Henrico schools asking parents, teachers to weigh in on second nine-week learning options

Slight schedule changes for middle, high school students

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County Public School parents and teachers will weigh in on learning options during the second nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year.

During a work session Thursday, the school board announced surveys will be sent to families and staff between Oct. 5 and Oct. 9 providing options for how students should learn leading up to winter break.

Like the survey sent out in late June, school leaders want input from the HCPS community.

However, these surveys will be more detailed compared to the one over the summer.

“This summer we thought we knew what was feasible, so we sent out a survey and by the time we got to our town hall we thought some different things were feasible,” said Tuckahoe District school board member Marcie Shea. “By the time we got to the vote, different things were feasible because this is a fluid situation and things are changing.”

Shea and other board members are calling on the HCPS health committee to incorporate as many feasible options as possible for the community to weigh in on.

That will include potential options for expanding in-person learning for students. However, that survey will be put together based on a variety of factors analyzed by the committee.

“Health data, staffing, and PPE as they’ve shared before,” said HCPS Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell. “[They will] weigh those factors as well as the intent of both staff and students.”

During an HCPS health committee update, Dr. Beth Teigen, the Chief of Staff, said there is currently enough PPE for staff and students should they return to school.

“We have N-95 masks for the school nurses, and we have received 150 cases of gloves,” she added. “Additional supplies are ordered regularly so we can maintain our needed inventory of PPE. Based on the expected usage, the supplies currently on hand should last through winter break.”

Teigen also provided an update on the number of COVID-19 cases across the school system.

Since Sept. 8 through Sept. 22, 11 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. There were several employees who also tested positive during the month of August.

The school system is also tracking the number of employees exposed and posting that information on the HCPS website.

That webpage breaks down the school where the employee who tested positive works and the date the positive case was reported to HCPS.

Additionally, health data shows a slight decrease in the COVID case rate for County, but Teigen said there is a high burden of transmission for the region.

Meanwhile, the school system kicked off limited in-person learning for some students on Sept. 21; those included some students with special needs.

Over the next few weeks other students including those learning English, participating in career and technical education programs, and some of the county’s youngest learners will be allowed back in the school for the time being.

“Beginning Oct. 5, in-person learning opportunities will be available for small groups of students continuing that pre-k through third-grade focus,” Cashwell said.

Cashwell added, parents will have the option of choosing whether they would like to send their child for in-person learning on a limited basis or remain virtual.

Each school will contact the families directly about this matter.

Changes will also be coming to middle and high school virtual schedules.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, almost every class will be shortened by 15 minutes in order to cut down on the amount of screen time during the day.

“We’re not reducing the amount of academic time,” Shea said. “We are reducing the amount of direct instruction screen time and just re-allocating how the day falls.”

The decision was made following a large outpour of concern from teachers, parents and students. A survey was sent out to those individuals to figure out a way to adjust the current schedule.

A survey was sent to middle and high school teachers, parents and students about the current HCPS virtual schedule.
A survey was sent to middle and high school teachers, parents and students about the current HCPS virtual schedule. (Source: HCPS)

The school system said this change will allow for more independent work time for students and will give teachers an additional hour for planning, instructional support and office hours.

On Oct. 22, the HCPS health committee will provide a recommendation for the learning plan for the second nine weeks. The school board is expected to vote on a decision at that meeting as well.

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