Alexandria City Public Schools is out with dates when students can return to in-person learning twice per week, as the superintendent of Arlington County Public Schools said he will specify return dates on Feb. 18.
Citing metrics that show a slightly reduced risk of contracting COVID-19, the availability of vaccines for teachers and mitigation processes in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus within schools, Alexandria Superintendent Gregory Hutchings told county board members that conditions are ripe for a phased return to in-person learning.
“We’re now ready, it is now time for this pivot,” Hutchings said. “We will be returning into our school buildings.”
Noting it’s been almost a year since students were in school buildings with classmates and teachers, Hutchings said minimizing risk of spread within schools, and ensuring safety of students and staff, will be a top priority.
“This is a pandemic that’s not going to end in the next month, so we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
The first group of students — kindergartners through fifth-graders with disabilities, as well as students who are learning English — will return to classrooms on March 2.
Older children with disabilities and those learning English will begin hybrid learning the following week. On March 16, all students who chose hybrid learning earlier will be back in classrooms two days per week.
Students in all grades whose parents chose distance learning will continue to learn from home.
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While Alexandria joins Fairfax County, plus Loudoun County and Prince William County in specifying return dates, Arlington County Superintendent Francisco Duran told board members he will announce return dates for all cohorts of students at the next school board meeting on Feb. 18.
Despite hearing pleas from frustrated parents, Duran said the county continues to exceed the “highest risk” of COVID-19 transmission. Acknowledging parents concerns, Duran asked for patience, saying when it comes to school reopening, the system must “do it safely.”
“I’m going to continue to make the best decisions for the children of Arlington,” Duran said.