At its meeting Tuesday night, the Goochland County School Board unanimously approved our division’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. This plan has been developed over the past several weeks using multiple resources and a variety of data in collaboration with parents, employees, and health officials.
Our division’s reopening plan prioritizes safety, mitigates health risks, and maximizes opportunities for student learning. It is based on the developmental needs of students at different grade levels and has been designed with a focus on equity and meeting the unique needs of every student. It is also flexible and allows us to adjust our operating status without creating new schedules should conditions associated with the current pandemic improve or deteriorate.
Even with the deliberate thought and effort that we have put into our plan, we know that there is no one, perfect plan. This plan prioritizes everyone’s safety, while at the same time provides opportunities for over half of our student body to receive face to face instruction four days a week for families who choose this option.
Many will have specific concerns and questions. Please know our division is committed to working with our families to the greatest extent possible so our students remain a part of our Goochland family, whether learning inside our schools or learning remotely.
We also acknowledge that creating and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for both students and employees is a collective effort that we all share. As such, we will need everyone’s help with working to mitigate potential health risks by recognizing the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and encouraging students and employees to remain at home when feeling ill.
Each school division in Virginia is required to submit a health plan outlining its strategies for mitigating public health risk of COVID-19. Goochland’s Phase III Health Plan has been developed in collaboration with district- and school-based administrators, school health personnel, the Virginia Department of Health, and our School Health Advisory Board. Additionally, it was developed using guidance and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Education and current health data.
All elements included in our health plan are designed to maximize safety while reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure to both students and employees. We are prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and families.
Key features of this health plan include:
- Required health screenings for students and staff,
- An emphasis on maintaining a physical distance of six feet among individuals within school facilities,
- Required face coverings, for all students and staff, as is medically and developmentally appropriate, to protect all occupants on the bus and in the building,
- Additional protections and mitigation measures for staff and children at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Our plan for reopening schools for in-person instruction is tied directly to our division’s health plan. There is a balance point between the two plans that helps identify what is possible and what is prudent in terms of bringing students and staff back to our schools.
Throughout the planning that has gone into our decisions over the past few months, the following priorities have guided our work:
- Health and safety
- Maximizing learning
The health and safety of our students, GCPS team members, and families was our highest priority before the global pandemic and remains so. We believe that learning will be maximized when students are safely in our schools with our teachers for in-person instruction as much as possible. Finally, our planning has included an eye on flexibility. We want to accommodate as many students and families as possible. In some cases, however, we are limited by the capacity inside our schools given social distancing requirements. As such, our plan includes both in-person and remote learning options for students. Our plan also features scalability, so that we can adapt our operational status according to the potential of changing conditions related to the virus.
We will submit our full instructional plan to the Virginia Department of Education in mid-August. In the meantime, this summary provides families with concise information regarding our plans to reopen on August 24, 2020.
As noted in our health plan, students who ride on our school buses will be REQUIRED to wear a face covering. Students will also be seated one to a seat. As a result, this will significantly limit our bus capacity and the number of students we are able to transport at a time. Each bus will be limited to a capacity of approximately 20 students, a significant reduction in capacity at approximately 33% of what we have been able to transport in the past. As a result, we are asking assistance from families to consider transporting their own child both to and from school IF they are able to. In order to plan our routes for the new year based on our limited capacity, we need to know how you intend to get your child to school through this survey.
In order to accommodate our transportation needs, we will adjust our school hours as follows:
All Elementary Schools: 8:35 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.
Goochland Middle and High Schools: 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
We Need Your Help!
In order for us to finalize student schedules, staff assignments, bus routes, and the many other operational decisions that we will need to make to prepare for school opening, we need more information from you. I ask all of our families to take a moment to complete this brief survey prior to 5:00 p.m. on Friday July 24 for each child who is planning to enroll in a GCPS school for the 2020-21 School Year.
We look forward to welcoming our students back to school on August 24! Although the opening of our new school year will be much different than any of us have ever experienced, I am confident that our students, staff, and families will continue to experience the level of excellence that we have come to expect from our division.
There are still many questions that we need to answer in the coming weeks before we open school. We will continue to keep you updated as decisions are made and more information becomes available. Please stay tuned to our website, your email, and our social media feeds for the most current information. In the meantime, please know that we welcome your questions, thoughts, and feedback. Please feel free to give us call or send us an email at any time.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!