In-person Class Results to Dictate Pace of School Reopenings

The return of students to classrooms on Tuesday for the first time since December kicks off an important study period that will help determine whether in-person learning opportunities can be further expanded this spring. 

Interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler told School Board members last week that his staff will be watching how well educators and students adhere to protocols designed to prevent the on-campus spread of COVID-19 to determine whether in-person learning can be expanded again before the end of the school year. 

Administrators will be looking at the possibility of offering four days of in-person learning per week as early as April and then returning to a full-time schedule next fall.

A key factor in those decisions will be advice from public health officials concerning recommendations to maintain physical distancing between individuals in the classroom. Even the newly released Centers for Disease Control guidance intended to promote school re-openings maintains the recommendation that masked students and staff members keep at least 6 feet apart when possible. 

Over the past several months, that yardstick has largely defined the capacity of Loudoun’s hybrid learning program. In general, half of the division’s 81,000 students have selected the in-person learning option. In classrooms with students and teachers spaced at least 6 feet apart, half of those students attend class on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and half on Thursdays and Fridays. 

To combine those classes in a four-days-a-week schedule, that separation would have to be reduced.  

The Virginia Department of Education guidance largely points to the CDC recommendations, but does provide allowances to reduce separations to as little as 3 feet as long as masks are worn. However, Loudoun County Health Department Director David Goodfriend has warned against packing students more closely together. In part that concern is related to the contract tracing and quarantine protocols. Under the current procedures, if a student tests positive with the virus, those around them in the classrooms would not be required to isolate at home because they would have maintained a safe distance. In a case where students are closer together, those sitting immediately around an infected student could be sent home as a precaution, Goodfriend has said in School Board briefings. 

Ziegler said decisions will be made in late March or April to determine whether more students could attend in-person classes more than two days a week. One possibility is that in-person learning could be expanded for elementary school students, who have demonstrated lower rates of transmission. 

On Tuesday, hybrid learning resumes for about 18,000 students in grades K-5, the Academies of Loudoun, special education and English language learners. Students in middle and high school are scheduled to return to the classroom for the first time in almost 12 months starting March 3. 

Desks at Emerick Elementary School in Purcellville are outfitted with plexiglass shields. [Photo by Douglas Graham]
The new thermal camera systems have been installed and are in use at Emerick Elementary School in Purcellville for the first day back to school on February 16, 2021. The new system scans each student as they enter the building and a individual spot check of each student is also done before they enter the school. (Photo By Douglas Graham)

6 thoughts on “In-person Class Results to Dictate Pace of School Reopenings

  • 2021-02-16 at 10:42 am

    Thank you to Interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler for taking the time this morning and appearing on local Fox 5. His shaking appearance and lack of answers convinced a lot of us that he is NOT the guy to lead LCPS.

    Sending our kids back 2 days a week to a classroom where a number of teachers will be teaching FROM HOME is not a return to school.

    You can keep your kids at home if you choose. The rest of us want an option to RETURN to school FIVE days a week.

    We need leadership.
    Stop letting the teachers “union” dictate a course of action. They should be part of the solution, yes!

    Sending kids back to school for two days a week with a class proctor is not something to pat yourselves on the back about.

    Loudoun youth are a year behind in education.

    Have you heard Zieg address mental health issues or substance abuse issues that have been skyrocketing in Loudoun?


    • 2021-02-16 at 2:24 pm

      You are so wrong – he is EXACTLY what we need but I doubt he would want the position given the horrible parents in this county! Your kids are behind who? Every school system in this area has struggled this year. If you want private school, go ahead. They have the ability to turn students away who won’t follow the rules. Public school does not. The teachers have done an amazing job in a very difficult situation. Starting out with hybrid this year will likely get us to 5 days next year and that’s a good thing!

      • 2021-02-17 at 6:22 pm

        Loudoun4Life – you asked behind who but than go on to point out that private schools are better situated. My guess is that’s the “who” to answer your question.

        My kids are in college so I have no dog in the fight. But clearly in person learning exceeds remote learning. I’m glad my kids will have less of a challenge in the future from a young generation.

    • 2021-02-16 at 2:30 pm

      It is SO much worse than you can imagine.

      Right now, LCPS is supposedly conducting a new Supt search. Guess who is “leading” that search? A man named Brad Draeger who:

      (1) Brought us the disaster that is Eric Williams

      (2) Praised LCPS for settling the Critical Race Theory lawsuit brought by the NAACP in coordination with blackface Mark Herring. Such suits, known as “sue and settle”, are used to force a legal settlement on a public body when its members are essentially in cahoots with the CRT-lawsuit. Draeger seemed to think it was great that the terms would be enforced despite Herring’s letter having NO LEGAL FORCE whatsoever.

      (3) Praised previous Supt Hatrick because he was the President of the LEA. The same teacher union (LEA) that has brought us skyrocketing spending, virtually none of which benefits the students, and blocked our kids from returning for 6 months.

      (4) Has a grandkid in LCPS. This is a clear conflict of interest. While one might think such a radical liberal as Draeger could be unbiased in a search for another district, Draeger has no credibility as he in an interested party here.

      (5) Draeger was a teacher for crying out loud. One of his primary goals is to get a Supt that will continue to throw more money at teachers and excuse them from accountability (sexual misconduct, ineffectiveness, you name it)

      Supposedly, LCPS is now conducting constituent group workshops. Yet for the 2 meetings last night (1 student, 1 parent), there were virtually NO announcements for the meeting. Only a literal handful of folks attended. Is this what we are paying HYA $10Ks for? More incompetence? Fake workshops?

      LCPS appears to be doubling down on continuing as an unmitigated disaster. We must demand they bring in an education reformer who will throw most of these bums out and put students first.

  • 2021-02-16 at 3:23 pm

    If the private schools are open why can’t the public schools be open? What is the problem with LCPS?

  • 2021-02-16 at 9:04 pm

    “Ziegler told School Board members last week that his staff will be watching how well educators and students adhere to protocols.”

    That’s not an objective metric (like x number of cases and we close). That’s a totally subjective prescription for more tyrannical abuse of kids and teachers, Ziggy.

    No science there, just arbitrary abuse of power.

    There’s only one surefire way to get out from under the thumb of bad administrators. Take away their power with School Choice education vouchers. Let the funds follow the kids.

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