The principals and staff at Forest Park High School near Dumfries are ready to welcome children back to the classroom, said Richard Martinez, the school’s principal.
Martinez briefed the county School Board during its meeting on Feb. 17, 2021. Here’s what he said.
We all respect everyone’s place and everyone’s position as to where they are in the pandemic.
I can only say that I’ve been in the building since March 13 . I actually was on a recruiting trip from the school division when the school building was shut down, and I’ve been in the building, on average, two days a week before the summer. I was doing to was needed to be done for our students, as have other principals.
We are ready to receive students to the best of our ability.
Is it perfect? No.
We will monitor and modify? Yes.
For this division to return, we know the parents make that decision. We’re going to work with who’s in the building and who’s not in the building.
I believe my staff will work with dignity, integrity, and honor to the best of their ability to provide what our students need.
At Forest Park, we’ve got the mitigations in place. [The mitigation plan] changes day to day as we get additional guidance.
I’ve been transparent with the teachers via department meetings, the assistant principals and their meetings with the staff. We’re working to meet the needs of staff. [Asking them] ‘what will make it easier for you?’
They’ve demonstrated [for teachers] when they’ve said they don’t understand what the [classroom] will look like [when they return].
Yes, my office is colder [due to improved airflow fight the virus]. It’s not because of the window. It’s because there’s more fresh air coming into the building, so I have to put [on more layers of clothes] so I know we are getting fresh air into the building.
I worked with my building engineer every day. I meet with my custodial manager every day. If I have to go out and clean, I’m out there cleaning.
Teachers have been in the building [during virtual classes]. They [tell me, ‘I can’t do this from home.’ I tell then, ‘if you need to do it from here, I’ve got a space for you.” They’ve been successful.
They’ve asked me for things. I’ve tried to provide it. When all of this happened, the principals were all scrambling. We didn’t know what the plans were going to be.
I immediately ordered 110 laptops for staff. I said, ‘they’re going to need something to work with if they can’t come to the building.”
The biggest thing I got from this is the camaraderie with my high school principals. We meet every Tuesday and Friday for almost two hours since this thing has begun.
We’ve become a tighter unit, a closer unit with great ideas. We’ve shared ideas to implement and emulate what’s working in other buildings. We do have to tweak it, but we have been working together to receive our students.
One of the key pieces for students returning to class on their first day of school is keeping their computers or laptops from the school division up to date with the updates.
They have to stop by the buildings and get the update from a wi-fi perspective. Doing it from home… it keeps hanging up.
It’s important for our families every once in a while to make sure their computers are updated appropriately so their student doesn’t have an issue when they come to the building or when they’re working from home.
Students in 4th through 12th grades will return to classrooms in Prince William County starting on Thursday, February 25.
Fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth grades will return for House A on February 25 and House B on February 26.
Seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades will return for House A on March 2 and House
B on March 3.
All students currently in-person will remain as scheduled, including Pre-K through third grades, special education students, and English language learners.
Career and Technology Education (CTE) Phase 1 and Phase 2 students will continue Monday classes as scheduled until secondary students are phased in for in-person instruction.
All bell schedules, including for virtual-only students, will change effective February 23.
All students who have opted to remain virtual-only will continue to remain virtual. Students who wish to change from in-person to virtual may contact their school directly to request the change.
The Superintendent has the authority to take such measures as necessary to protect the health and safety of students and staff, including measures needed to respond to the impact of the pandemic on individual schools.
These students will join children in pre-k through 3rd grades who have already returned to the classroom.
About 30% of the student population has opted to return to in-person learning.
Gov. Ralph Northam last March was one of the first in the U.S. to order all public schools closed due to the pandemic.
One year later, he’s ordered all school divisions in the state to develop a plan to begin offering in-person instruction at least one day per week starting March 15.