Leaders in the Arlington County Schools in Northern Virginia faced angry parents during a school board meeting Thursday as families demanded to know why students were not being offered more opportunities for in-person classes.
“I see the adults hired and elected to education my children doing nothing,” said one father, Aaron Asimakopoulos.
The school system has been relatively slow to respond to recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which said that students can safely sit just 3 feet apart in the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic as long as they wear masks.
It represented a turn away from the 6-foot standard that sharply limited how many students some schools can accommodate.
In response, students in the nearby Fairfax County Public School system were offered the option of having in-person classes four days per week instead of two.
Arlington students are going two days per week.
“We have been working very hard to make sure that we provide more in-person learning opportunities,” said Superintendent Francisco Durán.
But even two days per week of in-person classes proved to be too much for Arlington schools to handle, with 241 students still on waitlists to participate.
Durán went on the defensive, saying that Fairfax County is not offering the four-day option to every student in its system, only providing it for students who had previously been attending school two days per week.
In other words, students who were 100% virtual learners were not given the option.
Durán said the goal in Arlington County was to offer at least some in-person classes to every student systemwide.
“I think that’s really important for us to note as we hear concerns and questions,” said Durán.
Durán added that more options were on the way, as all pre-K students would have the option of learning in-person four days per week starting May 3.
Arlington County plans to offer in-person summer school classes five days per week.
“Summer programs are only open to current APS students in grades Pre-K through grade 12 who have been identified as eligible by a school administrator or counselor,” school officials said in a statement.
Families of eligible elementary students should have been notified last week or this week, while families of secondary students will be notified of eligibility by mid-May.
“Eligible students will be automatically registered for the in-person model unless their parents contact their schools to either change to the full distance learning model, or to opt out altogether,” school officials said.
The deadline for elementary parents to change or opt out is April 30 and the secondary deadline is May 28.
Summer school will take place from July 6 to July 30 for elementary students and from July 6 to Aug. 6 for secondary students.