Loudoun Co. school board considers plan to return some students to schools

This 2015 file photo shows one of Loudoun County's newest schools, Riverside High School. The county school board is expected to resume debate next week whether to add new protections against discrimination and harassment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and employees students and employees. (WTOP/Max Smith)
Virginia’s Loudoun County School Board will vote next Tuesday on a plan that would have prekindergarten through fifth grade students — whose parents chose hybrid learning — back in school buildings no later than Feb. 16.

If approved, middle and high schoolers whose parents have already opted in to the model would return to classrooms for two days per week by March 3.

In a Tuesday school board meeting, Loudoun County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler presented the current return to school proposal. In December, a jump in the number of positive COVID-19 cases prompted a return to 100% distance learning.

The board said it would vote on the proposal — and any proposed amendments — in its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

The question of whether or not it is safe for students and staff to resume in-person learning while the numbers of positive coronavirus cases in the region remains high is not specific to Loudoun County.

During the public comment period, more than a dozen parents voiced concern that their children’s well-being and education are being harmed by not attending classes in person alongside their peers and teachers.

“How do you expect a five-year-old to handle this situation? She should be excited to go to school, to grow, to learn, to thrive,” said one mother.

Another mother cited a Chinese proverb: “‘Teachers open the door, but you must enter (by yourself).’ Right now, you have thousands of kids banging on the door for education, yet Loudoun has chosen to close the door.”

More than 6,000 Loudoun County teachers have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine. Given the nationwide shortage of vaccines, some teachers told the board they wouldn’t feel safe returning to in-person learning until staff are fully immunized with all the recommended doses.

“We are on the precipice of that happening,” said one parent who urged continued patience. “Please don’t break the dam while the floodwaters are still high, and it’s about to recede.”

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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