Back to classrooms for 7,000 Loudoun Co. students in grades 3 through 5

row of yellow school buses lined up in a parking lot(Getty Images/iStockphoto/pyzata)

About 7,000 Loudoun County, Virginia, public school students in third through fifth grade are returning to their classrooms two days per week starting Tuesday.

On Nov. 10, the county school board voted to begin the third stage of its hybrid model on Dec. 1. The returning students chose in-person instruction over the summer, before the school system’s last-minute decision to begin the school year in an all virtual setting.

In each of Loudoun County’s return to school options, students can continue with all-distance learning. After starting the school year virtually, Loudoun County schools brought roughly 7,000 kindergartners, first grade and second grade students to classrooms two days a week on Oct. 27.

In mid-November, county health director David Goodfriend told WTOP he expects the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases will continue to rise with additional students in schools, but that the system has been successful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus within Loudoun County Public Schools.

Although the county continues to deal with isolated COVID cases at county schools, the system has thus far avoided larger outbreaks within schools because contact tracing has shown that many infected students and staff have adhered to pandemic mitigation strategies.

In some private schools, outbreaks have occurred in cases where mask and social distancing guidelines were not properly followed, Goodfriend said.

Loudoun County recently asked parents to indicate whether they want students to do in-person learning for the second semester, which begins Jan. 21, 2021. If an overwhelming number of families favor in-person learning, the school system could weigh reducing the amount of distance between student desks, or limiting in-person learning to one day per week.

Approximately 3,000 first graders in neighboring Prince William County are returning to the classroom on a part-time basis beginning Tuesday, joining kindergarteners and pre-kindergarteners who were brought back on a staggered plan earlier this month.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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