Dr. Walts’s Talking Points from May 20 School Board Meeting

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Dr. Walts’s remarks to the School Board, May 20:

First, let me begin this evening by congratulating the more than 6,200 high school seniors who have already met their graduation requirements! You should be very proud of your dedicated work and efforts to become a 2020 graduate of Prince William County Public Schools.

As a reminder, students may continue to work with their teachers to improve your grades from where they were on March 13, 2020, if they desire, until the end of the academic year which is June 12.

With the global pandemic, this has been a very tough school year for all of us.

I recognize how this unprecedented situation has negatively impacted our seniors, and I sincerely regret that you have not been able to participate in the many traditions reserved for our seniors. I personally have been inspired by so many. I enjoyed getting to know you from my school visits, attending plays, concerts, and sporting events, and seeing your academic work.

I know I speak for our teachers, administrators, counselors, and other staff members who wish you good luck and much success. I know you’ll make us proud!

Graduations and Proms

As I told the Board last meeting, we are working on details for in-person graduations the first week in August and an exact schedule will be published soon.

High school principals are also developing alternative celebrations should the in-person dates in August not work out due to health restrictions. Additionally, high school principals are exploring alternate means for students to participate in virtual proms or an in-person prom in the future.

Summer School

Due to the uncertainty and ongoing health concerns of COVID-19, we have developed a Virtual Summer School Plan that includes “Operation Graduation” with a Virtual K-8 Summer School Program. This will include virtual summer school for English Learners. Technology will be provided to students who need it.

For Grades 9-12, normal tuition-based summer learning options will be offered such as Virtual Prince William, Virtual Virginia, and summer programs provided by Virginia Council for Private Education. Seniors needing support through our “Operation Graduation” will be admitted at no cost.

For students in Grades K-8, the School Division will offer 30-minute daily lessons alternating between language arts and mathematics. Collaborative Learning Teams will develop curriculum based on student needs for each site and grade level. It will be provided free to all students who meet the criteria.

Collecting and Retrieving Personal Items

A three-part plan has been developed to both collect items – such as textbooks, JROTC and sports uniforms, instrument – and for staff and students to collect items in buildings.

The first part of the plan will be the collection of materials. Schools will be provided instructions for the proper collection of items (such as an outside drive-by collection) and they will be communicated with their families the specific times and process.

Second, once the Governor approves Prince William County to enter Phase 1 of the “safer-at-home” plan (currently May 29), teachers will be allowed into buildings to collect materials following social distancing requirements. Principals will communicate details with their staff.

Third, staff will work to bag items inside of schools for students (such as lockers or desks). Schools will then coordinate drive-by pick-up dates and times for students and families to collect their belongings.

Plan for the Fall

VDOE and the state superintendent are expected to provide guidance within a month to schools regarding guidelines and requirements for safe opening of schools this fall.

At this time, we expect to open for in-person learning, as regularly scheduled on Aug. 25.

However, PWCS is developing an extensive plan for the potential for required virtual learning, as well as various operational scenarios, and the associated health and safety considerations for staff and students.

With the input of representative teachers, school leaders, and central office staff, the Division has developed a Return to New Learning Plan with two main road maps: Late Spring and Summer Preparation for the Return to New Learning and multiple contingencies for the actual Return to New Learning 2020-21.

Instructional Software

The spring and summer 2020 preparation road map is focused on developing our new Virtual Schoolhouse using Canvas, which as you are aware, is a first-in-class learning management system, or better known as an LMS, that will unify our online learning and curriculum delivery using a series of integrated tools to enhance student distance learning.

Spring and summer 2020 preparations include the development of the K-12 online learning units for Canvas, a staff and community communication plan, as well as a robust plan for staff and family virtual training for the use of our new online learning and communication system.

To support all elements of the instructional cycle, an integrated Division-wide assessment system for monitoring student learning and achievement will be deployed within the LMS solution.

MasteryConnect is a digital, online, and integrated assessment system with Standards of Learning aligned items banks featuring robust reporting capabilities. It can be utilized for performance-based, formative, summative, and benchmark assessments in all courses at all levels.

The development and use of collaborative, cross-department action work groups, including teachers and administrators, will be assigned to specific aspects of the plan to gain further stakeholder input on the implementation for students, staff, and families.

Representative parents will be brought together later this spring to virtually review, discuss, and provide focused input regarding the reopening of schools and our Return to New Learning plan.

The plan includes contingencies for in-person, a combination of in-person and distance learning for students who do not or cannot return in person, and an option for all distance learning if schools are unable to reopen for in-person learning.

The learning plan has logistical and health/safety considerations needed to address the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, as well as responses to support any further closures occurring as a result of possible future outbreaks or other emergencies.

2020-21 Return to New Learning Plan

It is important to note that our 2020-21 Return to New Learning Plan will continue to be adjusted as we get further decisions and guidance from the Governor and VDOE over the course of this spring and summer.

In anticipation of the need to do required virtual learning this fall, PWCS is working to conduct another procurement of laptops at the start of the fiscal year which is a part of our approved budget.

This purchase, combined with the previously announced procurement, will allow us to complete the digital equity plan implementation of having a consistent device for every high school student by November.

We also believe that we will be able to provide a device every high school student who needs one for at-home learning, using both new devices and existing devices, at the start of the fall 2020-21 academic year.

I want to conclude this evening by thanking our incredible employees who continue to serve our students, learn new skills, and innovate during a global pandemic.

To our students, stay safe and we miss you!

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