LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA — The Loudoun County School Board passed a resolution Monday night supporting a hybrid learning model for Loudoun County Public School students and teachers in the fall, with an option for parents to choose a 100-percent at-home learning plan. The vote came during a marathon meeting that began Monday at 4 p.m. with four hours of public comment and ended in the early morning hours of Tuesday.
The hybrid format will allow students to attend school in-person two days a week and three days at home using distance learning. The Loudoun school board also voted to provide an opportunity for parents uncomfortable with sending their children to school buildings the ability to opt out in favor of 100-percent distance learning. Based on the results of a LCPS parent and staff survey distributed two weeks ago, one-third of responding parents would likely choose 100-percent distance learning for their children, school officials said.
The learning plan for the fall semester is contingent on Virginia remaining on course with its coronavirus reopening plan and not turning back to an earlier phase due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The Fairfax County School Board voted last week to give parents of schoolchildren a similar option: full-time online instruction and blended instruction. In Fairfax County, the blended instruction choice includes at least two full days of in-person instruction per week. The remainder of the week would include independent study and virtual work.
Starting next week, Loudoun parents will be asked to choose either hybrid instruction or full-time distance learning for the fall semester. Administrators are planning an electronic town hall meeting on July 8 to explain the program to parents and answer questions.
School administrators also will ask teachers if they are willing to conduct in-person classes. The school system has set July 13 as the deadline for both parents and teachers to make a decision.
Parents and staffers must abide by their choice for at least the first full semester of school. Teachers, however, will not be guaranteed the choice they select.
Parents who pick the hybrid learning model must make sure their kids will wear face coverings on the bus and at school whenever physical distancing is impossible, Loudoun school officials said at the board meeting. Loudoun staff members will also be required to wear masks when six feet of distance is impossible.
Once the participation numbers are known, the school system said it will take four weeks to develop class schedules and three more weeks to schedule the bus rides that will allow for students to physical distance during the trips to school.
Teachers will return in late August for three weeks of training and planning. The school board approved a delay in the class start date to Sept. 8, the Tuesday after Labor Day, to provide more time for preparation.
During the four-hour public comment period, many parents pushed for 100-percent in-person classes, with an option for families to opt for full-time distance learning. The parents suggested that full-time in-person learning would improve the learning experience for their children. They suggested that without a 100-percent in-school model, their children would be at a disadvantage to students in other districts that are doing in-person education in getting into the best colleges.
Parents also portrayed distance learning experience from the spring semester as a disaster because their children had too much free time. They also expressed concerns about the ability to acquire or afford childcare for the three at-home school days each week.
Furthermore, many parents argued that younger people stand less of chance to become seriously ill if they get infected with the coronavirus during in-person schooling.
The vast majority of teachers who commented opposed any form of in-person learning to open the 2020-2021 school year. They expressed concerns about the health risks of in-person teaching to themselves and their families.
Speakers also argued that a distance learning model would be much better in the fall because the school system will have more time to get the system working properly compared to distance-based learning system that was quickly put into place when schools closed in mid-March.
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