Superintendent’s Update for June 12, 2020
June 12, 2020
Dear LCPS Families and Staff,
Two important milestones for our community occurred this week: the last day of classes for the 2019-2020 school year, and an announcement by Governor Ralph Northam regarding the state’s requirements for returning to school in the fall of 2020. I am writing to address each of these topics.
This has been a very different school year, unique in ways that were not expected. I again acknowledge the difficulties that students, parents, staff members and other community members have experienced. I reemphasize my gratitude for the actions of all, including the community care that Loudoun County residents are demonstrating to one another.
As LCPS looks ahead to the new school year, the announcement by Governor Northam on Tuesday, June 9 sets forth guidance for LCPS and other Virginia school divisions for the 2020-2021 school year. The Virginia Return to School plan and the accompanying Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020 report aligns school reopening phases with the Forward Virginia Blueprint phases, and outlines public health precautions for the new school year.
The health and safety of students, staff members and their families is paramount in Virginia’s guidance, and it continues to be top of mind for LCPS. The announcement of the Virginia Return to School plan was accompanied by the issuance of a new order by Virginia’s Public Health Commissioner. The order mandates that every public and private school in Virginia submit plans outlining their strategies for mitigating the public health risk of COVID-19 and complying with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) mitigation recommendations prior to reopening schools for the new year.
LCPS wants to maximize in-person, safe learning experiences for all our students in the 2020-2021 school year, and we know that many families and students share this priority. Our preference would be for 100% in-person learning, as long as we can provide learning experiences safely and in accordance with the requirements and recommendations of state and public health officials.
The approach we are able to implement in the fall will depend on which phase of recovery Northern Virginia is in at the time, based on the health conditions in our community then. Each phase of recovery involves different levels of mitigation to protect students and staff. Each level of mitigation will allow different numbers of students to occupy buses, classrooms and other common areas which must be considered in determining return-to-school plans.
To help refine our return-to-school concepts, we recently hosted 27 focus groups to which 245 participants were invited, including students, parents, teachers and principals from all school levels and many different communities across Loudoun County, as well as other school-based and central staff members with varying responsibilities. The feedback we received on the models we shared will help refine our plans as we move forward.
We also will conduct a community survey to gather additional input from families and community members. We appreciate that many people feel passionately about elements of any return-to-school plan we implement, and we look forward to gathering additional feedback from across the community. More information about the survey and how families can participate will be announced by the end of next week.
Given the Virginia Return to School Plan and the accompanying public health guidance, it is near certain that we would need to provide at least some distance learning to supplement in-person learning until Northern Virginia exits Phase III. For example, our planning for Phase III includes consideration of student schedules that involve two days each week of in-person learning and three days each week of distance learning for most students. This is not our preference, but may be a necessary part of the solution dictated by the community health conditions at the time.
Any implementation of distance learning in the new school year would be significantly different than our approach this spring. Changes would include the following steps: greater structure and consistent schedules; more synchronous learning (live, interactive learning); increased work time expectations; extracurricular activities in accordance with public health guidance; grading of student work; and required attendance. We also hope to provide a 100% distance learning option for parents who choose not to have their children participate in any in-person learning.
I discussed these topics in detail at the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday evening, and my presentation is available for review on the COVID-19 Preparedness at LCPS webpage. A replay of my presentation at the school board meeting also is available online; the presentation is part of item 7.07, COVID-19 Update on LCPS Continued Response, on the meeting agenda, and begins at the 3:16:29 mark on the meeting replay.
Thank you for your continued support as we work through this process. We look forward to providing additional updates throughout the summer as our plans become more refined. We also look forward to hearing your feedback in the upcoming survey.
Eric Williams, Ed.D.