Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools for MNPS, announced today that all Metro schools will begin virtual instruction on August 4, 2020. Virtual learning will continue at least until September 7, 2020. See below for Dr. Battle’s full statement.
Today we are announcing that Metro Schools will start, as scheduled, on August 4 but in a virtual environment due to the increased spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Please know that we have not made this decision lightly, as we all want to get back to the classroom environment as soon as possible. But the risks to the health and safety of students and staff are too great at this moment in time.
We will be in the virtual environment until at least the Labor Day holiday on September 7, and we will make decisions on returning to an in-person classroom environment at least two weeks before it goes into effect so families and staff will have time to plan appropriately. We are prepared to return to in-person learning as soon as conditions allow.
I want to be very clear: This is not going to be the same Remote Learning 2.0 environment that we had when schools closed.
- Assignments will be graded.
- Tests will be given.
- Attendance will be required and tracked.
- Teachers will be expected to provide synchronous (live) virtual classroom experiences.
- Teachers will be required to offer a certain number of hours each week for live classrooms, open office hours, and individualized learning support.
- Curriculum will be based on a proven virtual school program.
- Schoology will be the platform used by teachers and students to provide access to homework, tests, and lessons that students can access at their own pace (called asynchronous learning).
- Teachers and school staff will support students’ social-emotional and academic needs with regular, personalized check-ins.
- For each child with disabilities, we are developing a COVID-19 Continuous Learning Individualized Plan (CLIP). The CLIP will identify how MNPS will implement the services and supports in your child’s lEP or Section 504 Plan in a virtual setting.
If you attend a zoned, magnet, or other optional school, you’ll remain with that school in the virtual setting, and your teachers will be assigned by the school principal to conduct online classes.
Devices and Wi-Fi Access
There is a large technology gap at MNPS between students who have access to their own computer devices and those who do not. We are going to close that gap by preparing devices at all our schools and distributing them to students who need them.
At the end of the 2019-20 school year, teachers and school staff surveyed parents to find out their technology needs. Schools will be following back up with those families and reaching out to families who were not surveyed earlier this year to determine if they still need a device or internet access. Those will be provided from the schools, as well as through bus routes for families that do not have access to transportation.
We kindly ask those students or families with reliable access to their own computers to wait during this first round, but we have computers on order to make MNPS a 1:1 technology district. Microsoft Windows devices are preferred, but Macs, Chromebooks, and most tablets will also work in the Schoology platform.
We will still be providing meals to students, but on an expanded basis from what we’ve been doing since schools closed. We plan to have every school kitchen preparing and distributing meals and will be using our regular bus routes to deliver meals to students without access. Unfortunately, we are limited by state and federal regulations in what we can provide free of charge. Those students who attend a CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) school or those who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program will continue to have access to free meals. Others will need to pay for meals like they would in school. An updated list of schools that are CEP eligible will be released next week. We will continue to push for state and federal waivers to allow for expanded meal opportunities.
In-Person Learning Environment
Eventually, the spread of COVID-19 will be reduced enough for us to return to an in-classroom environment. Once that happens, families will be given the option of sending students to school or keeping them home and participating in the virtual program. Since we are all going to be virtual starting on August 4, we will give families more time to make that decision, but if you know you’ll want to be virtual, we’ll have a form online next week that will allow you to state your preference to inform the staff planning process for school leaders.
Returning to school does not mean returning to business as usual. There will be significant additional safety precautions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Parents will be asked to check temperatures of students and monitor health symptoms prior to sending them to school.
- Staff will have temperature and symptom checks each morning when entering school.
- Students and teachers will be provided masks and will be required to wear them.
- Social distancing measures will be taken to reduce crowding and large groups of students.
- Due to classroom configurations, six feet of distance between desks will not often be feasible, but desks will be spaced as much as possible and facing in one direction.
- Buses will have assigned seats, and students will be limited to two per seat. Drivers will disinfect the seats after morning and afternoon runs.
- Sanitizer stations will be available in schools, and students and staff will be asked to wash their hands at regular intervals.
- Custodial staff will be responsible for wiping down touch points in common areas (doorknobs; cafeterias). Custodians are contractually obligated to wipe down desks and classroom tables each night. Classrooms, during daily usage, will be the responsibility of teachers and/or designated students in the classroom for wiping down desks, seats, and shared classroom materials in-between use.
These steps will reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission but won’t entirely eliminate the risk. We want to set realistic expectations so that families can make the decision that is right for them.
We know you have a lot of questions. We’ve created a website, www.mnps.org/backtoschool, where we will post guides, frequently asked questions, and information you can use to make informed decisions in the best interest of your children. As always, we’re grateful for the trust you place in us and the strong partnership we have with you in the critical work of teaching and learning.
In closing, I want to emphasize this point: Decisions we make at the district level are based on the decisions made by members of our community. If we stay home when possible, wear masks in public, and follow health care guidelines, we will be able to return to school safely. No one likes to have to do that, but if we want our economy, schools, and society to get back to normal more quickly, we must make these small sacrifices now to have better outcomes in the future.
Photo credit: August de Richelieu from Pexels