Return to Learn Plan

Return to Learn Plan
Posted on 07/15/2020
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Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff:

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well.  I am writing to share an important update with you about our plans for reopening our schools this fall that includes a full-time in-person and a full-time online learning choice. 

During tonight’s monthly meeting, the School Board approved our Return to Learn Plan for the 2020-2021 school year.  Our plan represents the extraordinary efforts of our Return to Learn Task Force who led this important and groundbreaking work.  At each step, the health, safety, and well-being of our students, teachers, and staff remained foremost in the task force’s planning, which is reflected in our plan. 

The task force carefully evaluated a multitude of complex considerations that informed their recommendations.  This included the significant feedback we received from our families and staff through our online questionnaire, as well as the ever-changing guidance issued by various public officials and entities, such as the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the Governor’s Office, among others.  We are truly grateful for the task force’s outstanding efforts and the valuable input from our stakeholders.

Now more than ever, we must be prepared to quickly pivot and adapt to teaching our students in a rapidly changing environment.  As a result, our plan is dynamic and dependent upon the current reopening phase in which we are operating as determined by state officials.  The highlights of our plan are outlined below. View the complete Return to Learn Plan, which includes our Health Plan and a comprehensive list of FAQs. 

INSTRUCTION BY PHASE

Phase III (current phase)

  • Parent choice: in-person or online instruction.
  • Both options will consist of five days of full-time instruction, Monday through Friday.
  • The pacing of instruction will be the same.
  • The choice is binding. Parents may only change their students’ instructional option at the conclusion of the first semester, if desired.

Phase II

  • Only pre-K through grade three students, students with disabilities, and English language learners are permitted to engage in face-to-face instruction.
  • Students enrolled in the online option will continue with normal instruction.
  • Remaining students enrolled in face-to-face instruction are required to participate in full-time remote learning.
  • Instruction will be significantly more structured and rigorous than during the Spring of 2020, and grades will be assigned. HCPS will have extensive plans in place to transition to remote instruction and maintain daily, quality instruction for all students.

Phase I

  • Only students with disabilities are permitted to engage in face-to-face instruction.
  • Students enrolled in the online option will continue with normal instruction.
  • Remaining students enrolled in face-to-face instruction are required to participate in full-time remote learning.
  • Instruction will be significantly more structured and rigorous than during the Spring of 2020, and grades will be assigned. HCPS will have extensive plans in place to transition to remote instruction and maintain daily, quality instruction for all students.

INSTRUCTION BY CHOICE

Please note that your choice is binding. Parents may only change their students’ instructional option at the conclusion of the first semester, if desired.

Option #1: In-person instruction

  • Full-time face-to-face classroom instruction at the students’ assigned school, pre-K—12.
  • Available to all students during Phase III; significantly limited during Phase I and Phase II.
  • All students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors are required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times while inside any Hanover County Public Schools building, bus, or vehicle. (Exception: Students who are not physically, developmentally, or medically able to wear a face covering as documented in an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.)
  • All grade levels will look, feel, and operate differently to help reduce the spread of illness, such as limiting the movement and mixing of students.
  • The initial focus will be on social-emotional wellness, reacclimating students to the school environment, reestablishing a sense of community, and assessing where learning gaps may exist.
  • Outdoor instruction and breaks are encouraged when possible.
  • While we will believe that in-person instruction provides many significant benefits to our students for reasons that go well beyond academics, we recognize that this may not be the best option for every family.

Elementary School

  • Focus on the four core areas of instruction—language arts, math, science, and social studies.
  • Elective and resource teachers will rotate into the classroom versus groups of students rotating into resources areas (i.e., art, music, PE, library, etc.)
  • Remixing of students for compacted math only.

Middle School

  • Focus on the four core areas of instruction—language arts, math, science, and social studies.
  • Core teachers will rotate into the classroom versus groups of students changing classrooms.
  • Students may select one elective for the first semester. Other elective teachers, including health/physical education, may additionally rotate into the classrooms to provide instruction and/or collaborate with core teachers.

High School

  • Students will operate on a modified 4x4 class schedule (the same four classes the first semester and a different set of four classes the second semester) versus the traditional block schedule (eight classes throughout the school year, alternating every other day).
  • Minimizes student mixing and movement, and it allows for easier transition to Phase II or Phase I, if necessary.
  • Staff is continuing to develop this schedule, including how to accommodate electives and special programs. More details are forthcoming.

Option #2: Online instruction (Hanover Online Learning School)

  • Full-time online teaching and learning during all three phases, K-12.
  • Students will be assigned to classes with students and teachers from across the division.
  • Students and teachers will follow a consistent daily schedule that will include online meetings with teachers and classmates, independent and small group work opportunities, and academic intervention when needed.
  • Schoology will be the primary access point for all instruction and materials.
  • Course selection for middle and high school electives will be limited in this option.
  • The initial focus will be on social-emotional wellness, reacclimating students to the learning environment, reestablishing a sense of community, and assessing where learning gaps may exist.
  • We will share more details about registration in the near future.

HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WELLNESS

The health, safety, and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff continue to be a top priority. In response to COVID-19, we developed a comprehensive Health Plan that addresses the various measures we are taking to help reduce the spread of illness, from our buses to our buildings. We have included several examples below. The socio-emotional health of our students and staff is also very important. We have developed universal supports for all students, employees, and families, and we are ready to provide more specific interventions for those who may need them.  View our complete Health Plan for additional important details.

  • All students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors are required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times while inside any Hanover County Public Schools building, bus, or vehicle. (Exception: Students who are not physically, developmentally, or medically able to wear a face covering as documented in an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.)
  • Reduced class sizes and increased distance between students.
  • Frequent cleaning of buildings, bathrooms, and buses.
  • Hand sanitizing stations and supplies for classrooms and common areas.
  • Regular reinforcement of measures that help to support and promote health, hygiene, and social distancing, including additional signage.
  • Limited movement and mixing of students.
  • Separate sick areas for students with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • No volunteers or visitors will be permitted (parents/guardians may attend required meetings).
  • Routine checks of ventilation systems to ensure proper function.

TRANSPORTATION

Pupil transportation will be significantly limited to help reduce the spread of illness and comply with official guidance. Transportation will not be available to all students. We ask for your patience and cooperation as we work to ensure that the students who have the greatest need receive transportation.

  • Families are strongly encouraged to transport their student(s) to and from school each day.
  • Families must opt-in to request transportation service. More details are forthcoming.
  • Service will be prioritized based upon need, age, and distance from school.
  • All students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors are required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times while inside any Hanover County Public Schools building, bus, or vehicle. (Exception: Students who are not physically, developmentally, or medically able to wear a face covering as documented in an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.)
  • Bus arrival and departure times will be staggered to allow staff time to clean buses after each route, as well as minimize the number of students entering the building at one time.
  • Field trips are suspended until further notice.
  • Specific schedules will be shared at a later date.

FOOD SERVICE

We recognize that many families depend upon schools for their child’s daily nutrition. We remain committed to providing our students with healthy breakfasts and lunches during every phase while following strict food preparation and distribution procedures.

Phase III

  • Students will eat meals in their classroom or outside.
  • Staggered meal pick-up from the cafeteria and mobile food carts with touchless payment.
  • Disposable food service trays and utensils.

Phase I and II

  • HCPS will provide student meals for pick-up at up to five locations, based upon federal and/or state waivers. The number of locations may be subject to change.
  • Students who qualify for in-person instruction will also receive meals.

TECHNOLOGY

We understand that access to technology is vital for student learning under normal circumstances, but especially during a pandemic where online learning is necessary. We are actively pursuing options for our students, including purchasing student devices and a limited number of hotspots for student use.

  • Student devices have been ordered for students in grades 3-12.
  • Device distribution is subject to product availability and delivery schedules and will be prioritized by greatest need.
  • Students enrolled in the Hanover Online Learning School option will receive devices first.
  • HCPS will continue to explore alternative connectivity strategies for students with limited or no internet connectivity, such as temporary hotspot devices.
  • HCPS will expand wireless connectivity at select elementary school parking lots.
  • HCPS will provide extended HelpDesk hours for students and staff.

QUESTIONS?

We understand these are challenging times. The ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19 and the ever-changing guidance and information associated with it can be overwhelming. However, please be assured that we are working hard to keep you as informed as possible of any updates or changes that may be necessary.

We encourage you to review our FAQs for answers to some of the most common questions we receive, which we will update on a regular basis.

Read our complete Return to Learn Plan.

View a quick overview of our plan.       

STAY CONNECTED

Now is the perfect time to make sure you are connected with HCPS so you can stay up-to-date. We will provide regular and timely updates, so please be sure to bookmark, sign-up, like, and follow us on these platforms:

Thank you for taking the time to review our plans for the 2020-2021 school year. We understand that each family will need to make a decision that is best for their child. As such, we are committed to finding the best path forward for every student and family, and I believe our plan accomplishes this given our circumstances.

In the meantime, we remain ready to adapt our plans to the ever-changing world around us, and we will communicate any additional updates that may be necessary as quickly as possible. We will also share additional information with you soon about how you can learn more about our plan, as well as provide additional feedback, through an upcoming parent/guardian-focused virtual town hall meeting.

As always, we are grateful for your continued patience, understanding, and support as we work to make the best possible decisions for our students, families, and staff during this challenging time in our history. Understandably, you will have questions, and we will continue to support you and your student(s) as we engage in this important work together.

In education,

Dr. Michael Gill
Superintendent of Schools

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