In overnight vote, Loudoun Co. schools approve full-time virtual start to year

Early Wednesday morning, after hours of discussion, the Loudoun County School Board voted to enforce a full-time distance learning model for the start of the school year.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams made a presentation at the board meeting that started Tuesday night, but didn’t conclude until about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Loudoun County is the state’s third-largest school district.

The motion to start the year exclusively online passed 7 to 2 after being introduced after midnight. The two votes against came from Jeff Morse and John Beatty.

Williams said an all-virtual start will allow more time to deal with physical distancing challenges with any in-person learning that would be phased in if COVID-19 metrics allow.

“Scaling up in stages with constant monitoring of implementation and data is more prudent,” Williams said.

The initial plan was to go with a hybrid model of two days of in-person instruction for students per week.

Earlier in the evening, the board provided a statement to WTOP in response to an inquiry about the likely change, which was then read by Williams at the meeting.

“Based on the latest information we have, LCPS believes the school year should start with 100% percent distance learning, with very limited or no exceptions, and proceed with implementing the planned hybrid model in stages.”

Before this, Loudoun County schools gave parents the option of choosing an education model. The survey of parents concluded about a week ago, and almost 40% wanted their child to go to class in person and mix in some online instruction.

Loudoun County Health Department Director David Goodfriend also appeared at the meeting to take questions about COVID-19 concerns, but ultimately told the Board “it’s your decision” about how to start the next school year.

Goodfriend also said the level of COVID-19 transmission is not the main concern.

“The key challenge is maintain the 6-foot distancing,” which Goodfriend said is “critical.”

The Loudoun Times-Mirror also reported that recent delays in processing virus tests played into the decision to endorse the exclusively online model.

The first day of school is Sept. 8.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest from the school board meeting on July 21.

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