This virtual program will continue for at least nine weeks, at which time officials will reassess, according to the plan, which is subject to school board approval. Officials will check in every nine weeks after that and try to add in-person instruction as public health circumstances allow.
Hutchings will present the plan — dubbed “Virtual PLUS+” — to the school board for a formal vote Aug. 7.
“After much careful consideration of the facts as they stand today, we feel confident that Virtual PLUS+ will provide a quality educational experience worthy of our children,” Hutchings said in a statement.
The plan promises to offer child-care options for “those families who need it,” according to the email to parents. Alexandria City schools will rely on “community partners” to provide that service, the email said, but administrators provided few details.
More information will come during the presentation Aug. 7 and in later weeks, officials said.
Alexandria’s is one of the last public school systems in the Washington region to share its reopening plans. Some school districts — notably, nearby Fairfax County Public Schools, whose 189,000 students make it one of the largest systems in the nation — had initially declared that they would offer a hybrid program of mixed in-person and distance learning.
But as coronavirus cases continued to climb nationwide and held stubbornly steady in the region — then began to tick upward toward the end of July — school district after school district opted for a virtual fall, resisting pressure from President Trump to reopen. Fairfax County and Loudoun County Public Schools were forced to backtrack, abandoning hybrid programs in favor of the all-remote option.
In contrast to his peers in neighboring districts, Hutchings bided his time. In July, he formed a team of more than 100 staffers, students and parents that met twice each week on Zoom to debate when and how to reopen. The superintendent also held regular public, virtual question-and-answer sessions to discuss reopening. And he consulted with other superintendents both locally and across the country.
The planning team considered hybrid, 100 percent in-person and fully online learning models. It developed and tested scenarios for each. But in the end, Hutchings said, online-only emerged as the only feasible path forward.
The finalized plan calls for enhanced social and emotional learning, as well as continued meal distribution. Alexandria is asking parents, students and staff to complete an online survey so they can share their thoughts on other initiatives they’d like to see this fall.
The first day of online learning is slated for Sept. 8.