Fall 2021 Return to School Planning

  • Update: November 3, 2021

    Dear LCPS Community and Staff, 

    Below find important information on the temporary suspension of screening testing requirements for student-athletes and staff; an update on the reduction in the length of quarantines; updates on vaccination approval and appointments for ages 5 - 11; and, vaccine reminders. 

    LCPS announces the suspension of screening testing requirements for non-vaccinated student-athletes and staff indefinitely while we continue to work with the state’s Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program for testing services. We had previously announced the extension of the deadline to later this month.

    We have enrolled in the state’s Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program and been paired with a testing vendor, which prioritizes diagnostic take-home tests, staffing and processing over screening tests. While we are providing diagnostic tests on demand for students that are symptomatic or identified as close contacts through this program, the rollout for screening tests is incomplete, largely due to ViSSTA program’s high demand for staffing. 

    We will continue to monitor the progress of the ViSSTA and other screening testing programs, and keep the community informed of any updates for testing requirements for non-vaccinated student-athletes and staff. 

    LCPS announces that beginning on Monday, November 8, 2021, students and staff that are identified as close contacts of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school after 7 days if they provide a negative COVID-19 test performed on or after day 5 following exposure and do not have any symptoms. Those who can provide documentation of having COVID-19 in the past three months or have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are not required to quarantine as long as they do not have symptoms. Close contacts should still monitor for symptoms through day 14 and seek testing immediately if they develop any symptoms. Day 0 is the last day of exposure to the person with COVID-19. Antigen, PCR, or verifiable, proctored home tests are all acceptable.  

    If a student or staff member lives with someone with COVID-19 and is not fully vaccinated or recently recovered, they should begin quarantine after the last sick member of their household ends their 10 day isolation. 

    If household members are able to be completely separate from the sick person, they should begin quarantine after their last contact with the sick person. Complete separation means having no contact, spending no time together in shared spaces, staying in a separate bedroom, and using a separate bathroom. 

    LCPS has take-home diagnostic COVID-19 tests available to students and staff that are symptomatic at school or identified as a close contact at school. Test kits are available from the school health office as supplies last. Families and staff may also provide test results from an outside medical provider. Take-home tests are provided through the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program and are proctored through the ViSSTA vendor. Unproctored tests will not be accepted. 

    For more information on quarantine: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/protect-yourself/local-exposure 

    CDC and VDH Approval for Children 5-11. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for all children 5 to 11 years of age. This vaccine contains the same active ingredients as the Pfizer vaccine already administered to millions of Americans, but at a lower dose. In addition, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has announced that local health districts may begin offering vaccination appointments to parents and guardians of children ages 5 to 11 years old this week.

    Schedule an Appointment Early. On Thursday, November 4, at 9:00 a.m., those interested in having their children vaccinated at the County’s Dulles Town Center site can begin scheduling appointments online at: https://guest.vams.cdc.gov/?jurisdiction=LD.

    The first available appointments for this age group will be between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on November 5. When scheduling your 5 to 11-year-old child, you must select the clinic named: “Ages 5-11 COVID-19 Vaccinations – Loudoun.” Please note that appointments made in the 12-and-up clinic will not be honored for the younger age group.

    In addition to the initial appointments for 5 to 11-year-olds on Friday, more appointments will become available on Saturday, November 6 between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and during the weeks that follow on the days that the Dulles Town Center site is open for vaccination.

    The Health Department also expects that many local pharmacies and medical offices will begin offering COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years in the coming week. You may check with your pediatrician’s office or visit www.vaccines.gov to find other vaccine providers in the community.

    As with other medical visits, vaccine appointments are an excused absence.

    Demand Expected to be High. The Virginia Department of Health encourages parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible. Demand for vaccinations of this age group is expected to be high and vaccine supplies may be limited initially. As a result, appointments may be taken quickly. Keep checking the online appointment system as more appointments will be added to the system as vaccine supplies increase throughout November.

    Have a Question? For additional information about COVID-19 vaccination, visit www.loudoun.gov/covid19vaccine. Anyone with questions may call the Health Department's information line at 703-737-8300, or send an email to health@loudoun.gov.

    Reminder: While many of our 12-17 year-olds have received COVID-19 vaccinations, with cold weather coming and indoor sports starting, we want to remind anyone who has not received a vaccination yet to make their appointment. Our transmission and rates of COVID-19 remain low and we want to help them stay low. For additional information about COVID-19 vaccination, visit https://www.loudoun.gov/5485/COVID-19-Vaccine.

    Thank you for your attention to this. 

    Scott A. Ziegler, Ed.D.


    Update: September 17, 2021

    LCPS Quarantine Period Lowered to 10 Days
    Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Ziegler announced on Friday, September 17, that the quarantine period for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 in school will be lowered from 14 to 10 days. 

    Since the 2021-22 school year began on August 26, there have been 59 student COVID-19 cases reported out of a student population of 81,569. This translates to a rate of .0072, or .07% of students. A total of 259 students or .32% (a rate of .0032) have been quarantined as a close contact to an individual confirmed to have COVID-19.*

    “Based on the extremely low number of student cases, we will continue to follow the Virginia Department of Health guidance, which allows for shorter quarantine durations as acceptable alternatives in K12 schools to allow prioritization of school attendance,” said Ziegler. “For a lot of children and their families, quarantining for 14 days is a hardship, economically and in regard to their mental health. This is especially true in grades kindergarten through six, where students are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.” At Tuesday’s meeting of the Loudoun County School Board, Ziegler said the school division could eventually move to seven days of quarantine with proof of a negative test after day five if the data supports this shift.

    With the change announced Friday, students who are currently quarantined for 14 days may return on the 11th day if they have no symptoms and have not tested positive.

    Students who are fully vaccinated and have no COVID-19 symptoms will not need to quarantine. However, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated students who are identified as a close contact of a person infected with COVID-19 will need to quarantine for 10 days. LCPS will continue to work closely with the Loudoun County Health Department and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) as they are provided. LCPS will continue to review transmission data to consider additional guidance regarding reduced quarantine periods with negative COVID-19 tests. 

    For more information about who needs to quarantine or isolate, view the Quarantine Isolate Flow Chart.

    *Data as of September 16, 2021


    Update: August 12, 2021

    Last week, I sent you information about masking expectations that will be in place for students as they return to school on Thursday, August 26. You can view a short video that summarizes its key points.

    Today, the State health Commissioner issued an Order of Public Health Emergency with a statewide requirement to wear masks in K-12 Schools. The State Health Commissioner, pursuant to§§ 32.1-13 and 32.1-20 of the Code of Virginia, issued this Order finding that a public health emergency due to COVID-19 continues to exist, and requiring all individuals aged two and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools in order to inhibit spread of the virus, as recommended and described by the CDC.  

    Today, I also wanted to respond to many of your questions about specific details surrounding face-coverings in schools. 

    First, masks will be required for students who are waiting in line or participating in direct physical education instruction, but they will not be required when students are participating in physical education activity. Physical Education teachers will prioritize activities that allow for physical distancing when PE is held indoors.

     Secondly, students are permitted to remove masks for eating and drinking in our cafeterias.  They will, however, be expected to wear masks while entering and exiting the cafeteria, waiting in lines or socializing.

     We have had many questions about masks for meetings, visitors and staff in our administrative facilities. Face coverings are required in all LCPS facilities when shared in areas of the buildings, including but not limited to break rooms, kitchens, restrooms, hallways, stairwells, lobbies and meeting rooms. They are also required while in personal work spaces, except when in a room, office, or cubicle with walls 7’ or higher, with the door closed.

     All students, staff, and visitors are expected to comply with LCPS mask requirements, including those who are participating in non-LCPS activities conducted in school buildings. Examples include and are not limited to after-school childcare activities and community youth recreation events hosted during evenings/weekends as well as church, civic group or other community events or meetings.  

    Please know that we continue to monitor the ongoing changes in guidance from the State and the CDC and will be collecting data (student-to-student transmission, student-to-staff transmission, staff-to-staff transmission, quarantines, student absences and staff sick days) to report to the community and inform future decisions about mitigation measures. Additionally, we will reinstate our use of thermal cameras at schools where they are installed.  

  • Introduction

    UPDATE: August 2, 2021, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) will require students and staff to wear masks for indoor activities at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

    School starts on Thursday, August 26.

    While this action conforms with Chapter 456 of the Code of Virginia (formerly Senate Bill 1303), which requires schools to open for in-person instruction this fall, maximizing the opportunity for students to continue to learn in a safe, consistent in-person learning environment is an LCPS priority for the 2021-2022 school year. Chapter 456 passed during a special session of the Virginia General Assembly on March 30, 2021 directing that Virginia’s school divisions open for in-person instruction and adhere to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance related to COVID-19. 

    “We know students and families have been waiting for news on mask-wearing and other mitigation measures in LCPS schools this fall,” stated Dr. Scott A. Ziegler, superintendent. “We have been closely monitoring information from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and our own county’s transmission rates to make the most informed decision possible. With the mandate of 456 (formerly SB1303) to maximize in-person learning and to follow CDC guidance it was important to have the most updated information possible to inform our return to school this fall.”  

    On July 27, the CDC recommended that everyone in K through 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status. Read more about CDC guidance.

    “We realize that our desire for in-person learning is currently being challenged by rising community risk in Loudoun County and the potential impact of the Delta variant on students and our community and we will continue to monitor developing conditions and data,” Ziegler stated. “Mask wearing will minimize the need for quarantining, helping us keep students in the classroom.” 

    What this means for LCPS students and staff is:

    • All students and staff will be required to wear face coverings at the start of the 2021-22 school year, regardless of their vaccination status. This decision aligns with recommendations by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Loudoun County Health Department. According to the Loudoun County Health Department, 239,955 Loudoun residents (58 percent) are vaccinated. During the past month, the number of new cases of COVID-19 have increased significantly in Loudoun County, Virginia and throughout the United States, fueled by the coronavirus Delta variant. The  Loudoun County Health Department strongly recommends that everyone aged 12 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccines are free for everyone and widely available. Visit this site to schedule a vaccination.
    • Masks will be provided to LCPS students and staff who do not have them.
    • If a student with COVID-19 is within 3 to 6 feet of other students, the other students will not be considered “close contacts” if all the students are wearing masks. This will help reduce the need for quarantine and keep students in school.
    • Students will be required to wear masks on school buses. This follows LCPS’ practice for students participating in summer school and the CDC’s requirements for public transportation. 
    • Students will not be required to wear masks during recess, PE or other outdoor recreational/extra-curricular activities 
    • For indoor team practices and games, participants will wear masks while on the sidelines, but may remove them during play.  
    • Schools will be open at 100 percent capacity for five-day-a-week learning for all students on August 26.

    The safety and health of students and staff is a primary focus of Loudoun County Public Schools. Masking regulations could change if directives from local, state and national health agencies make it advisable.  

    Visit ReturnToSchool2021. 

Last Modified on November 3, 2021