In March, the federal government announced that it would waive all standardized testing for public schools. A few days later, on March 23, Governor Ralph Northam announced that all K-12 Virginia schools would be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. So, what do all of these announcements mean for Virginia teachers? I’m going to help answer some of the top questions teachers are asking with the information that has been made available so far.
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Are Virginia Teachers Still Expected to Teach?
The top questions teachers are asking have to do with instruction. With schools closing in March, there are two to three months of content that students have not learned. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has stated that decisions about instruction should be made at the local level. The VDOE has recommended that each district evaluate what content is going “un-taught” due to COVID-19 and determine how that content will be made up. As of March 25, the department has given Virginia school districts three options for making up content. Those include:
- Teaching the content through online instruction and distance learning.
- Extending the 2020-2021 school year. This could be accomplished by extending the school day OR adding days to the school year.
- Adding missed content into the next school year.
Currently, district leaders are meeting throughout Virginia to decide what instruction will look like and when it will take place. If you have questions about how your school is proceeding with instruction, it is best to reach out to your administrators or local leaders.
One of the biggest concerns Virginia teachers have is how the needs of disadvantaged students are being met. Online learning is not an option for many students as they do not have access to computers or the Internet while away from school. The VDOE says it will be working with districts in the coming weeks and offering guidance “to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status or special needs.” At the time of writing this post, it was not clear how the VDOE would be working with districts to ensure students are served equitably.
Will Virginia SOL Testing Take Place?
Before schools were closed, the governor announced that the VDOE will seek a waiver from the federal government to waive SOL testing for the 2019-2020 school year. The Department of Education did approve Virginia’s waiver, officially canceling testing for the 2019-2020 school year. No information has been presented about the status of SOL testing for the 2020-2021 school year.
Can Schools in Virginia Remain Open?
Administrators and teachers have asked whether school buildings can remain open. Some would like to continue working and teaching online from their classrooms. According to the VDOE, the decision of whether Virginia school buildings can remain open is being left to local leaders. If administrators choose to keep school buildings open, they must abide by the health and safety standards put in place by the state. Those entering the school buildings are also expected to practice social distancing.
Can Children Still Receive Meals at This Time?
Even though schools are closed, students who are eligible for free and reduced meals can still receive food services at this time. Like with most things, the VDOE is leaving how this is handled up to each school district. Since schools are closed, districts may not allow families to congregate in the school buildings for meals. Therefore, they must come up with other methods to deliver the food. Most districts throughout Virginia are working hard to ensure children are still fed. Some school districts have implemented a grab and go method. Others are using school buses to deliver meals directly to homes.
One question being asked about food services is whether multiple meals can be served at one time. This would ease the burden on schools by enabling them to give several days of food at one time. The VDOE says that this is an option as long as school districts submit a wavier and an application with the department.
Another commonly asked question about food services is whether food can be distributed without a child present. According to the VDOE website, federal guidelines state that a child must be present when the food is being distributed to ensure that the food is being given to the child it is intended for. The VDOE says it is seeking guidance from the USDA on this matter. As for now, the department encourages districts to maintain program integrity.
How Will School Closures Impact Attendance Data?
Attendance data is important. It can play a role in a school’s status and funding. For this reason, many in education are asking how school closures will impact attendance data. Luckily, since schools are closed, students are not considered absent. Therefore, state-wide closures will have no impact on attendance data.
How Will School Closures Impact My Virginia License Renewal?
If you are due to renew your Virginia teaching license this year, the VDOE recommends that you do so as soon as possible. With everything happening in Virginia’s educational system at the moment, administrative delays are possible, so it is best to plan accordingly. If you are unable to attend Virginia teacher recertification courses or complete the requirements for renewal due to the COVID-10 outbreak, “the Superintendent of Public Instruction may make modifications to the licensure regulations to grant a one-year extension of the license (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) to complete all renewal requirements.”
For students who are working to complete student teaching in Virginia, the VDOE has sent instructions to the deans and directors of each teacher training program in Virginia. Students are expected to complete 10 weeks of student teaching. According to the VDOE website, if this requirement cannot be met due to COVID-19, the dean or director of a program can make a modification request. These requests will be reviewed by the VDOE on a case by case basis.
What Resources are Available for Virginia Teachers?
Right now, many online programs are offering resources to teachers. The problem with many of these resources is that they do not align with the Virginia SOLs. If you are having trouble finding Virginia SOL-aligned resources, be sure to check out my store. I offer a variety of detailed lesson plans, learning activities, and digital teaching resources for every subject. All of my teaching resources are specifically aligned to the Virginia SOLs.
The VDOE is also working to provide Virginia teachers with resources for online learning. Using the site #GoOpenVA, you can search for lessons and activities to use for distance learning. Since the site is created by the VDOE, all the resources should be aligned to the Virginia SOLs.
As of now, there are still a lot of decisions being made about what instruction in Virginia will look like over the next few weeks and months. It seems that the VDOE is leaving many of the decisions up to local leaders, who are currently meeting to decide the best course of action based on the resources and needs of their districts. The next few months will be an interesting time for Virginia teachers as we adjust to these new ways of teaching and learning.
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“COVID-19 & Virginia Public Schools.” Virginia Department of Education, March 2020. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/health_medical/office/covid-19.shtml.
“Frequently Asked Questions – Updated March 25, 2020.” Virginia Department of Education, March 2020. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/health_medical/office/covid-19-faq.shtml.
Shinn, Megan. “Virginia Schools Closed for the Rest of the Year… Now What?” MSN. Microsoft News, March 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/virginia-schools-closed-for-the-rest-of-the-year-now-what/ar-BB11EGcn.
Strauss, Valerie. “Standardized Tests- Including the SAT- are Being Canceled or Delayed Amid Coronavirus Pandemic.” The Washington Post, March 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/13/standardized-tests-including-sat-are-being-canceled-or-delayed-due-coronavirus-pandemic/.