Loudoun Co. parents to decide in-school or distance learning

The Loudoun County School Board has voted to allow parents in the Northern Virginia school system to choose whether they want their children to be in their school classrooms twice per week and have three days of distance learning, or do 100% distance learning for the fall semester.

In a nine-hour marathon session Monday night, the board approved the hybrid learning plan, which would have some students return to classrooms for the first time since mid-March when schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. This plan assumes Phase Three of Virginia’s reopening plan is still in effect.

Families will be required to decide which option they want by July 10.

Regardless of the choice, the first day of school has been moved from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, to provide additional professional development and planning time for teachers.

In the weeks since Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams announced plans for the two-day-a week option, community members have voiced opinions and concerns.

Some worried maintaining Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing in a school setting would be impossible, or at least impractical. Others.urged following recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advocates having all students present in school.

While only 10 students and one teacher would fit in a typical elementary school classroom, while maintaining 6 feet of social distancing between people, the school system could add a few more desks, if additional steps are taken to lessen risk of spreading the coronavirus.

In the 100% distance learning option, Williams and teachers said the online education experience would be much better than last year’s, with more live teaching. Last year, in the quickly-gathered emergency plans, a large portion of the students’ work was done on their own.

The school system is planning an electronic town hall meeting on July 8, to explain the hybrid options to parents, and answer questions.

Last week, Fairfax County announced it was offering similar options to families.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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