Admin

COVID-19 Employee Information

Good evening colleagues-

Our original two-week closure is about to come to an end. What we had hoped would be a brief pause in the academic year has instead turned into a complete shift in the way we think about how we do our jobs. I emphasize the how because no length of closure will change what our job is: to educate this city’s children. I said it last week and I’ll say it again now:  Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting the students and their families these past weeks. Your efforts, regardless of where you were working from, allowed us to keep students fed and engaged in their learning.

Now that Governor Ralph Northam has ordered all Virginia K-12 schools to be closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 year, the uncertainty of the length of closure is over, and there’s a certain power in that knowledge. Now we know what we have to do. Of course, there are many, many questions, but now we can move forward. We must take the lessons we’ve learned these past weeks, sustain that momentum and build on it. I’ve started Deskside Chats, closed-captioned videos that we are sharing every Tuesday and Thursday on YouTube, where I tackle a few questions and provide some updates. Feel free to submit your questions here. We’re also keeping our website current at www.vbschools.com/COVID19.

Here are some updates to start off the next week.

Employee Compensation and Expectation of Work

While schools are closed, the division is open, and operations need to continue, like payroll and benefits administration, feeding students and continuity of learning. Therefore, essential personnel may be designated to work on-site as needed by a supervisor. All other active full-and part-time employees will remain on call if working remotely. Employees are expected to be performing assigned functions as directed by their supervisors regardless of location, unless they are in a specified leave status such as FMLA, Long Term Leave, etc. If it is determined that services are needed, and an employee is not available, they must use appropriate leave. 

All active full-and part-time employees will continue to be paid based on their annual salary. As previously stated, the April 15 paycheck for temporary/hourly employees, such as employees on a Temporary Employment Agreement, substitute teachers, substitute bus drivers, substitute cafeteria assistants, substitute bus assistants, etc. will mirror the pay for March 31, and employees will receive the same pay.

Beyond that point, the intention is to continue to pay all of our employees, but we are still working out the details. More on this will follow soon.

Building Access

We recognize that some staff members may need to access buildings to perform essential functions. Essential personnel and functions include, but are not limited to, school nurses and clinic assistants, parents picking up their child’s personal belongings, medications; bookkeepers, data techs, WISE managers completing their duties; registrar and school counselors handling new enrollments or withdrawals; and teachers accessing their classroom materials and resources to support the shift to virtual learning. Supervisors will communicate and coordinate with those who are needed to provide essential functions.

The following is new information and safety protocols necessary for staff to access buildings to complete essential functions. In general, school buildings are closed to the public. However, given the essential functions noted above, we will be opening all schools Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning March 31, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Custodial teams will be working from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on these dates to ensure the building is being cleaned per CDC guidelines. In addition, security staff will occupy the visitor’s desk from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on those two days. Parents who need to access the building as noted above must have an appointment to ensure the appropriate staff are present and their access is confined to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. only. Those appointments should be made with school administration. Teachers who need to access the building should notify their supervisor and should limit their travel in the building to only their classroom or workroom. Teachers must notify the on-site administrator of what areas they accessed so they can be identified for cleaning by the night custodial crew.

Calendar Changes and Spring Break

Last night, the School Board voted to change the 2019-2020 school calendar and extend the third quarter through April 24 in order to give administration time to sort through plans related to instruction during this extended closure. The fourth quarter will now start April 27. The primary reason for this extension of the third quarter is to make sure that we approach instruction and grading in the fourth quarter as thoughtfully as possible and give our teachers, parents and students time to adjust to any changes. 

To that end, for instructional staff, professional development days will be instituted on each Monday beginning April 6 and continuing for the remainder of the year. Therefore, students will have access to their teachers from Tuesday through Friday only beginning April 7. This time will prepare educators for the switch from continuity of learning to virtual learning. More information will follow from your principals and the department of teaching and learning.

The Spring Break holiday will stay as is.

Continuity of Learning Shift to Virtual Instruction

Our continuity of learning plan will be in effect until April 24, so we ask you to continue as you have been over the last two weeks. This plan will transition to a virtual learning model starting April 27.

You may be wondering why we would do this. Why move to a more comprehensive virtual learning model and not just keep doing what we are doing? One of the things we absolutely must do based on federal and state guidance is continue instruction.  At the state level, for the purposes of granting credits and promoting children to the next grade level, we have been given clear guidance from VDOE that students must still show mastery of learning standards in each content area. Students must demonstrate, and we must be able to document, that those objectives have been addressed through instruction. 

To be clear, all students need to continue to complete and submit coursework assigned by their teachers in order to be able to move on to the next grade level and, for high school students, to get the credits required to graduate. That is also why we are continuing to ask families to reach out to you if they are having difficulty doing this. Please know I expect that administrators and teachers operate with flexibility and are understanding during this time. We absolutely intend to support our students and families and to ensure that students are able to move forward with their education this year and into the next.

More information on this transition to virtual learning is forthcoming.

Grading

For the third quarter, grades will be calculated based on a student’s grade as of March 13. That said, students also should be able improve their third quarter grade by completing missing assignments and assessments that would have normally been allowed had the quarter continued with schools open. Details on that will follow from our principals and the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Decisions about how grading will be handled for the fourth quarter marking period are forthcoming.

Virtual Virginia, AP and IB Testing, and Dual Enrollment

Students who are in a Virtual Virginia online course have been asked to follow the directions given by their instructor regarding expectations for work and grading.

For students in AP classes, the College Board has announced that students will be able to take their AP exams online at home and has provided preparation materials that AP teachers have access to. It is our expectation that AP teachers continue to work with their students to prepare them for these exams.

IB has announced that their exams will be canceled. These students should adhere to the guidelines for learning and work completion being shared with all students.

Regarding dual enrollment at Tidewater Community College (TCC), if students are receiving instruction by a VBCPS teacher as part of the dual enrollment program, they should adhere to the guidelines for learning and work completion being shared with all students. However, students in dual enrollment programs who receive instruction from a TCC instructor will continue to have graded assignments that need to be completed on the timeline their TCC instructors lay out for them, per TCC requirements.

Graduation Requirements

We understand you may have questions regarding graduation requirements. The good news is we will have wide flexibility to make sure that our current seniors graduate as long as they are in the classes they already need to meet standard or advanced diploma requirements and were on track to graduate as of March 13.  That’s why it’s so important for our seniors to make sure they are working with their teachers during this third quarter to ensure their grades are on track for graduation and that they continue to demonstrate they are learning. Doing so will allow us to grant our seniors the credits needed to graduate. If your student is not on track, we need to do everything possible to get them where they need to be so they can graduate with the Class of 2020.

Our seniors might also be wondering about how they fulfill all the other graduation requirements, like the financial literacy, CPR or verified credit requirements, if they haven’t already done so. While this information is still evolving, what I want you to know is that we have been given wide latitude by the state to waive these requirements and those that are required by law are likely to be addressed by the General Assembly shortly.  I expect our high school staff to be working with each student and family to make sure they understand their current status and what they need to do to graduate. More communication about this will be coming from our principals in the near future.

Milestone Events

Some of the major concerns we are hearing about are the milestone moments in our seniors’ lives. I wish I had better answers for staff about things like prom and graduation, but I don’t right now. Until we understand what guidance we might get on large gatherings from the state and the CDC, as well as the timeframe for that, we simply can’t commit to anything.  I can say it is our intention to do something for graduation that is both memorable and safe. We have teams looking at options, and as soon as I hear more, we will share that information.

Additional Resources

As you have taken care of our students, please take care of yourself. We’re keeping our vbschools.com/COVID19 website updated with mental health resources. Here are a couple of helpful reads to get you started:
Manage Anxiety and Stress
How To Prepare for Extended School Closure and Not Lose Your Mind

The Department of Technology (DoT) has also put together a cache of great tips and resources about working from home. You need to be logged in to your VBSchools account to access it. As always, the DoT Help Desk is available at (757) 263-1111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday should you need support as you work to ensure our students continue to learn.

If you are having issues with your password, please call the Department of Technology (DoT) Help Desk at (757) 263-1111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance.

Please note this phone number will not be answered during Spring Break.

Staying Healthy

We encourage your family to follow the CDC guidelines for keeping safe and minimizing the spread of COVID-19. “Social distancing” means staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible. Medical questions may be directed to the VDH Hotline: 877-275-8343 (877-ASK-VDH3).

Again, thank you for your patience and flexibility, and as always, thank you for everything you do on behalf of our students each day.

Aaron Spence, Ed.D
Superintendent