2020-2021 School Year

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Team Chesterfield families,

As the 2019-20 school year wraps up, my leadership team and I remain focused on preparing for the 2020-21 school year. What that eventually will look like remains largely unknown at this time.

Two things are known for sure and have been for a long time: We miss our students, and we want them physically back in our schools learning from our outstanding teachers. The latter part, though, can only happen when it is safe for students and staff members to return within identified parameters.

Our path forward this fall largely will depend on orders from the Governor, guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Education, guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and input from the county government’s Risk Management team. Given how rapidly things have changed during the past three months, it would be difficult to tell you with any certainty what the first day of school might look like … or when it might be.

We do know our return to learning will be scientifically guided based on metrics identified by state and local  leaders, and will be done when conditions are appropriate. The safety of our students and staff remains our top priority.

My team and I are planning for a variety of possible scenarios, including but not limited to:

  • All students are allowed to return to campus, and school begins on time as normal.
  • Our school year is delayed, and we have to modify our instructional calendar for a later start date.
  • Students are allowed to return to school, but not all at one time, meaning we have to operate in shifts to meet crowd-size restrictions and social distancing guidelines. This hybrid model could have some students learning from school while others learn from home, and then switching places on other days.
  • The school year begins with required attendance in virtual classrooms, with teacher instruction provided and assignments distributed, collected and graded (in person or electronically).

Given the timelines suggested so far for the phased reopening of Virginia and the limitations initially described within the phases, it is not difficult to see some combination of the above being implemented during the first semester. If crowd-size restrictions remain in place, it obviously will be impossible for most school divisions to bring in entire student populations.

As we review potential options, we are receiving many suggestions from the federal, state, and local levels about what the reopening of school could look like. There are many logistical challenges to work through with many of these suggestions, though. For example:

  • While it may be somewhat easy to separate a reduced number of students once they are in schools, social distancing could be a challenge on school buses. A 72-student school bus might only be able to hold one-third of its capacity if 6 feet of separation is still required. This challenge must be considered by state and federal leaders as plans are developed and recommended.
  • It also is not realistic for middle or high school students to remain in the same classroom throughout the day due to the diverse/different schedules each student has. (Some sixth graders take English 6 but Math 7; some high school freshmen are in classes with upperclassmen for core subjects like math/science and for electives as well.)

Regardless of the path taken this fall, one challenge we are actively working to solve is the digital divide. We are studying potential opportunities that would allow all school-aged students to have a school division-issued laptop or tablet (for our youngest students) next year. Through community partnerships, we are hopeful that we also could provide free Wi-Fi service or hotspot devices to families that do not have Internet access at home.

We will continue to tackle challenges and take advantage of opportunities as they come our way, and we will keep you updated as soon as decisions are made. We continue to appreciate your patience as we navigate this uncharted path. Together, we will come through this stronger as individuals and as a community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Merv Daugherty
Superintendent


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