LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — It's no secret that coronavirus has changed just about everything in our daily lives. One of the biggest questions many parents in the D.C. region are asking right now, is how and when will their children return to school?
In an email to families and staff members, Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams laid out the county plan for safely bringing students back for the 2020-2021 school year, scheduled to start Aug. 27.
"We will be ready for the 2020-2021 school year, and I believe it is important for the community to understand the process we are implementing," Williams said in the email. "Decisions regarding when and how to reopen school, and whether to extend distance learning will be condition-based, not time-based. Pre-defined, science-based metrics and re-opening metrics articulated by public health officials and other government authorities will guide our decisions."
Here are LCPS' three scenarios for returning to class:
- Reopen schools with 100% in-person learning: In-person learning in this scenario would occur without physical distancing or other public health mitigation strategies.
- Reopen schools with a combination of in-person and distance learning: In-person learning would occur with physical distancing and other public health mitigation strategies.
- Extend distance learning without in-person learning: Distance learning would be extended with a revised approach, building on the strengths of the current distance learning approach and making good use of opportunities for improvement.
Williams notes that officials are considering several variations of each scenario, and that LCPS will need to be prepared to shift between scenarios if conditions change. For example, if schools reopen with 100% in-person learning in the fall, and a new outbreak occurs, teachers, students and parents need to understand that LCPS may revert to distance learning.
To best prepare for reopening, LCPS is developing "prototype approaches" to each scenario, accounting for:
- student and teacher schedules, including the amount of time in live, interactive, face-to-face (“synchronous”) distance learning
- the needs of students with disabilities and English learners
- the social-emotional needs of students and adults
- assessment and grading
- cleaning protocols
- enhanced 100% distance learning options for parents who choose not to send students back to school, even if LCPS is offering in-person learning
In his email, Williams said that Gov. Ralph Northam's "Forward Virginia Reopening Blueprint" would guide the county's reopening decisions and "significantly affect which scenario we are in at the start of the new school year." A key factor will also be which phase of reopening Northern Virginia is in when the school year begins. Currently, NOVA is slated to enter Phase 1 at midnight on Thursday, May 28.
Williams said he hopes to provide his community an update on 2020-2021 plans by the end of June. He reiterated his commitment to hosting in-person graduation ceremonies, and said he would release updates on graduation timelines, as well as summer school plans, soon.
"It is an understatement to say that this is a difficult situation for every member of our community," Williams said ending his email. "With that in mind, our commitment to community care includes continuing to work to meet the academic, physical health, and mental wellness needs of our students. Community care also involves striving to help parents, employees, and the broader community thrive, not just endure, as we meet our challenges. We will be #ReadyTogether for the new school year."