Prince William County Public Schools

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  • October 20, 2021

    Board Briefs - Meeting Summary

    School Board Meeting of October 20, 2021

    View the agenda on the Electronic School Board webpage.
    Watch the School Board meeting on PWCS-TV.

    The School Board Approved:

    Citizens addressed the School Board on the following topics:

    • State of Schools Report (PDF)
    • Revision of Policy 738 (PDF), "Nondiscrimination and Harassment of Students"
    • Boundary meetings
    • Safety measures and enforcement of policies
    • Equity statement
    • Critical race theory and culturally responsive teaching
    • Health mitigation measures
    • Emotional wellbeing of students (Payton's Project)
    • Kindergarten class sizes and testing requirements

    Student Representative Matters:

    • Code of Behavior and student dress code
    • Creating a more interconnected community for PWCS students
    • School start times
    • Study blocks
    • Variety in school lunch menus
    • Equity in school funding

    Superintendent's Time:

    • I would like to begin the Superintendent's report by providing a brief update on COVID-19, and as you know, we are all still feeling its impact.
    • On October 8, we paused in-person learning at Bennett Elementary School in Manassas, transitioning more than 700 students to remote instruction. As of Monday, October 18, all students are back in classrooms.
    • Also, last week, the Pennington Traditional School community received a communication notifying them that because of a recent rise in cases and quarantines, there was a possibility that certain mitigation strategies may be necessary, such as minimizing activities during the school day, limiting after-school and extracurricular activities, or even a temporary pause of in-person instruction.
    • Fortunately, in collaboration with local health officials, we moved quickly to manage the situation and minimize spread. As a result, no additional steps were necessary, and students continued in-person learning without disruption.
    • However, in these complex times, I want the entire PWCS community to know that we are working closely with experts and following the science. We will continue to approach the COVID situation with transparency, honesty, and integrity, because nothing is more important than the safety of our students and staff.
    • And we ask everyone - families, educators, and our entire community - to continue to be vigilant and be safe.
    • There are so many dedicated individuals who help make our complex school system of nearly 90,000 students move in sync, especially as the pandemic continues.
    • Tonight, I would like to recognize members of our Prince William County School family, our bus drivers, during School Bus Transportation Employees Appreciation Day, and for School Bus Safety Week.
    • Our bus drivers are often the first and last interaction our students and families have with our Division each day, and we are incredibly grateful to have dedicated drivers who transport our students safely and with so much care every day. We could not function without their dedication to students.
    • To bus drivers across our district, thank you for all that you do for children.
    • As many of us know, nationwide bus driver shortages have arisen during, and because of, the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • That has also affected us here at PWCS. Right now, we have teachers and staff who are remaining at school past their contractually obligated time to supervise students who are waiting for buses to come back after their routes for pick up and drop off.
    • Those staff are going above and beyond to adapt to the needs of this moment, and their dedication is a testament to the caliber of people we have in our division.
    • To that end, I am announcing that going forward, we will be paying certified and classified staff members who are remaining beyond contract hours to supervise children that are waiting for buses using ARPA funds distributed to schools.
    • Again, we want to thank all our employees for their hard work and commitment. Please know that we are working diligently to fill bus driver positions as quickly as possible.
    • As COVID-19 continues to affect the operations of our Division, tonight we will be sharing the educational impacts of the pandemic.
    • We'll be delivering a full presentation on the State of the Schools Report (PDF). This report outlines student learning and achievement numbers from the 2020-21 school year, and the effects of the pandemic on academic progress.
    • Over the last 18 months, unfinished learning has proven to be a nationwide education crisis. It's affecting every corner of our country.
    • For us here at PWCS, I believe in the importance of regularly reviewing our data and acknowledging the challenges before us while taking appropriate action to ensure continuous improvement.
    • Make no mistake, the impacts of the pandemic have been felt across all our school communities. As we work to recover, it will be important to provide every learner with the appropriate support needed to ensure academic progress.
    • Additionally, as the most diverse county in the state of Virginia, and 10th most diverse in the United States, we are not immune to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on our most vulnerable learners. This especially includes our English language learners and our economically disadvantaged students.
    • The data show clearly that learning gaps that existed pre-pandemic have only been further exacerbated.
    • While we have benefited from a short-term infusion of federal support to address unfinished learning as a School Division, we remain concerned about the lack of parity in per pupil funding in PWCS when compared to other school divisions regionally as this impacts our ability to sustain the work of the unfinished learning plan.
    • In the spirit of transparency, this year's State of the Schools Report (PDF) includes additional data points and more disaggregation of data, as well as our response to the impact on academic progress. We honor the hard work of our teachers and leaders as they have put forward a herculean effort to continue providing quality instruction during these challenging and unprecedented times.
    • It's important to note that we should not make comparisons between pre-pandemic data and the data that is our current reality. However, we must use the available student data to be transparent about our opportunities for growth, acknowledge that pervasive gaps continue, and take appropriate strategic actions to ensure that we prioritize continuous improvement.
    • With the implementation of our comprehensive Unfinished Learning Plan in place, we have identified key commitments that will be covered in the State of the Schools report.
    • Academic recovery and learning acceleration will be targeted approaches for all students and hinges on all of us coming together. That's what this moment demands, unity on behalf of the children we serve.
    • Now, I'd like to introduce Dr. Jennifer Cassata, director of research, accountability, and strategic planning, who will present the available data to demonstrate the current state of our Division. She will be followed by Ms. Rita Goss, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning, who will provide our strategic next steps in response to opportunities for growth related to our current state. (See State of the Schools Report (PDF))

    Board Matters: