PPS Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

Updated  Sept. 4, 2020

1. What will the reopening schedule look like?

At a July 29 special meeting of the School Board of the City of Portsmouth, the Board approved reopening schools with an all-virtual schedule for students K-12, for at least the first nine weeks. In this schedule, all students will receive instruction online through division-issued devices as well as the division’s learning management system. Students will have assigned times to log on and participate in classroom lessons, and they will be provided guided lessons and assignments to complete. At the conclusion of the first grading period, administration will review this set up and determine if any changes are necessary at that time.

2. How did PPS decide to reopen in this format?
Since schools were closed in March, division leadership began working on possible reopening scenarios for coming back to school in September. These scenarios were developed by subcommittees that met over the summer, which have included administration, teachers and parents.

As part of this process, families completed two surveys while PPS staff members completed their own survey. In addition, PPS administration worked closely with the Virginia Department of Education, local health authorities and regional educational partners to determine how to safely return to school.

Administration brought all of the research, survey data and scenario developments to the School Board for their further discussion and decision making.

3. What if I do not have internet access or a device at home?
The PPS Department of Technology has secured the necessary devices for families to participate in virtual instruction. As schools prepare for back to school, there will be assigned times for families to pick up these devices.

For internet access, wi-fi hotspots are available for families in need. Those will be available upon request.

4. What if my child is a student with special needs or an ELL student?
Staff from the Office of Special Education as well as Office of Gifted and Talented, World Languages, and English as a Second Language (ESL) will be reaching out to families individually to determine each family’s needs and preferred delivery of instruction, including in-person instruction, if needed.

5. What will my child’s school schedule look like?
The final schedules for the elementary, middle and high school level are still being finalized and will be shared with families. However, in virtual instruction, students will not be on their devices for the entire day. Each content area will be allotted a specific amount of time and include pre-recorded lessons, activities to complete independently and time for check-in with the teacher.

6. What if our family is not able to follow the school’s virtual schedule?
For virtual classrooms, there will be a morning schedule for students to log on and take part in instruction and interact with their teacher (similar to a school day). In order to support families, though, there will also be recorded lessons that can be utilized at any time during the day to provide as much flexibility for families who may be working during the day or cannot otherwise access the instruction at the scheduled time. 

7. Will meals still be provided for all students during the school year?
Yes, meals will either be delivered in school or at distribution sites across the city while students are learning at home.

8. Will assignments be graded?
Yes, all assignments given are expected to be completed and they will be graded in accordance with the division’s grading scale.

9. Will attendance be taken?
Yes, with the reopening of schools in September, attendance will be taken and students will be held accountable if they do not attend.

10. For elementary school, will my child still be able to participate in ENCORE courses (art, music and P.E.)?
Yes, art, music and P.E. courses will still be provided on a rotating schedule for students.

11. Will my child still have to take SOLs this year?
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane has waived annual school accreditation for the 2021-2022 academic year. Schools will be assigned a rating of “Accreditation Waived,” the same rating assigned schools for 2020-2021 under a waiver issued in April. According to the VDOE, accreditation ratings are based on performance during the previous school year. The statewide closure of schools in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of spring Standards of Learning testing. Student performance on SOL tests in English, mathematics and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s school accreditation standards.

Without spring 2020 SOL results, there is insufficient data for the Virginia Department of Education to calculate accreditation ratings for the 2020-2021 school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and growth in mathematics are also accreditation metrics, VDOE won’t have sufficient data to calculate ratings for 2021-2022 either, because even if students are able to take tests next spring, the department won’t have baseline data from 2019-2020 for measuring growth. 

12. Will my child be able to take part in sports or other student activities?
PPS will follow all guidance from the Virginia High School League regarding the return to competitive sports and activities. That said, schools will be encouraged to maintain other extracurricular clubs and organizations through virtual meetings.

13. Is the division providing additional cleaning supplies?
Yes, PPS is providing all schools with disinfectants and cleaning supplies. This will be in addition to the deep cleaning protocols the division has deployed across all schools and offices, including the use of electro-static sprayers with medical-grade bio-disinfectant. Air filter changes inside the school will also take place monthly (instead of the routine quarterly change) and hand sanitizing stations as well as plexiglass will be added around the inside of the schools and office buildings.

14. Have decisions been made regarding furloughing staff? How will that move forward?
In moving to an all-virtual schedule, there will be some staffing positions that will be impacted due to not having all students and employees reporting each day to school. 

The PPS Department of Human Resources and Budget and Finance have worked together to ensure that employees in these impacted groups would have alternate positions  in the division to transfer to in order to continue working. 

If employees chose not to accept these transfer positions, then they personally elected to furlough until the division fully reopens again. 

15. With the current pandemic still ongoing, what if I do not want my child returning to school after the first nine weeks?
As part of Gov. Northam's decision to open schools, school divisions were also tasked with ensuring that no matter how schools return, virtual learning opportunities would continue to be provided for families, if they so desired/needed it. As such, virtual learning will continue to be offered.
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