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YCSDigest - January 6, 2021

Return to School Timeline

As you know, the division scheduled a temporary shift to remote learning for this week, just as we did the week after Thanksgiving, in order to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our school operations. Over Winter Break and this week, division staff have conducted extensive contact tracing, evaluated staffing availability at each school, and assessed our ability to resume in-person learning safely through implementation of our mitigation strategies.

Having weighed all these factors, we have made some adjustments to our Return to School timeline. Next Monday, January 11, only students who have already returned to school in the Hybrid Model will resume in-person learning (grades PreK-6, EL, self-contained programs) as scheduled. The following week, Tuesday, January 19, high school seniors (grade 12) will enter the Hybrid Model. At that time, high school schedules will be adjusted for all students. Additional details regarding bell schedules, transportation, etc. will be shared in the next few days.

We intend to continue following a phased-in approach for grades 7-11. However, the last few months have shown that as we bring more students into buildings, our staffing levels – especially our substitute pool - become more strained. Therefore, we feel it is prudent to evaluate our status weekly before identifying specific dates for grades 7-11 to begin in-person learning. We will discuss next steps for those grade levels at Monday night’s School Board work session. 

Decision-Making

We have learned much about COVID-19 over the last ten months, including the risks of transmission within schools and the role mitigation strategies play in reducing those risks. We have learned from the challenges of emergency school closures, starting a school year in a virtual environment, and expanding our in-person learning through the Hybrid Model.

As we learn, we must continue to reassess the plans we laid out in July. While community health metrics (case burden and positivity rates) are important components of our Return to School Plan, emerging research and guidance indicates those statistics alone should not be “go-no go” indicators for opening or closing schools and that schools with effective mitigation protocols can safely operate regardless of the level of transmission in a community. To date, YCSD has only had one suspected transmission of COVID-19 within a school building.

Therefore, while our community and region continues to face high levels of community spread, our analysis focuses primarily on our ability to implement mitigation strategies and provide necessary staff to maintain safe operations. We anticipate receiving additional guidance from the Virginia Department of Education and Virginia Department of Health in the near future, which we will use to help guide our next steps.

In the meantime, families should stay prepared for the possibility of a transition to the Remote Learning Model at any time. Changes in learning models may occur by classroom, grade level or school and will continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis recognizing specific factors may impact the ability to provide in-person instruction.

Making it Work

School remains one of the safest public spaces in our community because of our ability to control the implementation of mitigation strategies including face masks, physical distancing, cleaning, and hand hygiene while students and staff are in our buildings. However, the spread of COVID-19 will continue to impact the operation of schools. To minimize that impact, we need our communities’ help.

If you feel sick or have been exposed to someone who has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, please do not come to school or work. The Daily Health Screening, which all students and staff are expected to review daily, will also help determine whether you should stay home. Families and staff are also asked to contact their school if a member of their household has received a COVID-19 diagnosis or is experiencing symptoms, even if that individual does not attend or work for YCSD, to ensure we follow appropriate quarantine guidelines.

Additionally, we have openings for substitute teachers, para-educators and classroom facilitators. The more of these positions we fill, the greater our ability to maintain in-person learning. Interested applicants can learn more on the division website.

Moving Forward

As part of the division’s Return to School plan, all families were given the opportunity to select either the Flexible Framework or the YCSD Virtual Academy, as the instructional model for their children at the beginning of the school year. As we prepare for the second semester, all families are asked to complete the commitment form for the 2nd semester (which begins on Monday, February 1) for each child enrolled in the division. Commitment forms must be completed in Rycor by Midnight, Wednesday, January 13.

Completion of this form will allow us to work through staffing and scheduling constraints for both in-person and online learning for the second semester. As we prepare for the potential of mid-year transitions, it is important that parents and students understand the following:

  • student schedules may be impacted for the second semester, including the possibility of a class/teacher change, whether the student changes model or not (while we will work to avoid changes, they may be necessary due to staffing availability and/or to achieve physical distancing)
  • the option selected will be a commitment for the entire semester (February 1-June 17)
  • it may not be possible to accommodate all learning model changes if a significant number of families request a change
  • the division may shift students between formats of the Flexible Framework (Remote, Hybrid, and Traditional) based on changes in health and staffing metrics and COVID-19 guidance

Meal Distribution Update

The division has modified the free meal distribution process. Beginning today, meals will only be distributed each Wednesday. The Wednesday meal distribution process will be in effect for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

  • meal bags will contain milk along with 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches
  • meal distribution locations will remain Queens Lake Middle, Grafton High, Tabb High and York High
  • meal pick-up time will still be from 4-6 p.m.