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For two weeks, Douglas Freeman students can enter an immersive portal and meet people around the world

It’s long been the stuff of science fiction: step into a portal and be instantly transported to the other side of the globe. And while students at Douglas S. Freeman High School won’t technically be leaving their Three Chopt Road campus, a new student-driven project might give them the next best thing.

RVAHub Staff

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It’s long been the stuff of science fiction: step into a portal and be instantly transported to the other side of the globe. And while students at Douglas S. Freeman High School won’t technically be leaving their Three Chopt Road campus, a new student-driven project might give them the next best thing. From Feb. 17 to March 1, students at the school will be able to step into an immersive, audio-visual chamber and interact with residents of Afghanistan, Uganda and other places far from Henrico County.

The Douglas Freeman portal is constructed from a repurposed steel shipping container, painted gold. It and similar portals are dimly lit and include a floor-to-ceiling screen, giving people at each location the illusion of being in the same room. The portal will sit at the front of campus, where the HCPS Technology and Facilities departments have run power and internet lines.

The portal, one of more than 60 worldwide, is the creation of Shared_Studios of Brooklyn, NY. Douglas Freeman students proposed bringing one of the portals to campus, and funding from the Henrico Education Foundation made it happen. The Foundation supports innovative teaching and learning in Henrico’s 72 schools and program centers.

“One of our roles as a school is to expose students to new ideas and different ways of thinking — to broaden their view of the world,” said John Marshall, Douglas Freeman principal. “The school’s diversity is a strength in this regard, and embracing that is one of our core values. The portal gives us the chance to do this at an even greater scope. It highlights the fact that we’re creating global citizens who learn much more than just facts and content during their time at DSF.”

Douglas Freeman is the first public school in Virginia to host a portal. Teachers plan to use the portal to add a new dimension to coursework. For example, Freeman students studying art, geometry and Spanish plan to talk with street artists using a portal in Mexico City, who use ratios in their designs. Photography students hope to learn from artists in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, who use that medium to tell their stories.

The public is invited to use the portal on two successive weekends to interact with people in other nations:

  • Feb. 22 (9-11 a.m. with Herat, Afghanistan; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. with Mexico City)
  • Feb. 23 (Noon-2 p.m. with an Erbil, Iraq camp for displaced persons)
  • Feb. 29 (10-11:30 a.m. with Lagos, Nigeria; Noon-2 p.m. with El Progreso, Honduras)
  • March 1 (Noon-2 p.m. with Kigali, Rwanda)

Find out more about the Douglas Freeman portal at freemanportal.org. A short video produced by Shared_Studios explains more about the project below.

The portal project is an example of the concepts laid out in the Henrico Learner Profile, the school division’s framework for the skills students need and how they can best attain them. It uses many concepts included in the Henrico Learner Profile, including global citizenship and the idea that learning should be student-owned, authentic, connected and take place anytime and anywhere.

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Governor Northam Closes Schools, Recreation Businesses, and Limits Restaurants to To-Go/Carryout

The school closures announcement leaves more questions than answers. Expect school districts to roll ou their plan in the coming weeks.

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During Governor Northam’s daily press conference he announced sweeping new measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

  • Virginia schools will be closed for the rest of the year. This includes both public and private schools.
  • All recreation businesses such as bowling alleys, theaters, etc., are ordered closed.
  • Restaurants my no longer offer any dine-in services. All food must be either delivered or offered t0-go. Social distancing and no more than 10 people will be allowed at a time.
  • Breweries and wineries fall into the same category as restaurants. No tasting room, to-go only.
  • Non-essential businesses may remain open but must have 10 or fewer people at a time. Businesses such as hair salons or tattoo parlors are to be closed due to how close the customer and employees must be due to the nature of the service being offered.
  • Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and others should adhere to the no more than 10 people at a time and maintain a six-foot cushion between people.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

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Richmond Public School Update 3/17/20

A link to this post will also be on our Corona Virus page and we will update this post as RPS sends out new updates.

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Dear #RPSStrong Family,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We continue to be in awe of your support for RPS!

Before I get to today’s updates, a quick housekeeping note: To streamline and organize the information in these messages, I’ve collapsed the Resources and FAQ sections into a revamped (and better organized) set of FAQs. I’ll keep these updated every day so they can be your go-to source for answers. Please email me at [email protected] if you feel something important is missing. Thanks!

Today’s Updates:

School Closure – As I shared yesterday, RPS will be closed through Spring Break. That means we will be closed, at a minimum, until Monday, April 13. My request of the RPS Family: if you can provide childcare for someone, can you please let us know through our volunteer sign-up page? Thank you!

SOLs – I’ve gotten a ton of questions about whether students will have to take SOLs this year. Here’s the latest: The VDOE just put out a press release indicating that they are seeking permission from the Commonwealth and the Federal Government to waive testing for this school year. Kudos to Dr. Lane for taking this step! As soon as I have further information on this, I’ll be sure to share it.

Food Distribution – Again, thank you so much to RPS staff, families, and volunteers for making our food sites possible! If I may brag on our dedicated staff for a second: Los Angeles Unified, which has about 730,000 students (30 times the size of RPS) has 60 centers (just 3 times as many as RPS). No shade on LAUSD; they’re working around the clock like us all. Just want to make sure folks know that RPS staff are stepping up big-time!

Very important update: we’re launching food delivery into our neighborhoods starting tomorrow (Wednesday, March 18). RPS families can pick up food at any of the locations below, from 9:30 am – 11:00 am.

Additional food updates:

  • All of our school-based food distribution sites will continue to run from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Monday – Friday. For a full list of those sites, click here.
  • The Henderson MS site is now closed due to accessibility issues. Please use the Ginter Park ES site instead.
  • A new site at Carver ES will open tomorrow (Wednesday, March 18).
  • For emergency food support, please call the FeedMorehotline at 804-521-2500. Special shout-out to FeedMore for providing RPS with 500 (not a typo) backpacks filled with non-perishable food!

Finally, here’s a pic from Oak Grove-Bellemeade. I hope it gives you a sense of the scale of our food operations. Thank you to the amazing RPS team and all of our wonderful volunteers!

Donations – In just the last 48 hours, over 52 people have donated over $6,000 to the RPS Education Foundation. Unbelievable! These funds will help us continue to support our students and families throughout the closure. On behalf of RPS, THANK YOU!

Learning at Home – You don’t need to figure this out on your own. We have a TON of resources on our website. Big thanks to the entire academic team for pulling everything together so quickly. Check it out here! Also, have you seen some of the amazing things our teachers are doing to support their students?! If you have a shout-out for an RPS teacher you’d like me to share, can you please email me a sentence or two at [email protected]? Thanks!

Mr. K’s 30 Minutes of Math – I’ll be kicking off my 30-minute math lessons tomorrow (Wednesday, March 17). I know I said they’d start today, but the truth is I just haven’t had a second to prep. The lessons will be live-streamed every day, Monday – Friday, at 2 pm. Here’s the link to tune in. We’ll also record them and make them available on our website.

I’m not going to lie: of everything I’m dealing with right now, this is stressing me out the most. Teaching is HARD, folks – a lot harder than being Superintendent. I imagine a whole bunch of families and caregivers are beginning to realize this as they suddenly become subs. So please take a minute RIGHT NOW to call, text, or email a teacher in your life and say THANK YOU! For real, do it. Now.

Wishtree Read-Aloud – Yesterday, we kicked off a community read-aloud of the Wishtree. Click here to see me reading the first two chapters. Mayor Stoney recorded Chapter 3 and School Board Chair (and former Librarian!) Linda Owen recorded Chapters 4 and 5 (see below). Huge thanks to them both! Stay tuned to see who our celebrity guest readers will be tomorrow!

With great appreciation,

Jason

Wishtree Chapter 3 – Guest Reader: Mayor Levar Stoney

Wishtree Chapters 4 and 5 – Guest Reader: School Board Chair Linda Owen

Revised (Hopefully Better!) FAQs

Closure 

  • How long are we closed for?Until April 13. Keep in mind that we may need to close even longer.
  • Will we need to go to school in the summer?I highly doubt it. In all likelihood, the State will waive the days we’re closed, meaning we won’t have to make them up. Once I know for sure, I’ll let everyone know.
  • Are events run by external organizations that rent space at schools (like churches for Sunday services) cancelled? ALL activities are cancelled.

Food

  • Where are the food distribution centers and what are the hours?The hours are 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday. The locations are listed here.
  • Can students pick up food without their parent/caregiver being present? 
  • Can parents/caregivers pick up food without their student being present?
  • If I want to help in some way, what should I do?Please fill out this Google Formso we can follow up with you. Thank you!

Pay

  • Who will be paid during the closure? ALL RPS employees will continue to be paid. That includes full-time, part-time, and hourly employees.
  • Are long-term subs included?Yes!

Academics

  • Where do I find the “Learning at Home” section of the RPS website?Just click here.
  • Will students receive official grades for the work they’re doing while we’re closed?
  • Will students need to take SOLs this year?The VDOE just put out a press release indicating that they are seeking permission from the Commonwealth and Federal Government to waive testing for this school year. As soon as I have further information on this, I’ll be sure to share it.
  • What should I do if I want to access online learning resources, but I don’t have internet? Please call Comcast at 855-846-8376 (English) or 855-765-6995 (Spanish) to get 60 days of FREE internet. In addition, Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country are now FREE. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, just select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots, and then launch any browser.

Communications

  • What is the RPS website address? rvaschools.net
  • Can anyone receive my daily RPS Direct emails? ANYONE can sign up here.
  • Are these messages available in other languages? They’re all posted on our website, which has an auto-translate function for dozens of languages. The translate button is on the top right of the menu bar.
  • Does RPS have any guidance on how to talk about the coronavirus with children? Please click herefor a number of resources.

Information for RPS Employees

Nothing new to report today! As a reminder, if you have questions about your benefits, please call 804-780-7859. And if you have any other concerns, please reach out to me directly at [email protected]. I want to make sure you have all the information and support you need during this difficult time!

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Education

Mobile hubs at four HCPS high schools will distribute Wi-Fi hot-spot devices, repair division-issued laptops

The hubs are designed to support virtual learning in two ways: enable up to 400 students and staff members who don’t have home internet access to get it through the distribution of Wi-Fi hot-spot devices; and provide a way for HCPS-issued laptops to be repaired and exchanged.

RVAHub Staff

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Vans will be stationed at four Henrico County Public Schools high schools to act as mobile technology hubs during HCPS’ closure for coronavirus.

The hubs are designed to support virtual learning in two ways: enable up to 400 students and staff members who don’t have home internet access to get it through the distribution of Wi-Fi hot-spot devices; and provide a way for HCPS-issued laptops to be repaired and exchanged.

Starting Wednesday, those who have previously informed the school division of their need for home internet can visit vans at Deep Run, Douglas Freeman, Hermitage, and Highland Springs high schools and borrow one of 400 portable Wi-Fi hot-spot devices. The devices, which will be available while supplies last, will connect their laptop to the internet at home using cellular service.

The vans are staffed by employees of the school division’s primary technology vendor, Technology Integration Group. The vans have canopies in case of rain and feature the large “TIG” logo of the laptop-support vendor. The mobile sites will be open to distribute hot-spot devices and conduct laptop repairs weekdays from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.

Most laptop issues can be resolved in less than 10 minutes by moving the hard drive to a replacement computer. Replacement devices will be sanitized before being issued.

Hours

  • March 18-20 and March 23-27 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and from 2-4 p.m.

Sites

  • Deep Run High School, 4801 Twin Hickory Road
  • Douglas Freeman High School, 8701 Three Chopt Road
  • Hermitage High School, 8301 Hungary Spring Road
  • Highland Springs High School, 15 S. Oak Avenue

The school division’s closure is currently scheduled to last through March 30. Should the closure be extended, the status of the hubs would be reassessed. More information about HCPS’ response to the spread of the coronavirus can be found at the school division’s COVID-19 webpage at henricoschools.us/covid19/.

As part of a response to the spread of coronavirus, telecommunications company Comcast recently announced that it was offering two free months of home internet service to low-income families who qualify for the company’s “Internet Essentials” service. The website for the promotion is internetessentials.com/covid19.

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