Loudoun Co. superintendent weighs 4-day hybrid, plans in-person graduation

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia could soon offer four-day-per-week in-school learning to hybrid students, and will likely hold in-person high school graduations, according to Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler.

In a Tuesday meeting of the Loudoun County School Board, Ziegler said he will present the panel with a full report on March 23 detailing the implications of expanding hybrid learning offerings from two days per week to four.

“At this time, we are looking at space and enrollment analysis at each school, to make sure that we can adhere to either the six feet or the three feet of physical distancing required,” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Education, Ziegler said.

If the board decides to offer four days of in-person learning, Ziegler has said bringing more desks back into classrooms would require shrinking the distance between students from the initial six feet down to three feet.

While at least three feet of physical distancing with masks has been VDOE’s guidance, the CDC continues to recommend six feet between students.

Ziegler was asked how long it would take to implement four-day-per week, in-person learning: “In order to give principals time to prepare, and transportation time to prepare updated routing information, the earliest I believe we could do it would be at the start of the fourth quarter,” he said.

April 12 marks the start of the Loudoun County Public School calendar’s fourth quarter.

Only current hybrid students would be eligible to return to four days in school buildings, Ziegler said. Offering the option to 100% distance learners would take too long to implement.

“We’re looking at a 10-week delay if we resurvey the parents,” said Ziegler.

As schools work to safely return to a more typical environment for students, Ziegler looked toward the end of the current school calendar.

“We are working on graduation right now, and we do anticipate some form of in-person graduation,” Ziegler told the board. “Principals are working on having hosted graduations in the football stadium, with more details to come.”

Earlier plans for an in-person graduation at EagleBank Arena have been canceled, since the facility on the George Mason University campus is being used as a COVID-19 mass vaccination center.

However, Ziegler said outdoor stadium graduations are still an option.

“I don’t want to make any promises prematurely, but we are working on that … as a possible solution,” he said.

Looking toward the 2021-2022 school year, Ziegler reiterated the school system plans to return to five days per week of in-person learning, while maintaining a distance-learning option.

In addition, the school board will hone a resolution by member Ian Serotkin, which would further codify the expectation of a return to full-time in-person learning.

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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