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Henrico County Public Schools closing to students, moving to online learning modules, for two weeks beginning March 16th

Starting Monday, March 16, Henrico County Public Schools will be closed for students for two full weeks of school through Friday, March 27th.

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Henrico County Public Schools is closing for two weeks starting on Monday. The announcement came down Thursday afternoon. The full statement follows below:

Concern about COVID-19 (coronavirus) has created a rapidly evolving environment where changes are being made quickly in the interest of public health.

While much of the focus has been on individual positive tests for COVID-19, we are just as concerned about potential exposure, the subsequent 14 days of self-quarantine and the long-term health risks if we wait too long to act. We have a major decision to announce:

Starting Monday, March 16, Henrico County Public Schools will be closed for students for two full weeks of school (through Friday, March 27). We will continue to assess the situation, and decide later if we need to extend this period of closure. You will be notified as soon as possible of all changes.

We realize this creates many questions about how students will continue their learning. We have a thorough plan in place, and detailed information about student learning will be communicated in a separate message.

Our teachers and staff will use Monday, March 16, to continue their preparations. “Virtual learning” experiences (digital and non-digital) will be available to students of all grade levels starting on Tuesday, March 17.

During this unprecedented experience, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our community. The HCPS Facilities and Pupil Transportation departments will conduct additional cleaning of school buildings and buses, and continue to assess the best cleaning practices.

Additionally, for many of our students, the meals provided at our schools are a crucial part of their daily nutrition. Additional plans are being made to address this vital need across the Henrico Community.

Please know that this is not a decision that we make lightly. We realize that any change to educational schedules is disruptive and inconvenient. However, our priority must always be the health and safety of our students, staff members and community.

Again, more details about student learning will be forthcoming in separate communications. We have also created a “COVID-19” page on our website where information from the school division will be posted.

We will get through this together, and I promise you that the dedicated team at Henrico County Public Schools will work to make you, our families, very proud.

Please stay close to your email for additional information as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

Amy E. Cashwell, Ed. D.
Superintendent

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Education

Distance learning poses challenges for students, teachers

Students and teachers are transitioning from classroom to computer as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to distance learning, as students and instructors have discovered.

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By Jimmy O’Keefe

Students and teachers at all levels of education are transitioning from classroom to computer as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to distance learning, as students and instructors have discovered.

“I think we’re all really frustrated,” said Jordyn Wade, a fashion design major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “But we know that our professors are doing what they can in a really unprecedented situation.”

Wade said that she and her classmates are now meeting remotely through Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Zoom allows students to meet virtually during a time when people can’t meet physically, but distance learning poses challenges for courses that require more than a lecture, like art classes and lab components of science classes.

Students like Wade worked mostly with industrial grade equipment.

“We kind of rely heavily on the school for supplies like sewing machines and the industrial equipment that can cost thousands of dollars,” Wade said. “Now we just stare at each other and they ask us,‘What can you guys do? Can you hand sew an entire jacket before the end of the month?’”

Wade said that one of the most frustrating aspects of distance learning is not being able to receive direct feedback from professors.

“We can’t ask our professors what’s wrong with the garment that we’re making, we can just send them pictures and hope they can figure it out from afar,” Wade said.

Chloe Pallak, a student in VCU’s art program said that many of her projects are being graded on whether or not they are complete.

“To get a grade for an assignment, you just have to do it,” Pallak said. “It really takes away the motivation of wanting to make art and not just complete the assignment.”

Courses that include lab components, such as classes in environmental science, also face challenges as classes move online. Griffin Erney, an environmental studies major at VCU, said that distance learning prevents students from accessing lab materials that are typically provided in the classroom.

“Before the class was online we would just do different activities and be provided with the materials,” Erney said. “Having labs online is more challenging, on top of all the work that we already have.”

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order that closed down all K-12 schools in the state for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Davide D’Urbino, a chemistry and organic chemistry teacher at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County, said he plans on using computer applications to supplement labs that cannot be completed in the classroom. He said the school division requested that teachers hold off on introducing new learning material.

“The expectation was that you could teach new stuff, but then you have to go back in class and reteach it,” D’Urbino said.

D’Urbino said teachers aren’t allowed to teach new material online because some students may not have internet access. He said he understands why the school division has placed these restrictions but said it “feels weird.”

Distance learning has also presented challenges to teachers trying to adapt to lecturing online.

“Some people say teaching is 75 percent theater, you just go out there and do improv. You can’t really do that online,” D’Urbino said. “It’s very difficult to intervene and correct course if you realize something isn’t quite working out.”

Teachers have also scrambled for ways to continue instruction for students that lack access to the internet.

Janice Barton, a 5th grade science teacher at Honaker Elementary School in Russell County, said that about half of the 60 students she teaches have access to the internet. She said the school is using Google Classroom, a web platform that allows teachers to share files with students through the internet. For students without internet access, teachers create physical packets of learning content.

“We’re working as grade levels, we’re going in and working together to put the packets together,” Barton said. “We have pickup days and drop-off days, and that’s how we are working and dealing with this right now.”

Barton said the school uses phone calls, emails, and the app Remind, which allows teachers to send messages to students to keep in contact with parents and students.

While local school divisions are tasked with making decisions on how to pursue distance learning, the Virginia Department of Education issued guidance to help divisions continue instruction.

VDOE’s guidance to local school divisions includes offering instruction during the summer of 2020, extending the school term or adjusting the next, and adding learning modules to extended school calendars.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane issued guidance regarding eight high school senior graduation requirements and will be issuing further guidance for half of those, which can not be waived outright.

Two other graduation requirements — training in emergency first aid and the completion of a virtual course — require action by the General Assembly in order to be waived.

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Education

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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Downtown

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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