August 23, 2021 Edition
Message from the Superintendent
Dear SCPS Families,
On Thursday, August 12th, we opened the 2021-22 school year, welcoming well over 23,000 students to in-person schooling for the first time since March 12, 2020. In visiting all 31 schools/sites, there was and has continued to be a genuine sense of joy and excitement in having our students and staff back together in our schools. I am very proud of our teachers, support staff, and administrators for their continued heroic efforts.
Student and staff well-being is a central focus at the start of this year. At the school board meeting on Monday, August 9, 2021, we shared a back to school presentation that highlighted this focus and our preparations (it is linked in the announcements section). The presentation included how we will be trying proactively and responsively to address student and staff safety, health, social, and emotional learning needs. Reaffirming the importance of relationships and creating engaging and fun learning experiences will remain at the forefront at both the start of and throughout the school year.
While we will continue to try and build on the positives, challenges and concerns that exist may, in some instances, be even greater than what we have experienced in the past. The many ways in which we will continue to address or mitigate these challenges are highlighted below. Please also refer to our ReEngage Plan found on each of the school and Division websites.
Mitigation of COVID-19 Transmission
As outlined in both our ReEngage Plan and the presentation we shared on August 9th, thank you for your support in executing the following strategies in our classrooms, schools, and on our school buses:
Continued distancing and use of plexi-glass barriers whenever/wherever possible.
Facility cleaning and monitoring of air ventilation - each school has a bipolar ionization system installed for improved air flow.
Contact tracing and quarantining as determined in the process and in consultation with the VDH.
Universal masking of students and staff Pre-K-12 in indoor instructional settings. On our first day of school, August 12th, a new State Health Commissioner Order requiring Universal Masking in Pre-K-12 settings was issued and is linked here. As a reminder, even prior to the recent state mask order for indoor school settings, there has been a federal order in effect for all public transportation, including school buses.
Current Guidance of VDH/VDOE on Impact of Virus Transmission
Like almost every county and city throughout the state, Spotsylvania County continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases and is designated as having a high rate of transmission. Even prior to our opening, we were already working with students, staff, and families on cases and quarantining. In our first seven days, the impact of the more transmissible variant has already resulted in a number of student/staff quarantines based on positive cases and contact tracing.
Similar to last school year, we will continue to update our SCPS COVID-19 Dashboard. The COVID-19 Dashboard has been refreshed with the start of school. It will be updated weekly. There is a link to the ReEngage section, which includes the Dashboard, on the Division site and each school’s website.
Direct communication with families and staff impacted by positive cases reported will be timely and on-going.
- Based on current state law, VDOE guidance, and daily consultation with local health officials, SCPS will attempt to exhaust all mitigation efforts prior to closure of a school or the school division. These efforts include the following:
- Ensure current mitigation efforts are being implemented effectively (distancing, cleaning, masking, etc.) and making ongoing adjustments as necessary.
- Addressing needs to isolate and quarantine first at the individual, then classroom and/or grade level prior to an entire school.
Virtual/Remote Learning Contingency Planning
Depending on the circumstance, each school will ensure that a continuity of instructional services are provided throughout the required distance learning time period. This may involve virtual learning instruction from the physical classroom using a number of technology solutions (Google Meets, Canvas, OWL utilization) as well as print packets may be used to provide synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Students with specific needs (technology access, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, etc.) will continue to have access to services as determined by their learning specifications. Parents will be informed of any scenarios where concurrent instruction may not be reasonably provided or appropriate with an alternative asynchronous solution.
Bus Transportation and Dropoff/Pickup Challenges
At the school board meeting on August 9th, we shared with the board and public the number of ways we had proactively addressed challenges associated with the state and national bus driver shortage. Since the beginning of the school year, the aforementioned impact of quarantining only further challenges our capacity for meeting the transportation needs of close to 20,000 students covering over 410 square miles. Below are areas we continue to address and respond to that have been identified as concerns at the beginning of this year:
While over 80% of our buses are equipped with air conditioning, some of those that are not experienced delays and longer than normal bus rides under the significant heat on the first two days. All drivers are instructed to allow for students to put windows down for additional air ventilation and we provided water beginning on the second day to support students.
Transportation and schools will continue to work together to ensure parents/guardians receive communication regarding morning and afternoon delays or changes in transportation service.
We have typically experienced some back-ups of traffic during school dropoff and pickup at the beginning of the school year. However, this year because we have significantly more parents bringing and picking up their children from school (THANK YOU), we are working through some additional strategies at schools impacted to improve these situations.
Additional Announcements & Reminders
Here are additional reference links that include the latest interim guidance and COVID-19 dashboard from the VDH and VDOE guidance/FAQs:
The School Board Meeting presentation from Monday, August 9, 2021, school board meeting. In addition, you can view the meetings on both August 9th and August 11th through the archive link here. The school board has a special meeting on August 23, 2021 beginning at 5:00 p.m. See meeting posting here.
Many thanks to our community for their generous support of this year’s Stuff the Bus event to support our students in need.
Each week, as during the 2020-21 school year, we will provide communications to our families as needed. Not all will be as long or detailed as this week.
The duration and ever-changing nature of this public health crisis has created a level of fatigue for so many in our schools and community. Despite the understandable frustration, I cannot adequately express how over and over again our SPOTSY students, staff, and families exemplify our mission by working with us and together to navigate these remarkable, complex challenges. Thank you so much for your continued support, cooperation, and partnership. Thank you in advance for reaching out directly to your school and division staff for any assistance or support you need.
Superintendent of Schools