October 7, 2020
Posted on 10/12/2020

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School Board Meeting of October 7, 2020

View the agenda on the Electronic School Board webpage.
Watch the School Board meeting on PWCS-TV.

Purpose of the Meeting:

  • This meeting of the Prince William County School Board is being conducted electronically under Virginia Code § 2.2-3708.2 and the authority granted by the General Assembly on April 22, 2020, through Amendment 28 to House Bill 29, which permits the School Board to meet electronically during the pendency of the current State of Emergency for the purpose of transacting such business as is statutorily required or necessary to continue operations of the Prince William County Public Schools and the discharge of its lawful purposes, duties, and responsibilities.

The School Board Approved:

  • The award of a contract for Portable Desk Guards (PDF) to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, Elite Textile Trading LLC;
  • The request to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to approve the carryover of FY 2020 encumbrances (PDF) and unencumbered balances, to increase the FY 2021 fund budgets by these amounts, and to appropriate these amounts to the appropriate funds for FY 2021, and further, direct staff to prepare and forward the appropriate documents to the Board of County Supervisors;
  • The Riverbanks VA, LLC Nutrient Credit Purchase and Sale Agreement (PDF) to purchase nutrient credits for the Rippon Middle School parking lot project. Further, the Chairman At-Large and Clerk are authorized to sign any necessary documents pertaining to the Agreement, subject to approval as to form only by the Division Counsel;
  • The Development Impact Statement (PDF) for the Lomond Village rezoning that states the School Board is opposed to any rezoning application that causes student enrollment either Division-wide, by school level, or by student enrollment at any affected school to exceed 100 percent of capacity;
  • The revision of Policy 354 (PDF), "School Activity Funds";
  • The proposed revision of Policy 702 (PDF), "Teacher Removal of Students from Class";
  • August 2020 payrolls (PDF) in the amount of $55,737,393.50;
  • The School Board minutes for September 16, 2020 (PDF);
  • Board Poll #1 of October 1, 2020, agreeing to a Joint Meeting with the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) to be held on October 13, 2020 for the purpose of discussing the needs of the School Division relative to the reopening of schools;
  • Board Poll #2 of October 1, 2020, authorizing the Chairman At-Large, on behalf of the School Board, to request from the BOCS additional CARES Act CRF funding in the amount of $3,040,000 for the purpose of providing audio visual equipment to support virtual instruction, and to further request that the BOCS adjust the FY 2021 School Board Operating Fund budget by an increase of $3,040,000, and that the School Board direct Prince William County Schools staff to prepare the appropriate documents to forward to the BOCS to request such an adjustment;
  • Board Poll #3 of October 1, 2020, increasing its prior authorization to the Chairman to request, on behalf of the School Board, additional CARES Act funding from the BOCS in an amount up to $3,600,000;
  • Adopting a resolution that the Chairman At-Large is authorized, on behalf of the Prince William County School Board, to communicate to the Fairfax County School Board the following: that this School Board recommends and requests that the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology be governed by a regional board with all participating jurisdictions having a seat on such board; that this School Board strongly supports efforts to improve the Thomas Jefferson High School admissions process to improve diversity of underrepresented minorities and economically disadvantaged students; and that the Prince William County School Board hereby directs our staff and superintendent to work closely with the staff and superintendent of the Fairfax County School Board on any such reforms to the admissions process and related changes to the current agreement between all participating school boards;
  • The appointment of Gail Drake to represent Jennifer Wall of the Gainesville District on the CTE Advisory Council for a two-year term; and
  • The appointments of Samuel Chisolm, Jr. to represent Adele Jackson of the Brentsville District, Mickel Lewis to represent Justin Wilk of the Potomac District, and Lisa Delgado to represent Loree Williams of the Woodbridge District on the Safe Schools Advisory Council for a two-year term.

Citizens addressed the School Board on the following topics:

  • Concerns related to virtual instruction:
    • Quality of the education
    • Levels of engagement
    • Lack of support
    • Less accountability
    • Equity
    • Increased workloads
    • Increased isolation
    • Socioeconomic concerns
    • Difficulty navigating technology
    • Impacts on mental health, physical health, and social well-being
    • Lack of protection from emotional and physical abuse that may occur in homes
    • Students being left at home alone
    • Limited access to counseling
    • New students are not able to integrate as well
    • In-person learning is essential for students
    • Schools can be opened with proper safety measures
    • Teachers should be considered essential employees
    • The success of certain students is being generalized to all students
    • School turning into “meetings”
    • We do not know the long-term effects
  • Concerns related to 50/50 model instruction
    • Quality of education
    • Disruption to routines
    • Teachers cannot effectively teach in-person students and virtual students at the same time
    • Many do not understand what 50/50 means
    • Limited office hours
    • Safety and health concerns
    • We do not know the long-term effects of COVID
    • No clear steps for what happens when someone tests positive
    • Substitute teachers lack training
    • Teachers being required to enforce mask wearing, enforce social distancing, and sanitizing rooms
    • Inadequate ventilation
    • Request for HVAC test results to be shared publicly
    • Some areas of instruction cannot be effectively taught while wearing a mask and social distancing
    • Students will still have to navigate technology and be on screens for long periods of time
    • This plan forces teachers who are also parents to send their children back to schools in-person
    • Proper PPE may not always be available
    • Social distancing requirements
    • Need for more time to develop a better plan
  • Lack of transparency
  • Lots of unanswered questions
  • Need for better communication
  • Staff should be included as respective decision-makers
  • Teachers are being held accountable for decisions they are not making
  • Accuracy of data and research being used to make decisions
  • Additional funding should be used to hire more teachers 

Student Matters:

  • Introduction of high school student representatives
  • Presentation of data gathered from survey sent to high school students

Staff Presentation Topics:

  • "Potomac Shores" Middle School naming (PDF), including all suggested names (PDF) and community input (PDF)
  • Superintendent of Schools second quarter update:
    • As you know, in July the School Board unanimously directed that, and I quote - “it is the goal of the Division to transition to a 50 percent Capacity In-Person and Distance Learning Model for the second quarter, with the option for students to remain virtual, while maintaining flexibility throughout to adapt to public health guidelines as needed, and to adopt the proposed Return to Work and Health Plans, modified as needed to adapt to the Return to Learning Plan and public health guidelines, and to authorize the Superintendent to implement any additional mitigation measures as appropriate to accommodate these models.”
    • As such, I, along with our entire staff, have been working hard to ensure we are fully prepared to implement the 50 percent model in the second quarter, with the “flexibility to adapt to public health guidelines as needed.”
    • In the past week, the Virginia Department Health (VDH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Prince William Health District released new public health guidelines and a dashboard that directly inform my recommendations to the School Board for a “transition to a 50 percent capacity.”
    • As such, I have asked Prince William Health District Director Dr. Alison Ansher, Associate Superintendent Denise Huebner, and Supervisor of Student Health Services Teresa Polk, to address this latest guidance tonight, and to share with the School Board and public the implications of the latest data. (See Pandemic Health Data (PDF))
    • As was noted in the data shared, we fall within the “Moderate or High Risk” category as defined by the VDH.
    • At this level, per the VDH, “in schools with moderate or higher risk of transmission, specific learners should be prioritized for limited in-person instruction, including willing students with disabilities, English learners, and PreK - 3rd grade students. All other students should be served remotely. Fully remote option should be available to all.”
    • There are also a number of additional operational considerations as well.
    • First, in a reverse of the selections made in July, a majority of students now have a virtual-only preference. Based on the most recent ParentVUE data as of this morning, more than 47,000 students have virtual-only as their preference. In July, this number was approximately 32,000.
    • This is an increase of more than 46 percent selecting virtual-only from July. I believe this increase is due, in-part, to the highly successful virtual experience for many families. About 37,000 students have their preference listed as in-person.
    • Approximately 95 percent of students have a preference selected, and those students who do not have a preference indicated will be considered as in-person for planning purposes until otherwise indicated and schools will continue to provide outreach to those who did not make a selection.
    • Second, it is very important that we have consistent expectations regarding which roles in the organization can be granted a virtual assignment as a “reasonable accommodation” to ensure equity and fairness, and to best serve the needs of our students in the Return to Learn 50/50 instructional model.
    • We have approximately 500 Tier 1 teachers in the Division who have documented underlying health conditions that could place them at higher risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19. In order to properly staff our schools in-person, especially at the high school level, we may need to consider allowing Tier 1 staff to work from home and “remote-into” in-person classrooms via Zoom.
    • However, allowing high school teachers to do so may create questions of fairness, if we do not allow all 500 qualifying teachers to do so. Allowing all qualified teachers to do-so may require hiring large numbers of long-term substitutes and create a challenging precedent long-term.
    • The American with Disabilities Act requires the employer and the employee to engage in the interactive process to discuss possible accommodations for our Tier 1 staff, these conversations have been ongoing.
    • Third, moving students and staff to the hybrid model without adequate time to develop the unique skills and lesson planning necessary may disrupt the successful virtual-only model that is currently in effect.
    • A phased approach would provide more time for teachers to be trained in a hybrid model and to practice prior to a full deployment of the 50 percent model.
    • It is important to note that this approach to live hybrid instruction is a new development only recently made possible by the investments of the School Division and Board of County Supervisors in the network and classroom technology.
    • Fourth, implementing the 50 percent model is an extreme logistics challenge for our schools that is greatly reduced if we start with a prekindergarten through third grade phase-in. Retaining the current virtual model for high school students in the second quarter will permit the later start time for high school to continue until we bring in grades beyond prekindergarten through third grade.
    • Additionally, maintaining the current schedule during November, which has many scheduled non-school days, allows a more continued focus on teaching and learning versus implementing in-school logistics at a period of heightened health risk concerns.
    • Fifth, our IT staff have been working hard to ensure the network and technology is ready for a November implementation of the 50 percent model, including working every Sunday throughout October.
    • However, additional time to phase-in the 50 percent model will provide additional opportunity to implement the Digital Equity Plan with a laptop for every student by the end of January. This will also allow further build-out of redundancy within the network for 100G.
    • Sixth, due to capacity needs, six feet of social distance may not always be possible, and as such, students and staff may need to wear face coverings for the majority of the day. This will vary by school and class, depending on the number of in-person students.
    • As long as our schools are in the moderate to high risk category, the Phase II recommendation also limits groups to less than 50 in a space. The Health District has expressed concern about anything less than six feet being maintained.
    • An additional health consideration is that students will not have access to water fountains during the day. While schools will have bottle filling stations, they are very limited in number within each school. We are continuing with new installations. Currently we have an average of two at elementary and middle schools and three at high school.
    • New guidance was also released just this week by the CDC regarding the transmission of COVID-19.
    • As such, based on this guidance and operational considerations, I recommend a transition to a 50 percent capacity that focuses on returning prekindergarten through third grade in a phased approach during the second quarter, along with a continued in-person instruction for our most vulnerable learners.
    • This will start with prekindergarten and kindergarten followed by subsequent grades in a phased-in approach.
    • Based on the recommendation of Doug Wright, supervisor of Career and Technical Education, our High school Career and Technical Education also known as CTE, will be phased-in for in-person instruction in three phases to allow students to begin participating in the hands-on/lab portions of the courses for three hours on Mondays. This will supplement the “book” study that was intentionally planned for the first part of the school year.
    • The three-hour times slots will be 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 12:30–3:30 p.m.
    • Transportation will be provided as needed and details will be provided closer to the start.
    • I have some slides to illustrate the phase-in (See Return to Learning (PDF)).
    • In November, the first week is focused on the election followed by cleaning our schools and providing teacher workdays that will enable those teachers starting in-person the following week time to prepare their classrooms.
    • All students attending four days a week currently in the first quarter will continue to do so in the second quarter.
    • Prekindergarten and kindergarten will begin November 10 with “House A” students. “House B” students would begin November 13.
    • Remember the House is due to the 50 percent model – as such we group in-person students into “Houses” split about in-half. Houses alternate days, per health department suggestion, in order to allow time to monitor students who attend in-person and may develop COVID-19 symptoms, or should exposure occur can be quarantined via contact tracing.
    • This start for our youngest learners allows them time to adjust to learn school norms and the health protocols.
    • For all other grades, we will remain the same as first quarter, including the later high school start time.
    • For many students this will be their first time in a school building and riding a bus. Starting these students first will provide the opportunity for additional staff to ride the bus and help in classrooms until they can adjust to their new routines.
    • We also know our youngest learners benefit from having the ability to have a tactile, in-person learning experience.
    • For CTE, beginning November 16, the first phase will include select upper-level trade and industry courses to include Auto Tech III, Welding III, Firefighting, Television Production III, Landscaping II, and Turfgrass Maintenance III.
    • Moving beyond the Thanksgiving Break into December, we will add in first grade with our prekindergarten, kindergarten, and four-day-a-week students.
    • Beginning December 7, the second phase will include Building Trades II, Culinary II, Cosmetology II, Cabinet Making II, Advanced Cyber Security Systems, Plumbing II, and Electricity II.
    • Moving to January, we will add second and third grade in-person starting January 12 and 13.
    • Beyond these groups, I recommend we continue to monitor the health metrics, with a target to return, but not a guarantee, remaining grade levels starting in the second semester via a phased approach, should the health metrics fall within “Lowest or Lower Risk” category as defined by the VDH and CDC metrics discussed above.
    • In addition, the next phase of CTE in-person is targeted to begin when the Division moves to the implementation of a full 50 percent model and will encompass the remaining high school CTE courses which will be in-person at that time.
    • Finally, I want to highlight just a few key operational dates to illustrate the critical deadlines we must meet to successfully implement the plan for the second quarter. It is imperative that our school leaders and families have definitive direction, as soon as possible, in order to plan accordingly.
    • My recommendation to implement prekindergarten through third grade in a phased approach in the second quarter comes only after great care and thought being given to the health and well-being of all students, teachers, and staff.
    • These are not easy decisions, but ultimately, I believe that Dr. Anthony Fauci is correct when he said, "Now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another."
    • I believe this approach provides the best opportunity for continued success for our students and staff, and ensures compliance with official health guidance in order to lower the COVID-19 health risk for everyone and keep safety as our top priority.
    • Ultimately, our employees stand-ready to implement whatever direction we provide and I have no doubt they will give it their all to make it as successful and safe as possible.
    • I thank the School Board, our employees, our parents and guardians, and our students for your partnership as we work together to do our best to deliver a safe and World-Class Education for our students. 

Superintendent’s Time:

  • I appreciate the opportunity to update the School Board, staff members, parents, students, and community members on the education and other important work occurring during this pandemic.
  • First, I would like to congratulate our Food and Nutrition Services employees, who recently surpassed the two-point-five-million-meals-served mark. As you know, we have been serving free meals to our families since last March. We are currently serving food at 56 sites throughout the county to our families. Congratulations to Adam Russo and his talented and dedicated staff for preparing and serving meals during this extremely critical time.
  • PWCS is currently working with the United States Department of Agriculture and Virginia Department of Education on implementing a feeding plan for the next quarter. As details for the second quarter are finalized, an update will be provided on food distribution plans.
  • I am also proud to share that even during a pandemic, the on-time graduation rate in PWCS continues to increase. According to a report released by the VDOE, the 93 percent on-time graduation rate for PWCS surpasses the overall state rate of 92.3 percent. The 2020 graduation rate marks the 13th consecutive year of improvement in our School Division – increasing nearly 10 percentage points since 2008, the year it was implemented. Congratulations to our teachers, staff, students, and their families on this outstanding accomplishment.
  • Even while being in a pandemic, Old Bridge Elementary School and Minnieville Elementary School were selected by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments for best practices – congratulations! Old Bridge Elementary was selected for its data-driven instructional practices and Minnieville Elementary was selected for its work with professional learning communities.
  • This VSBA Task Force has also been instrumental in advocating for an equity framework which includes model equity policies used by school divisions across the state. Occoquan representative Lillie Jessie is a member.
  • The pandemic has presented several obstacles for students who need to take the SAT, and our School Division has been working hard to try to expand testing opportunities. This year, PWCS will be offering an SAT School Day option for 12th grade students. Testing will take place on October 27, from noon to 5 p.m. at assigned schools throughout the Division. Families of seniors will receive information about SAT School Day directly.
  • As you know, we have about 1,200 students attending school in-person this quarter. I have had the pleasure of visiting Unity Braxton Middle School, Lake Ridge Elementary, Kilby Elementary, King Elementary, Minnieville Elementary, Dale City Elementary, Occoquan Elementary, Marshall Elementary, and Henderson Elementary since school began. I have visited almost all classrooms with students in those buildings, and I have enjoyed talking with and listening to our staff members about any additional needs they may have. The staff members were very positive about being back in the building and appreciate our efforts to provide PPE.
  • I also noticed new signage that promotes social distancing, as well as hand sanitizer stations throughout the schools. Plexiglass has been installed in high-traffic areas, and the custodians in these buildings are also very busy implementing new cleaning protocols to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
  • I will continue to visit schools over the next several weeks, listening to our staff members’ successes, concerns, and needs, as I can’t thank them enough for the important work they are doing in these unprecedented times.
  • I would like to give you some information on how the pandemic has impacted our student enrollment. The September 30, 2020, student enrollment is 89,076 students, which is the official benchmark date that the state uses.
  • Since September 30, 2019, the Division has experienced a decrease in anticipated enrollment of 2,448 students, or a loss of 2.7 percent. The breakdown for each school level is as follows:
    • At the elementary school level, we have 2,032 students fewer, or a loss of five percent.
    • At the middle school level, we have 380 fewer students, or a loss of 1.8 percent.
    • And at the high school level, 285 additional students, or a gain of one percent.
  • We believe the decline in enrollment of this magnitude is largely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate that this shift will likely be temporary in nature, and that a future return to normal school attendance will result in a return to previously projected enrollment levels.
  • Of particular note is the large decrease in kindergarten enrollment – a loss of 712 students from 2019 to 2020. This may be reflective of parents opting to either defer kindergarten enrollment for one year, or enrolling students in private facilities.
  • As parents and students shift and adjust to accommodate the pandemic’s short-term effects, we may very well experience continued impacts on the composition of the student population in Prince William County Public Schools for the next several years.
  • I would like to add that since the last School Board meeting, we have added a COVID-19 dashboard on our website to share COVID cases by school locations. Since school began, more than 60 positive test results for the COVID-19 virus have been reported by our staff or students. In many cases, those with a positive diagnosis are teaching or learning virtually, but we are posting all cases to ensure our community is accurately informed.
  • I am proud to share that thanks to a partnership with Prince William County Government, a childcare scholarship program is available to families financially impacted by COVID-19. If parents or guardians have experienced job loss, work hour reduction, wage reduction, new childcare expenses because of remote learning, or are teleworking without access to childcare, they can apply to participate. The grant program is through December of 2020.
  • The County has selected AlphaBEST Education, Inc., currently the PWCS before-and-after-school childcare contractor. AlphaBEST will provide scholarships for children to attend their Fall 2020 full day program.
  • The program is available for up to 1,000 students, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., at several Prince William County elementary schools.
  • AlphaBEST and PWCS may add new school locations, as necessary, to accommodate additional enrollees. AlphaBEST staff will follow all COVID-19 health, safety, and cleaning protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of participants.
  • Go to our website at www.pwcs.edu for more information.
  • Even though the pandemic is first and foremost on our minds, it is time to begin thinking about next school year, as PWCS is in the process of finalizing the calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. Two options will be presented to the School Board on October 21. One option is very similar to our traditional calendar and the other incorporates some additional holidays that reflect the diversity of the Prince William County community.
  • A public poll is now available that allows members of the PWCS community to provide feedback on the two calendar options. The calendar poll will be open until Thursday, October 15, and is available on our website at pwcs.edu. Feedback from the poll will be included in the presentation of the calendar options to the School Board. I encourage everyone to provide their feedback.
  • Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to provide this update.
  • My wish is for our entire PWCS community to stay safe and healthy.

Policies:

First Readings-No action is required on first readings.