Arlington County said that some public school students had trouble logging into the classes, while Fairfax County and Alexandria reported no technology issues Tuesday, the first day of a semester of online-only instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some teachers taught from home, while others delivered online instruction from classrooms as thousands of students in Northern Virginia logged onto their computers at home after the long Labor Day weekend.
“While this is not how any of us would have ever imagined any first day in our lifetimes, we are working hard to partner with our families, students, staff, and the entire community — to create a successful and robust virtual start to the school year,” said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).
Although FCPS had technical issues in April with the remote learning app Blackboard that delayed distance learning, Ms. Caldwell said Tuesday that “all is largely going smoothly.” The school system is using Blackboard collaborate and Google for its interactive learning, as well as other tools to help students learn.
For technical support, FCPS has added a line for parents to call that operates from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. There are also “how to” tech resources and videos posted on the FCPS website, as well.
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said it had no technology issues. Although some parents and students did struggle with accessing and following log-in instructions, the online platforms had no significant issues, said Helen Lloyd, ACPS’ executive director of communications.
Arlington Public Schools (APS) reported experiencing system and connectivity issues.
While schools are largely closed, families can visit Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria public schools for meal pick up.
APS extended its summer food program waiver, which allows schools to keep providing free meals for all students 18 years and younger through Dec. 31. Families are encouraged to pick up meals Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the school closest to them.
Alexandria public schools also are being used for childcare options and will provide free, full-day supervision for up to 350 vulnerable students in kindergarten through fifth grade who attend Title I schools: John Adams, Ferdinand T. Day, Cora Kelly, James K. Polk, Jefferson-Houston, Patrick Henry and William Ramsay. The childcare program is tentatively scheduled to begin Sept. 14.
This week, APS launched a help desk with a new phone line and online portal to offer technology support to students and parents. The help desk will be available Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in English and Spanish.
When Arlington decides public schools can move to a hybrid learning model, students will attend school in-person on two consecutive days each week and complete online learning the other three days. Mondays would be set aside to give teachers time for planning and small group interventions if needed. Families will have the chance to opt to do distance learning or the hybrid approach when the time comes.
Fairfax County has a plan to return groups of students in phases every two weeks at some point. The first group includes preschool students, English learners with limited or “interrupted formal education,” and limited Adult and Community Education classes including English learners, workforce training and behind-the-wheel driving classes.
The second group includes Key Center and Kilmer Center students, secondary and elementary students who require adapted curriculum, new English learners and pre-K and kindergarten students. The third group includes first and second grade students and Burke School elementary students.
FCPS is the 10th largest school district in the U.S., with 198 facilities and more than 188,000 students. Alexandria has more than 16,000 students, and Arlington County has more than 28,000 students.