Alexandria City Public Schools reopens its classrooms

Virginia

CITY OF ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — On Tuesday, 91 students returned to the classroom at Mount Vernon Community School. They’ll return on Wednesday and learn at home the rest of the week as part of the hybrid model of learning. Another 96 will return Thursday and Friday. Over 1,200 students in the Alexandria City Public School system opted to return to in-person learning this week.

ACPS closed its schools on March 13, 2020. Students are returning to different hallways and classrooms, which include social distancing reminders on the floors and walls and hand sanitizing stations. 60 percent of Mount Vernon Community School staff returned Tuesday, including Emily Porterfield, who teaches fourth-grade students.

“The best part of today was actually watching the kids get off the bus and then get ready and come in the classroom,” she said. “I think that was both a sense of relief and joy for all of us.” 

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said ACPS opted for the hybrid model in order to guarantee six-foot social distancing between students and their teachers. Students are required to wear their face masks all day — with the exception of eating and drinking — and were not permitted to use the playground at recess. 

“It’s tough, but it’s good to make everyone safe,” said fourth grade student Luis Aleman.

“Our kids are so resilient,” Hutchings said. “When you have routines in place they really adjust. We, as adults; we’re caught up in our ways.”

Hutchings says the next few weeks will be good practice for teachers who will welcome a “full load” of kids back on March 16. The superintendent hosted webinars and weekly feedback sessions with teachers to make sure they were comfortable and prepared. He said many teachers have been inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine, but couldn’t estimate how many. 

Mount Vernon Community School’s Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana has received both of her doses. “[My students] were telling me, ‘We just wanted to be in the building and just continue our learning and our education.’ It’s been a positive experience. I know it’s challenging but our teachers are making it happen.”

Families are not permitted to opt into hybrid learning, but they may opt-out if they’re uncomfortable. “We’ve already had some families who opted not to send their kids today. They just decided this morning that they didn’t want to do that,” said Hutchings. “So it’s happening and we don’t want to shame people for that. Everybody has to make the right choice for their families and for their students.”

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