MLWGS Reopening 2020-2021: Frequently Asked Questions

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This document will be updated as new information becomes available or local health conditions change.

August 5, 2020

Why was the decision made to go virtual to start the school year?

The decision by the MLWGS Leadership Team to adopt a virtual format to start the school year was based on several factors. The most important priority was to ensure the health and safety of all of our students, staff, and our large geographical community. The primary factors the team considered were: 

  • State guidelines from the Governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Education, and the Virginia Department of Health.
  • The decisions made by our partner districts.
  • Community and staff input.
  • Health and safety implementation logistics. 

While we recognize that many were looking forward to an in-person start of school on Sept. 8, we believe this is the right decision at the right time based on changing health information. 

How long will the virtual format be in place?

The virtual learning environment will be used for at least the first nine weeks of the school year. The duration of this format will depend on a variety of factors, including evolving health conditions in our region and the ability of our partner districts to provide transportation for our students.  We will continue to regularly assess the feasibility of incorporating some degree of in-person attendance or other opportunities for the students to collaborate.

If an in-person return to learning is implemented at any point during the school year, a fully online option will be available, based on the needs of students with medical conditions that would prevent them from returning to school. 

What will the fall’s virtual education be like? Will it resemble the distance learning during the spring closure?

It will be significantly better than what we experienced in the spring.  It is important to remember that we had very little time to plan in the spring and limited the ability to have any accountability for any of our stakeholders.  The MLWGS Leadership Team has been working since April with an understanding that it was very likely that a virtual option would be included for the 2020-21 school year.  The team, including tech integrator teachers, has been developing a redesigned experience that is rich, structured, robust, and graded. The virtual format will be “school,” rather than a collection of activities.

What will the schedule look like?

The schedule will look a lot like the schedule that is already in place at MLWGS.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, students will attend their classes at regular times using the Zoom platform as well as accessing materials through Schoology.  The classes will be slightly shorter to allow for a little break from sitting in front of a screen for extended periods of time.  Attendance will be taken during these class periods.  Odd classes will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays with even classes meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Fridays will be reserved for asynchronous activities. 

Teachers are being trained on developing ways to use the breakout features of Zoom to allow for student interactions with each other so that the classes will better reflect the approach that is used in the on-campus instructional model.  Unlike last spring, teachers will be able to fully assess and give feedback with grades for assignments. 

What if I am unable to access the internet?

If you are unable to access the internet because you do not have a device that can do so, please contact Mr. David Bortz, Chief Technology Officer at dwbortz@gsgis.k12.va.us and we will be able to help you.  If you are unable to access the internet due to a lack of cell signal in your area, please contact Dr. Robert Lowerre at rlowerre@gsgis.k12.va.us and we will try to help you.  We are in contact with the local divisions and some of them are providing opportunities to access their schools to use their Wi-Fi.  We are also exploring opening part of our building for students who need internet access and can get to school on their own. 

What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous instruction? 

Virtual learning will have “synchronous” and “asynchronous” components based on a schedule each day:

  • Synchronous learningis online or distance education that happens in real-time, delivered by a teacher at a specific time.  MLWGS teachers will utilize the Zoom format to provide consistency across the classes. 
  • Asynchronous learningis online or virtual learning with students that happens on students’ schedules. While the content and resources are provided by the teacher, students have the ability to do their work using a flexible time frame. Methods of asynchronous online learning include virtual prerecorded lessons and preloaded resources on Schoology.

Will high school virtual learning be provided by MLWGS teachers or by an outside provider? 

All instruction will be provided by MLWGS teachers.

What about high school sports?

The Virginia High School League has voted to delay high school athletics, and reshuffle the order of the sports seasons. The tentative schedule is:

  • Season 1 (winter sports): Dec. 14 – Feb. 20 (first contest will be Dec. 28)
  • Season 2 (fall sports): Feb. 15 – May 1 (first contest will be March 1)
  • Season 3 (spring sports): April 12 – June 26 (first contest will be April 26)

Practices will begin two weeks prior to the start of the season.

What if COVID-19 cases in our area increase or other factors change?

While we are hopeful for a swift return to having our students return to campus, there is a possibility that in-person instruction could be interrupted by periods of virtual learning. Any changes in instruction would be considered using VDH and CDC guidelines.

Will in-person options still be considered for later in the 2020-21 year?

Absolutely! We fully recognize that under normal circumstances in-person learning is the preferred method for all of our stakeholders.  As we move forward, we’ll gradually increase opportunities — as health and safety conditions allow — for limited in-person educational and social opportunities. 

What are the guidelines for reopening our schools to in-person instruction?

MLWGS continues to work on its health-risk mitigation plan. We have spent considerable resources to secure the safety equipment needed for a safe reopening.  However, before reopening, MLWGS and other Virginia school divisions must show how they will comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 prevention strategies, including:

  • Use of face coverings.
  • Health screenings for staff and students.
  • Physical distancing measures.
  • Enhanced hygiene practices for staff and students.
  • Isolating symptomatic cases.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
  • Enhanced hygiene practices for staff and students.

This plan must be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education prior to reopening the school for in-person learning.