Prince William County schools are preparing for several possibilities for the next school year, including the potential for more distance learning in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The division has distributed devices to students since schools closed in March, and an additional 15,500 laptops arrived earlier this month, said Diana Gulotta, the division’s spokeswoman.
“They are in a warehouse locally and are undergoing PWCS software uploads and configuration,” Gulotta said.
Division staff plan to deliver the laptops to high schools this week to be used during summer and fall learning.
Superintendent Steve Walts told the school board at its meeting May 20 that the division plans to offer in-person instruction starting Aug. 25, but staff is also planning for the possibility of continued distance learning.
If schools can open on time. Walts said the division has a team considering pandemic-related changes on cleaning, transportation and possible alternative schedules.
Federal and state education leaders expect schools to teach students in the fall, even if it is remotely due to the pandemic, according to the division.
While students have been given assignments they can do at home, there have not been any grades on assignments since schools closed March 13. Walts said the division will develop a K-12 curriculum in case distance learning is required in the next school year.
School Board member Lillie Jessie said safety of students and staff when schools reopen will be important.
“You can have all the computers and curriculum, but the No. 1 [priority] has to be the physical safety of the kids in the building,” Jessie said during the meeting.
According to the division, several staff members are participating in the Virginia Department of Education’s Return to Schooling COVID-19 recovery task force. In addition, Tim Healey, Colgan High School’s principal, is serving on VDOE’s accreditation task force, according to the division.
On May 18, Northam created an education work group — including more than 35 people — to offer input on K-12 and higher education plans to safely reopen schools in the fall.
T. Clay Wood Elementary School Principal Andrew Buchheit is a member of the work group, as well as Shan Lateef, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and the son of school board Chair Barbur Lateef.