Superintendent’s Update Regarding Return-to-School Plans, October 15, 2020
October 15, 2020
To All LCPS Families and Staff Members:
On Tuesday night senior LCPS leaders and I presented an update to the Loudoun County School Board regarding our plans for returning more students to hybrid in-person learning. We want to share information regarding the staff plans that are being set forth for School Board consideration.
Our goal continues to be to bring students back to schools for in-person learning as soon as possible, so long as we can do so safely.
Students in Grades 3 - 5
Per plans under consideration by the School Board, students in grades 3 to 5 whose parents/guardians selected the hybrid model for the first semester would start hybrid in-person learning on December 1, conditions permitting. They would join other students in participating in the hybrid model, including students in Kindergarten through grade 2 who are scheduled to start hybrid in-person learning on October 27.
AET and AOS Students
Also per plans under consideration by the School Board, students in Grade 12 who attend Academy of Engineering and Technology (AET) and Academy of Science (AOS) whose parents/guardians selected the hybrid model for the first semester would start hybrid in-person learning on December 1, conditions permitting. They would join the MATA students at the Academies of Loudoun currently participating in the hybrid model.
The School Board took action to adjust the current “AABB” secondary schedule to an “ABAB” schedule beginning on November 4, the first day of the second quarter. As outlined in the attached document, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be A days, and Wednesdays and Fridays will be B days. No changes to the daily schedule were made.
The School Board also reviewed options for implementing the hybrid model for middle school and high school students on January 21, 2021, the start of the second semester. District administrators are working with secondary principals to prepare to provide both hybrid instruction and 100% distance learning during the second semester, including by offering many classes that would include live streaming of in-person instruction. Advantages to using livestreaming include reduced requirements for mid-year schedule changes, and consistency of course selection and teacher assignments from first semester to second semester. Challenges related to livestreaming include the difficulty of teachers conducting classes for in-person and remote students simultaneously, and a potential increase in screen time for distance learning students. LCPS is evaluating these factors in making plans for second semester hybrid learning to best meet the needs of all students.
Public Health Metrics
The Director of the Loudoun County Health Department provided the School Board with information regarding COVID-19 metrics. He described the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance entitled Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making, which encourages a focus on new case incidence rate for the last two weeks, percentage of tests that are positive within the last 14 days, and the consistent implementation of five key public health mitigation strategies. He also addressed Virginia Department of Health (VDH) metrics, including measures of disease burden and trend, as well as CDC and VDH secondary indicators. The implementation of the hybrid model in stages allows LCPS to closely monitor and analyze our public health mitigation practices and to use that information to inform decisions regarding scaling up implementation of the hybrid model.
Survey of Parents/Guardians
LCPS staff plans to conduct a survey in November of parents/guardians regarding second semester preferences relating to hybrid instruction and 100% distance learning. The survey window could occur as early as November 11 through November 20. We wish that public health conditions were such that we could give an ironclad commitment to honoring these preferences and the reality is that we cannot make such a promise. We acknowledge the difficulty many parents/guardians experience in selecting hybrid instruction or 100% distance learning, particularly when there is no guarantee that public health conditions will permit hybrid learning. To support parents/guardians during this decision-making process, LCPS will present information regarding the second semester instructional models through multiple means, including informational town halls and written information, including responses to frequently asked questions.
Accommodating Second Semester Hybrid Learning Preferences
If a much larger percentage of families express preference for hybrid in-person learning in the second semester, LCPS would not be able to operate the hybrid model as designed for the first semester. For example, if 70% of parents/guardians choose the hybrid model and 30% choose the 100% distance learning model, most schools would not be able to operate the hybrid model with our current approach to physical distancing and with hybrid students having two days a week of in-person learning. One possibility would be using classroom layouts with planned physical distancing of between three and six feet, rather than six feet. This would involve greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than when classroom layouts involve physical distancing of at least six feet. This approach would increase the likelihood of greater COVID-19 transmission, quarantines, classroom closures, and school closures. A second possibility, also less than ideal, would be to decrease the frequency of hybrid in-person instruction from two days a week to once a week. A third possibility would be to accommodate as many hybrid model students as possible while maintaining the current approach to physical distancing and two days a week of participation in in-person learning. A key challenge with this possibility would be determining which students to accommodate.
If the proportion of families who express preference for hybrid learning in the second semester does not increase significantly, LPCS would expect to be able to operate the hybrid model largely as designed for the first semester.
Upcoming School Board Meetings
The topics under consideration will be discussed at the next regularly scheduled School Board meetings on October 27 and November 10. The School Board could take action on November 10, voting officially to proceed with hybrid learning for students in grades 3-5 and AET/AOS seniors, deciding how LCPS would accommodate second semester hybrid learning preferences, and determining the second semester instructional model for middle school students and high school students.
Updated Comprehensive Plan
The attached document is the updated comprehensive plan for implementing the hybrid model in stages. It is also available online here: Update on Implementation of Hybrid Model. The updates include information relating to the Centers for Disease Control Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making, daily symptom surveys, athletic activities, and extracurricular activities, among other topics. A change log is provided at the end of the document.
LCPS administrators and teachers continue to work to meet students’ needs as our understanding and appreciation for the challenges of the current situation evolves. We are committed to returning students who choose hybrid learning to classrooms as soon as we can safely do so, as well as to supporting students who prefer to continue with the 100% distance learning option. Ultimately our goal is to see everyone safely back in school, and we appreciate the community’s continued commitment to practicing the public health mitigation measures that will allow us to achieve that objective.
Eric Williams, Ed.D.