
  • When public health officials deem conditions safe to reopen, survey teachers to see who is comfortable returning to school for in-person support. NO teacher will be forced into this option.
  • Depending on the number of teachers available for in-person support, calculate the number of seats available. Allot those seats to our most vulnerable students

Other groups of teachers and parents have been organizing in opposition to a return to classrooms in the fall, similarly citing health and safety concerns.

One group — which is”advocating for a full distance learning model until Arlington County sees 14 days with no COVID-19 cases” — is planning a protest of Thursday night’s School Board meeting.

A Twitter account called “APS 14 Days No New Cases,” meanwhile, has been posting what it says are pleas from school staff not to reopen Arlington schools in the fall.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the #OneAPS petition, a new group called “Arlington Parents for Education” has been formed to oppose the hybrid plan and push for five-day-per-week, in-person classes. The group argues that not returning to in-person schooling on a full-time basis disproportionately hurts low-income and single-parent households, and carries “economic and educational performance” risks.

A recent unscientific poll conducted by ARLnow found that a plurality of respondents — just below 40% — support the APS hybrid plan, with the rest nearly split between those favoring five-day-per-week classes and online-only classes.

(The “APS 14 Days” account, mention above, criticized ARLnow for conducting the poll. “Shame on you for farming the reopening crisis for clicks,” the anonymous account tweeted.)

A recent Arlington Public Schools survey found that only 7% of school staff were comfortable, with no reservations, about returning to school on a normal schedule, while 39% were “not comfortable at all” and 54% were either “comfortable with concerns” or “somewhat comfortable.”

The top concern of APS staff, according to the survey, is “public health regulations not being followed.”

Among other major D.C. area school systems, Montgomery County public schools are expected to start the school year fully online, while Fairfax County public schools are planning a hybrid model but facing teacher pushback.

Monday afternoon, after the initial publication of this article, the Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, issued a statement calling for remote learning to start the school year.

The Arlington Education Association Executive Board believes re-opening Arlington Public Schools this fall puts students, educators, and staff, at an exponential risk of COVID-19 that can lead to illnesses and death. We believe, this fall, all learning should continue online from home. This is the only way to keep all educators and students safe and healthy.

According to the recommended guidelines from the CDC and plans chosen by Arlington Public Schools the plans will not protect the health and safety of all students and staff. While the plans sound good, they and have not been proven safe and there are too many unknowns.

AEA further urges APS to look at professional development for all educators, to provide a consistent platform for virtual teaching and learning. Professional development is needed immediately, and instructional assistants must be included as it will be their responsibility to reinforce lessons and skills taught by teachers.

APS families have until next Monday, July 20 to select either the hybrid option or the distance learning-only option for the return to school on Aug. 31.

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Nearly 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Arlington Public Schools to require masks for in-person instruction in the fall. They’re in luck: that’s precisely what APS is planning to do.

“Moving forward we will be requiring all staff and students to wear face coverings while in school and at work as medically appropriate,” Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said in a presentation on Wednesday, adding that APS based its mask policy on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Don’t have a mask? No problem.

Durán revealed that APS has placed a large order for three-layer cloth masks: two for every student, and four for every school employee. The shipment is expected to arrive in August, ahead of the scheduled Aug. 31 start of the school year. Clear masks have also been ordered to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mask-wearing, he said, will be “very critical” to making in-person instruction possible while coronavirus remains a threat.

APS is currently planning a “hybrid” model for the return to school, with most students spending two days per week in schools, and other students able to opt for a distance learning-only program. The distance learning-only group, according to Durán, will be taught by a different group of teachers than the other students.

Durán said the hybrid model — with one cohort of students in classrooms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the other in school on Thursdays and Fridays — is necessary to allow social distancing in schools and protect the health of students and staff.

“Physical distancing, as we said for quite some time, is key and it is the main reason we’re pursuing a hybrid in person model as one of the two options,” the superintendent said. “On order to maintain that six foot distance, we have to reduce the number of students on buses and in classrooms.”

APS is also planning daily health screenings, including temperature checks before boarding bus, entering school, or participating in sports. Both students and employees will be checked with new infrared thermometers the school system has purchased.

Other measures APS is taking, according to Durán’s presentation:

  • “Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces”
  • “Clear, documented procedures will be provided for a presumptive or confirmed COVID case”
  • Seating students on every other seat on the bus
  • Furniture in classroom set up to maintain six foot distancing
  • Visitors allowed only in the main office for drop-off and pick-up
  • In-school volunteer work suspended
  • Plexiglass shielding for high-traffic areas like offices

Durán also noted that APS is looking at additional ventilation and filtration measures to help prevent viral spread.

“I want to reiterate that the health and safety of students and staff is of the utmost importance to us,” he said.

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Monique O’Grady has been selected to serve as Arlington School Board Chair for the 2020-2021 school year.

O’Grady takes over the rotating chairmanship from Tannia Talento, who along with Nancy Van Doren is retiring from the School Board after this year, setting up a three-way race to fill the two empty seats.

Arlington Public Schools is preparing to begin the school year on Aug. 31 in a hybrid learning model, with most students only going to in-person classes twice per week. O’Grady said in a statement that communication and collaboration “will help us serve our students, families, and staff through these challenging times.”

In addition to O’Grady’s selection as chair, the School Board selected Barbara Kanninen as Vice Chair at its organization meeting earlier today.

O’Grady, the mother of actress Brittany O’Grady, has been a member of the School Board since 2018 and an APS parent for 23 years. She is a “longtime community advocate and communications professional,” according to her APS biography. Kanninen has served on the School Board since 2015 and was named one of the Most Powerful Women in Washington by Washingtonian in 2017.

More from an APS press release:

At its July 1 organizational meeting, the Arlington School Board selected Monique O’Grady as School Board Chair for the 2020-21 school year. The School Board selected Dr. Barbara Kanninen as Vice Chair.

“Communication and collaboration are setting an important foundation as we prepare to reenter school this fall. We are stronger together, and these two actions will help us serve our students, families, and staff through these challenging times,” said new School Board Chair Monique O’Grady.

On collaboration, O’Grady had the following message. “We will need to continue to collaborate with the County to maximize success within new fiscal constraints that may get worse before they get better. We will need to lean on our community leaders and partners to support our families in need. We must honor our teachers and staff as they work with students in different ways, and we must be ready to support our students social emotional and learning needs, because they will be on the frontlines of this change.”

“I enter this situation ready to lead because of the support of the school board staff and each of my colleagues, who have all been board chairs before. I have learned a lot from you and will continue to treasure your expertise and guidance. I have special gratitude for Ms. Talento who mentored me through the past year as her vice chair. Her intelligence, kindness, wit and compassion are an inspiration to me.”

She concluded her remarks by thanking the Executive Leadership Team and those who came before her. “Thank you, Executive Leadership Team, as you work overtime to craft and support a reopening plan that serves our students. Thank you to all the women and people of color who have served on this board before me, including Evelyn Syphax, for whom our offices are named. Thank you to my family for their constant support in my effort to serve our community. And thank you to all those who helped me earn the opportunity to be the first black elected woman in Arlington so I can serve our students and families in this important role.”

The next regular School Board meeting is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, July 16.

Photo courtesy Arlington Public Schools

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Under a new Arlington Public Schools proposal, set to be presented Thursday night, most students would start the new school year in a hybrid instructional model that involves only two days in classrooms per week.

Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán, who told APS families in an email earlier this week that the school system was “reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for students,” is set to make the presentation to the School Board tonight.

The proposal would divide students into three groups: one that would attend in-person classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, another would attend classes in person on Thursdays and Fridays, while a third group would consist of students whose families opt for distance learning only.

According to the presentation, Monday would be a planning day for teachers and a distance learning day for all students.

That is similar to the model announced by Fairfax County Public Schools earlier this week.

The goal is to reduce the potential for a wide-scale coronavirus outbreak in a school, while also keeping students engaged and interacting with one another.

In the presentation, APS says it is planning a number of other safety measures, including:

  • Staff and student health screening
  • Personal protective equipment and face covering requirements
  • Increased disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces
  • Public health signage
  • Physical distance floor markings

The presentation details the results of surveys of APS staff, students and families. Notable findings include:

  • 39% of staff say they’re “not comfortable at all” returning to physical schools
  • 70% of staff say they would return to school in the fall if asked, while 10% would “request work-from-home accommodations for health reasons,” 1% would not return, and 19% are uncertain
  • 75% of staff support mask requirements for APS staff
  • 42% of families prefer only in-person instruction in the fall, while 37% prefer a hybrid model
  • 99% of students say they “have access to the technology I need” for distance learning, compared to 81% of staff members

Families are expected to be sent an enrollment notice in early July that will allow them to opt in to a distance learning-only model in the fall.

For remote-only elementary students, daily APS teacher-led instruction will be provided, “in combination with asynchronous instruction.” For high school students, distance learning will be provided “in partnership with online virtual course providers.”

“While [high school] students enrolled in virtual courses may receive their instruction from a teacher outside of APS, they will be closely monitored by a faculty member from the school of attendance,” the presentation notes.

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A Wakefield High School teacher has been honored by a national organization for her role in promoting news literacy among her social studies students.

Every year since 2016, the nonprofit News Literacy Project (NLP) has selected one journalist and one student for their role in promoting news literacy and understanding. This year, for the first time, the organization has selected an educator — Patricia Hunt — as well.

“Patricia has set the gold standard as the first recipient of our educator of the year award,” said Alan Miller, NLP founder and CEO. “She’s… developed engaging activities to enhance her students’ ability to learn and apply news literacy skills, and her passion for improving the well-being of her students is contagious and inspiring. We are so proud to give her this award and spotlight her as a champion for news literacy education.”

Hunt said in a video that her goal as a social studies teacher is to help prepare her students to verify their sources and become informed voters.

“I started teaching in 1993,” Hunt said. “There were no cell phones, no internet. And today, the amount of information students have at their fingertips is quite daunting. Students struggle with being able to discern what is credible and what is entertainment or an ad. My goal as a social studies teacher is to get students to be skeptical of what has been laid down as the truth.”

Hunt said students leave her classroom questioning each other, questioning her, and able to engage with the news in a meaningful way.

“Preparing my students to be voters is why I’m there,” Hunt said.

Hunts efforts were also featured in an NPR article about combating fake news in the classroom.

“My goal as an educator is to give students the tools that they need to become lifelong learners,” Hunt said in a statement. “My hope would be for them to continue listening to the news, to continue checking their news feed against other news feeds, to stop and pause before sharing.”

Photo via YouTube

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A lawsuit has been filed against Arlington Public Schools’ controversial elementary school swap.

The swap, which was approved by a 4-1 School Board vote in February, would move Key Elementary students and staff to the current Arlington Traditional School, Arlington Traditional students and staff to the current McKinley Elementary, and McKinley students and staff to a new school being built in Westover.

The suit was filed in March by Louisa Castillo, an Arlington resident and Key Elementary parent, against the School Board. It claims the School Board violated a Virginia law “when it adopted a proposal to relocate thousands of Arlington County elementary school students… rather than engaging in the necessary process to enact a school boundary change.”

Specifically, the suit alleges that the School Board failed to take into account six factors — financial efficiency, student proximity, educational stability, student alignment, school demographics, and and boundary contiguity — when considering the changes.

The swap was done before a planned boundary change process, which is set to start this fall. Like past boundary processes, it is likely to be contentious.

School Board members who voted for the swap said it was a tough decision but agreed with APS staff that it was the option that would impact the smallest number of APS students, at a time when the school system continues to build and expand schools to keep up with rising enrollment growth.

Steven Krieger, who finished a close third in the recent Democratic School Board endorsement caucus, emailed supporters last night to encourage them to support the lawsuit with donations.

Krieger, who was critical of both APS decisionmaking and the caucus process, said the suit will give the School Board “another opportunity to correct a wrong decision.”

“This decision won’t solve our capacity issues, and moving forward with this proposal without a proper review of its impacts is intellectually dishonest,” he wrote. “Despite the current pandemic and corresponding budgetary issues, APS is still planning to spend about $3 million to move these three schools.”

“Louisa Castillo, a Key parent, hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the School Board. Logistically, her son may not be able to move with the program to ATS and does not know what school she will be zoned for because the school moves decision was separate from the boundary decisions,” Krieger continued. “Many other families at Key, ATS, and McKinley are living with similar levels of uncertainty about where their children will attend school when we return to in-person instruction.”

“Instead of doing the right thing and analyzing the school moves in conjunction with the boundary process, the School Board hired a large law firm to fight Louisa’s lawsuit,” wrote Krieger.

So far the GoFundMe campaign has raised just over $300 of a $20,000 goal.

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In the midst of an uptick of activism in Arlington, both current and former students of Arlington Public Schools are calling for reforms to the school system.

Sparsh Srivastava, a 2016 graduate from H-B Woodlawn, has gathered over 750 signatures on a Change.org petition launched earlier this week asking APS to offer a racial education elective course for high schoolers to take as a social studies credit.

According to the petition, the course would be “a discussion-based, socratic format,” that would “discuss systemic racism by examining Jim Crow minstrel shows and segregation, burning of Black Wall Street, generational wealth accumulation,” and more.

“Thinking back on my time at H-B, I received little to no racial education, especially on topics such as affirmative action and systematic racism,” said Srivastava, who has been in contact with APS teachers who expressed interest in creating a “mock,” or trial-run of the course, for the 2020-21 school year.

Srivastava has also reached out to APS Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Arron Gregory in hopes the petition will ” gain enough traction to convince the APS administration of its value.”

The second Change.org petition, authored by Rosie Couture and Belan Yeshigeta, two current sophomores at Washington-Liberty High School, calls for APS to address its education inequities. It currently has more than 450 signatures with a goal of 500.

After reviewing the data from Arlington’s 2019 Community Report, Couture and Yeshigeta’s made a list of demands for APS including:

  • Meaningful implicit bias and cultural competency training for APS staff and students
  • A zero-tolerance policy for white supremacy
  • A transparent disciplinary policy that collects and reports disciplinary actions based on age, race, and gender, and limit the types out-of-school suspension
  • A disciplinary policy that includes student participation and oversight
  • A Restorative Justice program for APS that “will address the school-to-prison pipeline and give students the skills they need to properly address conflict”
  • And the elimination of the police department’s School Resource Officer program and redirected resources to fund more school social workers and school psychologists

“We see Arlington as a utopian, progressive county, and while the County and School Board does provide us with a lot of resources, we shouldn’t gloss over change that still needs to happen,” said Yeshigeta.

The pair plan on reaching out to the Arlington County Board and have created an action pledge for APS teachers to take. According to Couture, 54 teachers have signed on, and the list will eventually be publicized to students.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school system has seen both petitions and applauds “students for seeking change.” APS will be hosting a virtual forum on June 22 to further conversation, he said.

The full statement from Bellavia is below.

We have seen both petitions and applaud students for seeking change. We acknowledge the anger and hurt that our APS community and the nation are experiencing, especially our African American community. APS strives to celebrate the differences of all our students and strongly condemns violence and racism.

As Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán and School Board Chair Tannia Talento stated in their June 2 letter to the community, APS pledges to continue the work started prior to the school closures to better educate and train our leaders and staff to tackle systemic bias and inequities, that have led to opportunity gaps and disproportionality in discipline. A first step in this work is to hold a virtual conversation on June 22. This will be the first in a series of conversations with our students, staff and community.

Photo via Change.org

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(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will “likely” start the new 2020-2021 school year with students staying at home, the interim superintendent told families Friday afternoon.

In a School Talk email, Cintia Johnson — who is soon to be succeeded by newly-hired superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán — said that APS is planning for three scenarios to start the fall: in-home distance learning, a return to classrooms, or a hybrid of the two.

Distance learning is “a likely scenario,” Johnson wrote, noting that APS is awaiting expected guidance from the Virginia Dept. of Education next month. A presentation linked in the email describes distance learning, at least to start, as “very probable.”

“Starting the school year with distance learning, should public health officials advise us it is not safe to reopen. Based on current conditions, this is a likely scenario, and we are preparing for a distance learning model that includes synchronous instruction of new content,” wrote Johnson.

By contrast, “reopening schools as normal with in-person instruction… is the least likely scenario.”

ARLnow previously reported that the school system was gearing up to teach new material via online classes in the fall, if need be, after facing criticism over holding off on teaching new things once the pandemic closed schools. One concern that prompted the decision to hold off on teaching new material — that of equitable access — is getting addressed: Arlington County is spending some of its federal grant from the CARES Act to provide free broadband internet access to households that currently lack it.

The new school year is slated to start Aug. 31.

The full email from the interim superintendent is below, after the jump.

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