Note from Kristina: I GREATLY abridged Lisa’s responses. She did approve them before I published, but if you’d like her full answer, please refer to the video, or if you need a longer response, please feel free to contact her.
PWCS POLICY IS CHANGING QUICKLY ON COVID-19 RESPONSE. Any time you are concerned, the most accurate, up-to-date source of information is PWCS.edu
1) As a mother of special needs children, a family physician, and president of the Prince William County Special Education PTA, would PWCS be able to include a message encouraging social distancing to all parents? Parents should see that our school leaders want to encourage healthy practices and to help parents understand the background behind closing of schools. I think it is not enough to place a link to the VDH and CDC on the PWCS website as many parents may not have the time or resources to open these pdf links. FCPS’s superintendent has simply stated “We are all in this together. We encourage you to practice social distancing and healthy habits. Wash your hands frequently, cough into your sleeve, and if you feel sick, stay home.” Furthermore, I think it is important for parents to understand that by avoiding large crowds or instances where you can’t separate oneself 6 feet from others, they significantly prevent the spread of this virus, protect our most vulnerable members of our community (elderly and those that are immuno-compromised) and lessen the burden for our healthcare workers serving on the front lines. Thank you for your time and consideration.
There’s no plan to do this right now, we’re all trying to lead by example, but I can ask them if they’d be willing to put something out there.
2) When can we expect work from teachers?
Not now. Visit the website for details, but here’s what it says now:
Staff and students are asked to focus on themselves and their families this week (March 16 – March 22). New student work must not be assigned until at least March 27. All student work due dates have been extended until at least April 14. The only exception will be students participating in dual enrollment courses, who will follow the expectations communicated by the colleges and universities that provide their course. The third quarter grading period will be extended until at least April 17; this may be extended as the situation evolves.
3) Will children still have to take SOLs on schedule?
Right now we don’t know. That’s something that would have to be decided by the Department of Education on the federal level. Right now we don’t qualify for a waiver, but that doesn’t mean we won’t, and so we’ll just have to see, but the big thing is to know that it will be fine, and schools are going to roll with the punches.
4) My child receives special services, specifically speech, due to an IEP. Will they receive make up hours when they return to school?
Right now, the division is working on how to best serve students with special needs. Our first goal is safety, and once we have worked out how to best keep our students safe, we will start evaluating how to meet learning and IEP needs.
5) Closing schools has created a child care crisis. Daycare centers, ‘camps’ provided by various groups, are trying to pick up the slack – some at no cost. However, doesn’t this situation put the children in closer proximity? The children aren’t the ones at risk, why not let the school staff at risk take time off, keep the schools open, with social distancing and cleaning protocols. Education can continue, care and feeding can continue, and families wouldn’t be as impacted. Substitute teachers are better than none. I would think daycare and camps would put more people at risk, and they can’t serve the entire county?
This decision was definitely agonized over, but it’s what we feel was best for everyone, teachers, students, administration, and the health and safety of our students and teachers comes first.
6) The response for many is to socially distance and to support each other in order to reduce the cases that may increase the overcrowding of hospitals. I am concerned with the most vulnerable population while this is happening. The people who receive education services in the schools and the adult counterparts and other adults relying on the efforts of the community service board. Adults and children with disabilities are at risk for health complications due to the spread of this virus as well as especially vulnerable to the loss of jobs and services if they are unable to access their jobs and social supports. Are you considering the larger impact on this group of Americans while you socially isolate and telework? Will you continue to make significant budgeting decisions for this group of Americans, their parents, siblings, teachers, and healthcare staff working to create a safe environment? Who can families with individuals with significant needs call in order to help with supervision and support? Without school, 10% of the student population will have ZERO access to learning and routine that is necessary for health and growth. This is a fair estimate considering the students who access specialized services including education, therapy, and daily living/toileting supports. Without your support, adults receiving community services for mental health, employment support, and transportation support will have increased difficulty accessing their jobs and maintaining their status as needing those services. What is the plan?
As we’re working on figuring out virtual learning, we are definitely keeping in mind how this can work for the special needs population, and we want to make sure they get what they are legally owed in terms of instruction, but that is still something we are working on.
Additionally, here is some more information about supporting IEP/504 students during this time: link.
7) Are there rides available to kids who need free breakfast/lunch?
Not right now, but we’re going to see how Monday/Tuesday go in terms of kids getting meals, and the division is evaluating and will make adjustments for there.
8) Will SACC reopen after the 2 week mandate?
We don’t know yet.
9) Will this affect the last day of school?
We don’t know yet.
10) What if I get overwhelmed? Is there help somewhere?
ACTS, SERVE, and the Community Services Board all have help available.
Edit from Kristina: Also, even if you’re not a person of faith, a imam, pastor, rabbi, or any other faith leader will be happy to either help you, if they’re certified in counseling, or get you to the right person. If you can’t get through at the larger centers, pick a church/temple/mosque and call.
11) My kids are really scared. Are the school counselors available by phone or skype?
Yes! email@example.com is a great resource, or there’s an entire page on the website with information about how to get students emotional support during this time.
12) When kids go back, is there a plan for more cleaning to keep the building safe? What about sending kids home with a cough or runny nose instead of keeping them in the classroom?
We already have protocols in place that helped us get through a really tough flu season, but we’ll, I’m sure, be revisiting them and making sure we are doing everything we can. Nursing services are provided at each school, as well.