Response to COVID-19 Updates 3-22-20

Response to COVID-19 Updates 3-22-20
Posted on 03/22/2020

March 22, 2020

Dear Parent or Guardian:

I write to you with hopes that you and your family are safe and well. I want to provide you with a few updates concerning Essex County Public Schools’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Weekly, I participate in a call with the state superintendent of public instruction, Dr. James Lane, and other superintendents from around the state. On the Friday call, we received a few notices that I would like to bring to your attention. First, I want to confirm the speculation that the SOL tests are being cancelled. The federal government did grant a waiver for states to cancel year-end accountability testing. The Virginia Board of Education will act on this waiver on April 2. Second, Essex Schools will remain closed through April 14. The school division will submit an attendance waiver, provided the days we have missed; this will limit certain obligations concerning making up missed days. Dr. Lane indicated that guidance from the state is forthcoming next week regarding the possibility of closing schools for the remainder of the school year. I will provide that notification, if I receive it.

I realize there are many questions pertaining to year-end activities such as prom, grading, graduation, summer school, etc. To-date, the Virginia Department of Education has not provided definite guidance on any of the above-mentioned activities. I will continue asking questions and seeking advice on the items in question.

I have heard from numerous community members that food is not reaching certain persons of need. Therefore, On Monday, March 23, we are going to operate the buses on a two-hour delayed, bus stop schedule for meal delivery. I do not anticipate operating the buses in this manner on a continued basis; the Monday run will allow us to assess the food needs of our community, and thus target food delivery moving forward.

Daily, efforts are made by all staff to continue instruction. In our surveys to our families, we have found that over 60% of our households do not have access to high speed internet, which is why we did not deploy Chromebooks in mass to our students. Dr. Lane has indicated that instruction must be uniform and equitable. So, from an instructional standpoint, subject content delivery must be equitably and we cannot provide or mandate instructional activities, which exclude any of our most vulnerable children. I have asked our administrative and instructional staff to make concerted efforts to provide instructional activities for all of our children, to the extent that they are able.

Finally, there are no known cases of confirmed COVID-19 in Essex or Tappahannock. I have heard of the need for mental health support for students. Please reach out to our principals and allow them to enlist the assistance of school counselors and the division psychologist. We will continue to monitor and provide updates related to healthcare and/or health of our students, staff and community of Essex.

Be safe, be careful, but do not be afraid!!

Remember, we are Essex Strong!

Dr. Harry R. Thomas III

Division Superintendent, Essex County Public Schools

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