Why Loudoun Co. decided to begin the school year with virtual learning

In a letter to parents Wednesday, the superintendent of Loudoun County, Virginia, schools explained the decision to pivot to full-time virtual learning to begin the year, citing the delayed time it takes to receive COVID-19 test results and the surge in cases across the country.

The school board voted to enforce the full-time distance learning model for the beginning of the year about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The decision came after the county’s schools hoped to utilize a hybrid model featuring two days of in-person classes for students each week.

The county initially gave parents the opportunity to choose a learning model for their students. 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.

But in the letter, Superintendent Eric Williams elaborated on the change in course.

“We have consistently emphasized that decisions will be based on conditions, particularly public health conditions, and that plans are subject to change, given how much is unknown about the virus and the evolving science-based understanding of it,” Williams wrote.

“We based yesterday’s recommendation on new information and insights from the last three weeks.”

These were among the factors considered in the decision-making process, Williams said:

  • The county learned more about the challenges associated with in-person learning upon providing in-person learning opportunities to a limited number of students with disabilities July 13.
  • A rise in cases has prompted delays in virus testing results, “which undermines efforts to operate safely and effectively.”
  • Information from health officials on the circumstances that would prompt them to recommend isolation or quarantine for staff or students.

Williams wrote that “implementation of the hybrid model in stages also will provide more consistent, higher-quality learning experiences for students.”

The first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 8.

See the status of all D.C.-area school systems using WTOP’s fall school plans tracker.

WTOP’s Ken Duffy contributed to this report.

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.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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