Prince William Co. schools plan to offer full-time in-person and distance learning next year

As local school systems announce plans to offer in-person lessons for five days per week in the 2021-2022 school year, the Prince William County School Board wants to ensure families have a variety of options.

At a school board meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent Steven Walts said staff has already been working on providing both in-person and distance education next year, as Virginia’s second-largest school system strives to regains its footing from the coronavirus pandemic along with the nation as a whole.

“We can definitely do as good, or better, as we’re doing now for kids, to be 100% virtual,” said Walts. “Or, go to school five days a week, in-person, which we’re pretty much experts at.”

School Board Chairman Babur Lateef and other members wanted to ensure parents are aware they can now plan on having their children back in school full-time next school year. Currently, hybrid learning allows students in the classroom two days per week.

Since no COVID-19 vaccine has received federal authorization for use in children under 16 as of mid-March, school systems announcing plans to return to in-person learning next year, including Fairfax and Loudoun counties, are vowing to accommodate families that aren’t comfortable with their children attending classrooms.

Walts applauded teachers and administrators who “are making a virtual product better and better, I think, every day — it’s been a journey of a lifetime, in a year.”

Walts said he’ll present a blended option at the board meeting scheduled for May 3: “We have plans that I would like to share with you that day, that we believe might be very attractive to certain students who may still want to do part in-person, and part virtual, because of child care issues or because of jobs they may have.”

Babur and other board members acknowledged that lessons learned during the immediate imposition of 100% distance learning will provide options to in-person learning. However, he felt it was important for parents to be able to make plans for the coming school year.

“We want to provide some reassurance to the public for those who are anxious about what we are going to do in the fall, that we do have a direction,” Lateef said. He added the board will hear Walts’ idea for the blended option in May.

Walts previously announced he will retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

Editor’s note: Prince William County’s hybrid model is currently expected to remain two days per week for the remainder of the school year. 

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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