Message from the Superintendent
Posted: February 8, 2021
NNPS Families and Staff,
As we begin the second semester of school, my leadership team and I are planning for our students' return to in-person instruction.
On January 14, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane released updated interim guidance for the reopening of K-12 schools. This replaced the guidance previously provided in our initial Return to Learn Plan for Phase II.
As the Governor shared during his briefing in January, the emphasis has changed. "Instead of (saying) 'schools should be closed' we're going to approach it from the starting point of 'schools need to be open' and here are the ways to do that safely." Citing recent research, Governor Northam referenced the low incidence of transmission in schools that are currently teaching students in person.
Over the past several months, NNPS has been preparing for a safe return to in-person instruction. Our focus on safety has primarily been driven by health metrics and statistics related to COVID-19 community transmission and positivity rates. While we have seen these metrics increase over time, the health, safety and education communities have taken notice of school divisions and private schools that have provided in-person instruction since September 2020. Because of this, there is now credible evidence that supports the effectiveness of the CDC's recommended safety mitigation strategies in lowering the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 in school settings.
One major change in the state's new interim guidance is the inclusion and emphasis of a school or school division's capacity to successfully implement safety mitigation strategies and the assessed level of school impact of those measures in ensuring the safety of staff and students.
The state's new guidance does not advise that we ignore community health metrics. These metrics are still extremely important when we consider potential factors that may impact school operations. However, our local or regional COVID data can no longer be the sole determining factor in our decision-making process. Our COVID-19 dashboard has been updated to reflect this change.
Given this new guidance, our readiness to implement and follow the five key CDC mitigation strategies, and our progress in equipping our schools with the materials and supplies necessary for safe in-person learning, we are better positioned to take the next step to safely return our students to in-person learning.
Return to In-Person Timeline
Our timeline identifies target dates for bringing students back to school in two phases, beginning with student populations who are most in need of in-person instruction and support. The next phase would bring back students whose families have opted for in-school learning.
Self-contained special education students, English Language Learners (newcomers) and students in preschool through third grade will receive in-person instruction four days a week.
In-person instruction for other student groups will resume following the hybrid learning model with fourth and fifth-grade students attending school four days a week and middle and high school students attending school on their assigned two days each week. The three days that students are not in school, they will continue their learning by logging into Canvas on their Chromebook or computer for guided and independent assignments. In most cases students will work independently; however, some students may receive personalized instruction in small groups.
All elementary school students will begin regular school operating hours on February 22. All middle and high school students will begin regular school hours on March 8. School operating hours will be the same for students who are learning virtually and in-person. View school operating hours.
Elementary School Students
The elementary school schedule is designed to support both in-person and virtual students four days a week. Students will attend school for a half day of instruction in reading and math and then they will go home to work virtually for science, social studies and resource classes (PE, music and art).
Students who are participating in virtual learning will work on science, social studies and resource during the morning and will meet with their classroom teacher synchronously to work on reading and mathematics in the afternoon. In this model, all students (hybrid and virtual) receive the same amount of instructional time with their teacher.
Further information about elementary student schedules will be sent to parents from the child's school. Questions about schedules should be directed to your child's school.
Middle and High School Students
Students in grades 6-12 will be divided into two cohorts as demonstrated in the table below. Cohort 1 (students whose last names begin with A-K) will attend in person on Monday and Tuesday and participate in remote learning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Cohort 2 (students whose last names begin with last names L-Z) will attend school in person on Thursday and Friday and participate in remote learning on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Teachers will work concurrently with both their hybrid and virtual students throughout the day to ensure all students have teacher facilitated instruction.
The middle and high school schedule will also incorporate A and B day rotations between traditional and remote learning.
Regardless of the assigned cohort, Wednesdays will be independent learning days with identified student supports. Students will be learning asynchronously while teachers hold office hours and provide individual or small group remediation.
Further information about middle and high school student schedules will be sent to parents from the child's school. Questions about schedules should be directed to your child's school.
Return to Learn Virtual Town Halls
Parents are invited to participate in NNPS' Return to Learn Town Hall on Wednesday, February 10, from 6 to 7 p.m. Join the NNPS leadership team to learn more about the return to in-person learning. Click here to register.
You may review the complete Return to Learn Plan online.
I look forward to working with you as we continue to support our students.
Yours in Service,
George Parker, III, Ph.D.