Three days into the new school year, multiple classes across the Loudoun County school district are quarantining because of COVID cases, and parents are pressing for more transparency in case reporting and for the option to switch from in-person to virtual learning.
Administrators opted this year to offered a limited Virtual Loudoun and closed signups in June, before the Delta variant had taken hold in the county.
Last year, the district shared daily COVID data through an online dashboard. So far this year, no case information has been announced. A spokesman for the district said that a data webpage would be available to the public on Aug. 31.
Now, as cases rise because of the more contagious and dangerous strain of the virus, and an elementary school student in neighboring Fairfax County died of COVID, parents are reevaluating their comfort level with having their students in school.
“Yes, there was an option back in June, when the Delta variant didn’t exist. Now they’re just like “good luck!”, said a parent of three elementary school students in Aldie. Many parents feel that status quo has changed, are students are face more of a risk in classrooms.
Since Thursday, multiple classrooms have gone into quarantine because of positive COVID tests, and School Board members are sifting through hundreds of emails from concerned constituents.
“Parents are worried and are begging for online options,” School Board member Denise Corbo (At Large) said in an email to Ziegler. “At what point will you be more transparent and present a proactive plan and protocols to share with the board?”
A mid-school year pivot to offer virtual learning to more students would be a logistical challenge, according to board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge).
“If we were to reopen a virtual option now, we’d have to restructure classes. Students might have different teachers. … I understand where people are coming from and why they want it available, it’s just difficult to do that now once the school year’s started,” he said.
The school district is following guidelines on quarantining and mitigation from the Loudoun County Department of Health.
“It is a little frustrating that there are different guidelines for quarantines depending on whether it is student-to-student exposure or teacher-to-student exposure,” Serotkin said.
At Belmont Ridge Elementary, a teacher tested positive on Friday and now the teacher’s class will quarantine for two weeks. Classes that are quarantining will continue school remotely via the Schology platform.
All students, teachers, and staff are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Still, opportunities abound for the virus to spread through school buildings.
“We know kids struggle to follow safety protocols, are shoulder-to-shoulder at lunch with no masks, and parents send kids to school after known exposures and possibly are positive,” Corbo said. “I understand the need for getting children back to school. My concern is we know this variant is far more deadly and fast spreading.”
On Friday, the district announced that all teachers and staff must show proof of vaccination by Nov. 1, or submit to routine testing.