ALEXANDRIA, VA – On September 8, the 2020-2021 school year is set to begin. And this year will start much differently than others. With the Virtual PLUS+ program in place for all Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) students, it will be a new experience for all in the ACPS community.
In recent weeks and months, the school system has released information about Virtual PLUS+, which The Zebra Press has covered extensively. This includes an explanation of the program and a schedule overview.
T.C. Williams High School has its own schedule plan called the “Titan Virtual PLUS+ Schedule.” It allows for both “asynchronous” (individual) and “synchronous” (group) learning opportunities as students receive instruction from home. There are semester-long and yearlong classes. At the end of the school year, students will have as many classes as they would normally. However, the “Titan Virtual PLUS+ Schedule” gives students time to adapt to the different circumstances. For teachers, the schedule means fewer students per class, providing the opportunity to know each student better.
The main difference between semester-long and yearlong courses is how much time teachers can give to a subject. Students enrolled in special education, technology, or career classes need more time. Educators have planned accordingly.
T.C. Principal Peter Balas, in a letter to the high school community, ensures all readers that the schedule was crafted to help students be successful. The schedule takes into account, as Balas wrote, “teacher and student virtual workload, what is best for our students, and feedback from our spring virtual experience.”
Schedule Breakdown: Mondays
Mondays will be asynchronous learning days for students, where they can complete their work throughout the day. There will be online instruction videos and assignments. This time can also be used to make up work. Teachers will use the day for lesson planning, to attend meetings, and to take advantage of professional learning opportunities.
Schedule Breakdown: Tuesdays Through Fridays
Tuesdays through Fridays are when live instruction will take place. These are described as synchronous learning days with an opportunity for some asynchronous activities. School begins on these days at 8:30 a.m with a 90-minute asynchronous period. Classes will last between 50 minutes to one hour, and attendance will be taken for each.
At 10 a.m, students will sign into their first “block” or class. This yearlong class will serve as the home room for each student. Here, they will receive lessons that involve content and serve social and emotional needs.
Lunch period starts at 11 a.m. and lasts until noon.
After lunch, students will begin three periods of semester-long classes. These courses will be known as “Blocks 3, 5, & 7” or “Blocks 2, 4, & 6.” The periods are described as having “high levels of engagement and discourse.” Teachers will keep students involved using technology, and the classes are not “meant to be hours of screen time with students passively listening to adults speak.”
At the conclusion of the first semester, Blocks 3, 5, & 7 will be over for most students. Those enrolled in these classes for the year will stay for the second semester.
During the second semester, Blocks 2, 4 & 6 will be new classes taught in the same manner.
The school day ends at 3:15 p.m.
Advanced Placement Courses
Some AP courses will take place for a semester while others will last the whole year. The 8:30 to 10 a.m. period will be used to help students prepare for their AP exams in May. CollegeBoard also has materials that can help students and teachers prepare.
Students will have the opportunity to choose their courses, as they would in a normal school year. Students can select more than one yearlong class. If classes overlap, administrators will work to resolve the situation.
Look in the Mail
In early September, every student will receive a packet that includes his or her schedule and specific course information.
“Please know that we are here to support you!” Balas wrote to the school community. “Our school counselors, teachers, and all other support staff will soon be returning to work, so please reach out if you need any help or assistance. We look forward to a strong start to the 2020-2021 academic year!”