What triggers a return to all-distance learning in Loudoun Co.?

Close-up boy studying at home with tablet and doing school homework. Distance learning online education or stay at home concept. Soft focus.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/TShum)

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise locally and nationally, Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia is nearing a metric that would trigger a five-day countdown for a return to all-distance learning.

That five-day countdown could begin as early as Thursday.

On Nov. 17, the Loudoun County school board adopted two metrics to monitor coronavirus spread locally, and set a point that would require schools to suspend in-person learning and delay the scheduled return of other students.

The two metrics chosen by the school board are among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s core indicators. These include the total number of new cases per 100,000 people within the last 14 days reaching more than 200 and the percentage of COVID-19 swab tests that are positive during the last 14 days reaching more than 10%.

With the recent influx in positive cases, the threshold of the first indicator has been exceeded. However, the second indicator is teetering at the trigger point.

Under the plan adopted by the school board, if both indicators exceed their thresholds, the five-day countdown clock begins. And, if those thresholds remain exceeded for five consecutive business days, Loudoun County would return to all-distance learning.

Using metrics monitored and reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and posted on the LCPS COVID Case Data webpage daily, as of Wednesday afternoon, the positivity rate was 9.9%.

If the 10% rate is surpassed Thursday, for example, and both thresholds remain exceeded, next Thursday would mark five business days, and students would return to all-distance learning next Friday.

However, if one metric drops below its threshold during the five-day countdown, the count of consecutive business days would stop, and current hybrid learning would continue.

In the event the metrics trigger a return to all-distance learning, the duration of that pause hasn’t been determined yet, although the school board will discuss how to determine when hybrid in-person learning could return during its Dec. 15 meeting.

Editor’s note: Updates to include Wednesday’s percentage.

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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