Fauquier County Public Schools Superintendent David Jeck said 78% of families plan to have their children attend four days per week of in-school learning, with the youngest returning to school buildings in the Virginia county on March 15.
The Fauquier County School Board voted unanimously on Monday to approve Jeck’s plan to offer students the opportunity to return to school Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be asynchronous learning days, which would also be used for intensive cleaning of school facilities.
Students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade will return to four-day learning on March 15. Students in sixth through 12th grade will resume April 6.
Jeck said 78% of parents who responded to a new survey indicated they wanted their children back in school for most of the school week, while 22% said they preferred to have their children continue virtual learning.
Citing the mental health and educational benefits to a child of learning in person, interacting with teachers and classmates, Jeck said recent public health guidance has shown the risk of widespread exposure within a school community is low if masks and other mitigation protocols are followed.
All Virginia public schools have had the option to consider reducing the distance between desks to less than 6 feet under Department of Education guidelines to facilitate bringing more students in a classroom, but Fauquier County is the first county in Northern Virginia to take that step.
In considering the move from the two-day-per-week hybrid model, Jeck said the school system experimented with reconfiguring classrooms, based on the number of students coming back. He believes the students can be accommodated safely.
Jeck, and other school officials, told the board that the plan is to maintain the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance of 6 feet of distance when possible, with a minimum of 3 feet of distance while wearing masks.
“We’ve got to be transparent,” he said. “If something should happen, and the metrics go in the wrong direction, we need to be ready to pivot.”
While students will have the option to continue learning from home, Jeck said students at home might notice a “lag” in getting a response from teachers, with a dozen or so children in a classroom.
“We’ve got to be honest; that’s where teachers are going to be spending the lion’s share of their time. We will have a virtual option every day, in every classroom for virtual students, but it’s going to be a little different in terms of a student’s ability to ask questions — in some instances they may have to wait until Wednesday” — the planned asynchronous and catch-up day.
In acknowledging the challenge of bringing most students back to school buildings, Jeck said the county is prioritizing safety.
“We all want the kids back in school, but we’re also saddled with the responsibility to make sure that kids are safe. This is one of those moments in time where we all need to be on the same page, as far as what we’re expecting from our kids,” he said.
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