Williams Press Conference - 3/12/20

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams speaks to the press in early March after announcing school would be cancelled through March 20 due to coronavirus concerns.

It was a longer night than usual for the Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday as it continued to deliberate the best course of action for returning to school next year, in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam's "Forward Virginia" reopening plan.

Last week, Loudoun County Public Schools staff presented a preliminary outline for learning during the 2020-2021 school year. Per these drafted guidelines, under Forward Virginia "Phase 3," most students would alternate between three days of distance learning and two days of in-person learning each week, as to exhibit proper physical distancing measures would mean greatly reducing classroom capacity.

Many LCPS students and stakeholders have lambasted this hybrid learning plan, with about 75 parents and students protesting outside the district's administration building on Monday as a result of these frustrations.

In turn, dozens of citizens were slated to offer public comment as the evening began. Though not all of the nearly 130 people who signed up to address the School Board ended up doing so, those who did still handily filled the meeting's first two hours.

A majority of commenters expressed their desire for 100 percent in-person learning next year, with a 100 percent distance-learning option for families who are uncomfortable sending their kids back to school buildings. Several argued the importance of in-person learning to students' mental health, including Sydney Sykes, a rising junior at John Champe High School.

"We cannot continue to learn like this. We cannot be isolated from our classmates and peers," she said. "We as students have been told our entire lives to get away from technology and away from our devices, but now you're telling us that we can't be around other people, and that we are forced to learn from our devices. It's super contradicting."

"What you're basically hearing is parents that are afraid of a repeat of fourth quarter," former School Board Algonkian District Representative Debbie Rose said. "The distance learning didn't work, and our kids suffered major negative mental-health impacts. It was horrible. This deserves more consideration than just a bullet point and a power point."

Conversely, several commenters urged division staff to base their judgments primarily on the advice of scientific experts rather than public opinion, arguing a return to in-person learning, while convenient, would further propagate COVID-19 cases among students and staff at this point.

"LCPS should be fully aware that our current shutdown is the expected intervention to slow the spread of a severe pandemic virus," former Loudoun County employee Larry Matheny, who participated in health-crisis planning before his retirement, said. "Returning to 100 percent in-person learning, or hybrid learning, implies that we believe we are in a recovery phase. We are not in a recovery phase. These options unnecessarily expose our students and teachers, and ultimately our larger community, to the spread of COVID-19."

Others, even some in support of the hybrid-learning plan, expressed concern with the lack of solid details provided by LCPS staff.

"I do support the blended learning experience," Tisha Downs said. "However, the return-to-school plan does not have details to it, and that is what I believe is making our community very anxious. We don't know what the day in the life of the student or teachers will hold."

However, little new information or suggestions came from LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams, who instead presented the board with a four-page draft resolution stating the board's "preference for 100% in-person learning," as well as its endorsement of "concepts regarding distance learning" and "the operation of schools during Phase III."

"I'm asking that you endorse these concepts, because that will provide clarity for staff in moving forward with planning this summer, in order to be prepared for the opening of the school year," Williams said.

During a nearly 50-minute presentation of his proposed resolution, Williams said while he wishes LCPS could reimplement uniform in-person learning, he and staff are not comfortable with more than a small degree of deviation from guidance provided by public health officials, paraphrasing Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend.

"He explicitly stated that he does not see an ability to provide in-person learning for students five days a week and generally adhere to the guidance," Williams said. "While we have the ability to submit a notification of intent to vary from the guidance, it does require consultation with attorneys and with local health officials. Can we choose to ignore attorneys and local health officials? Yes we can. That's not our recommendation."

Williams largely reiterated information presented last week regarding student schedules, work expectations and on-campus physical distancing measures. Later Tuesday night, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ashley Ellis said staff adjusted draft guidelines since last week to make Mondays days for synchronous distance learning rather than Fridays.

Still, Williams' presentation and stated resolve to make the best, most health- and learning-conscious choices for the LCPS community did not stop a barrage of questions from board members, several of whom bemoaned the lack of additional planning details provided after last week's meeting. Jeff Morse (Dulles District) was perhaps most blunt in his disappointment.

"I kind of felt like a pig being led to slaughter," he said of Williams' presentation. "You were just kind of providing the corn as we get closer and closer."

Morse's main complaint was Williams' failure to address mental health concerns, saying to simply follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is insufficient when it comes to students' emotional well-being. He expressed further concern that a hybrid schedule would cause cross-contamination among students who are in school buildings some days and in other, germ-infested environments such as day cares other days.

"The last time CDC even had a study on mental health was 2017," Morse said. "That is not their forté ... It looks like we're picking and choosing the safety features that we're interested in."

Williams responded, "What I'm wondering is, 'Mr. Morse may not be buying the notion that we should follow the guidance of local, state and national public health officials, because he believes they are not putting enough emphasis on mental health.' … I am not saying that mental wellness is not important, those can bring up aspects that are complicated, but at the end of the day what I've recommended is generally complying with the recommendations of local, state and national health officials."

When Beth Barts (Leesburg District) raised doubts as to whether teachers — particularly at the elementary level — will be able to accommodate students learning both in person and from home, Williams said he and staff "have much more confidence about our ability to do that."

"I am hesitant to give a blanket promise on that, but that's an example of a concept you could endorse, and that's different than issuing a directive saying, 'Thou shalt never do this,'" he added.

Barts countered with a question regarding the resolution's overall goal and effectiveness, saying it seemed like "pretty much just a list of us saying what we'd like to see, and then you do the best you can to implement it. That's it, pretty much, isn't it?"

"Yes, but I want to emphasize we take it the concepts very seriously, so I don't want to under-describe the significance of it, because it is important, and without those endorsements it kind of leaves us hanging, not knowing where you'd like us to go," Williams answered.

Further doubt regarding the resolution came from Denise Corbo (At-Large), who opined the board would not have full assurance in endorsing its various concepts before receiving the results of a community survey LCPS distributed last week.

"Our job is to ask the questions, and also to advocate for changes if need be," Corbo said. "We don't have the most critical decision-making information. We don't have the survey results from the parents and the staff, and that should be … the key component in how we're driving this situation and how we're making our decisions. … I don't feel like I can approve any resolution without that critical information."

Corbo then cited a survey from the Loudoun Education Association which said approximately one-quarter of participating LCPS teachers do not feel comfortable or safe returning to school, and further noted the division's lack of a plan for when a teacher or a student tests positive for COVID-19 during next school year.

"I think that is something that we need to put our time and energy into: our protocols, the safety and the hygiene of our staff and our students," she said.

"Your comments resonate with me when you speak about the important role of the board in asking questions and influencing actions, so for me the purpose of this resolution is to give us the direction we should be heading," the superintendent replied. He added staff intends on Monday to release the results of the survey, which will then be factored into the board's actions regarding the resolution.

"I'm really not even sure we need a resolution; we're spending so much time with this," Corbo said before proposing that the board continues to meet once a week during July, rather than taking its typical hiatus for the month.

Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) concurred with Williams' view that a resolution will lay down a foundation for the division's future actions, saying it is "vital that the board weigh in at this juncture, when we're sitting right around two months before the scheduled first day of school, in order to provide the superintendent the feedback he has requested of us."

He continued, "Until we actually take some sort of vote and five of us agree on something, we're not providing any direction at all, and given where we are right now, two months out, there's only so much longer that we can go before I think it will start creating serious problems. The alternative is that the superintendent and the staff just continue to go down the road they're doing without the board weighing in, and I think the longer we go without providing formal feedback, the worse position we'll be in and the more likely it is that we're going to have to make last-minute changes, or that it will be effectively too late for us to meaningfully weigh in, because there won't be time to make the changes we're requesting."

Williams acknowledged the pressing nature of the board's many concerns, but emphasized the level of difficulty in addressing them all in the limited time before next year.

"There's all these competing needs and priorities, and as some public speakers have observed, you can't make everybody happy," he said.

Tuesday's meeting is available to view in full at vimeo.com/432113742.

(61) comments

lococpa

i'm sure the decision will be based on paying the teachers as much as possible and giving out free meals and services, as opposed to raising expectations of teachers to productively and efficiently do their jobs.

DavisB

wait - you are against feeding hungry children? Please tell me you don't have kids yourself

LCPS Parent

I think many worries (Parents and staff) about the fall would lessen if more details were provided by LCPS. For example, like MLB just said...the baseball season will end if Certain things were to occur. They have a plan and they have SHARED it.

What is the protocol for when a staff or student tests positive - whole class quarantine for 14 days? Or does whole school? Or the entire bus population? Then, do they all need 2 negative test results to be able to return? What about families that don’t have the means to go get those tests? At what point does the entire school close, or if one closes do they all close like snow days?

Lots of questions, but that’s what happens when you only hear little by little.

LoudounPulse

You forget the LCPS Board are elected officials looking to not end up on the wrong side of voters. That is why the board isn't writing anything into stone. They are worried for their political necks. If they say 100% Open, they might be voted out. If they say hybrid model, they might be voted out. It's a no win situation for the school board.

Mountain Girl

The reality is that COVID is unpredictable, and no one has a handle on it yet. This hybrid plan is not going to slow the spread at all. For safety concerns, the school district needs to focus on vastly improving distance learning opportunities for all grade levels, and plan to open school in the fall with 100% distance learning for the first quarter. Then reassess the risk factors. Hopefully by early November there will be more information about a vaccine and treatment protocols. Then schools can gradually open up.

LoudounPulse

No. 100% distance learning was a failure. Kids don't learn, they play video games while the teacher is giving their online course. Since the students can't fail a class, getting a P or N makes no difference. Then you have the problem with internet access to everybody (specifically those in the western part of the county).

Remember these are kids, not college students. We need 100% Open so our kids don't fall behind.

Mountain Girl

This is a pandemic. The school system needs to be part of the solution—not part of the problem. We have to accept that it is going to be awhile before things return to normal n all aspects of life. Long

distance learning for another quarter could mean

keeping schools open for the remainder of the year.

Opening too soon could result in shutting schools

down for the rest of the year.

CENful

What about distance learning for high school students and spreading the K - 8 graders out into the high schools? My kids are in high school and I don’t want them to miss out on sports, socializing, and in-classroom learning; however, they are more capable and responsible today than they were in elementary or middle school. Also, they won’t end up in another group care setting like the 13 & under kids whose parents have to work. There is no good solution, so we need to find a compromise.

DavisB

Distant learning is a big part of the plan for the opening

Carpediem

I am new to posting on this forum.

I felt compelled to chime in because I plan to enroll my young child in the Loudoun County School System.

I read all the comments, and I noticed most posts were grievances, and that is truly unfortunate. There are many possible solutions that should be explored and presented to accommodate most if all students, parents, and educators without the insults.

There are serious safety concerns, and as taxpaying parents, we should be brainstorming to provide ideas if we do not have confidence in the offered proposals. The plan should be to solve the current crisis and vote in competent officials during elections.

One such proposal is to understand the ventilation systems inside the schools. It is possible to suppress possible transmission of the virus if there is sufficient air movement that cleans and replaces air within classrooms, offices, and common areas. Air purifier equipment manufacturers promote the effectiveness of their products by touting how much air is moved, purified, and exchanged per hour. I believe that it would behoove the appropriate County Officials to explore such engineering solutions and others to ensure the safety of the students, educators, and administrators. This solution, and others, should provide the schools the ability to operate at near capacity or better. Ultimately, parents will decide if they will allow their children to attend schools after evaluating presentations of proposed safety measures.

There are less than two months to decide on, to implement, and to test incorporated safety measures to ensure the right decisions were made before school opens.

We are a better society than our individual behaviors.

jke

Can we cancel the bonus Williams is in line to get. Grades are down , attendance is down and there is no plan going forward.

BobOhneiserEsq

Dear Ms. Corbo - Please re-read state statute 22.1-79. If you can't understand it please call and I would be glad to explain it for free. The task and responsibility of VA School Board members is WELL beyond asking questions and advocating for parents. Your not the PTA. Manage the Superintendent! Insure utmost efficiency! Enforce all school laws! This is not a chit chat hobby job as 80,000 plus students depend on a degree of professionalism in this time of challenge not obfuscation. (in my opinion after 8 years on the school board) :-)

Qwertyuiop

If you’re going to be so condescending, check “your” first, Bob.

Voltaire

Qwertyuiop--Good point. Bob also needed to change "insure" to "ensure".

Virginia SGP

The grammar police are out in force. Do you proofread Corbo's statements?

It must be tough when you cannot respond with anything substantive.

Voltaire

Virginia SGP--yes, we are out in force. Thanks, Chief Constable, Grammar & Spelling Constabulary

Bye Don 2020

If you stop bashing these school folks for a minute and consider how difficult this problem is you might begin to appreciate the challenges they face. They have to make a decision and they won't be able to hide or press release their way out of the consequences of any bad decisions. So "just open up" is way too simple and dangerous.

Qwertyuiop

The armchair quarterbacks are all over this one.

Virginia SGP

Armchair quarterbacks refer to those who second guess decisions that were made. We are advocating for wise plans BEFORE the decision is made. We don't need LCPS run by the dumbest people in the county.

Qwertyuiop

SGP, explain how you aren’t an armchair quarterback for everything LCPS? Where have you actually done anything other than tell people how they should do it? I’m serious. I’d be impressed if you could make me eat crow on this one.

Virginia SGP

On what issue have I not made them eat crow?

1. Recording committee meetings - We posted LEAP meetings within 1-2 hours of them concluding with only a single admin coordinating the recording. Now, all committee meetings are recorded.

2. Conflict of interest act disclosures - They refused to do this until I obtained a special prosecutor's opinion they were violating the law.

3. Social media pages - Numerouls SB members were blocking their critics. Morse kept me blocked until May 2020. They are not treated as limited public forums where they cannot block you because of your viewpoint.

4. SGP data - LCPS now uses MAP tests to evaluate their programs for growth. While they should use it for teacher evaluations, they previously used no growth measures whatsoever.

5. Budget accounting - It appears they track unexpended obligations differently now from year to year. And I have pointed out they repeatedly have a $30-40M surplus every year.

6. Teacher raises - LCPS used to claim that teachers never got raises. Now, largely from questions through the BOS that mimicked questions I sent them, we know LCPS teachers were getting $5,000-$7,000/year raises. Folks also know they can retire at the ripe ol age of 52 with a $50K/year pension for life. And that LCPS health plans are worth ~$20K/year or $5,000 more than Fairfax' plan.

7. FOIA requests - LCPS now tracks FOIA requests with a centralized system including the ability to search for other requests.

Admittedly, LCPS still keeps horrible teachers around year after year after learning they are completely ineffective. The union is strong on that one. And they still allow teachers who sexually assault kids to keep their jobs. Still working on those.

DavisB

Wow SGP - taking credit for things you had nothing to do with is a new low.

MAPS testing is not SGP - your plan was to take SOL testing and create teacher evaluations - this is not MAPS

There always was conflict of interest disclosures - everyone knew which spouses of the board members were teachers -

LEAP is not affiliated with the schools, especially when you grabbed control - posting recording of those meeting has nothing to do with the administration or board

Teacher salaries have always been public - you did nothing to change this

FOIA request being tracked is part of the evolution of technology and processes - again, you did nothing here

Virginia SGP

DavisonB, reading comprehension problems again?

1. SGPs are a "value-added" metric (VAM) just like the conditional growth scores of SGPs. I had arranged for a major VAM provider who can use a variety of sources to generate the same types of data who would present to the LCSB or parent groups in 2015. Such VAMs can be used to evaluate districts (which I did and so did the newspapers), curricula (Caulkins curricula for example), schools, methods ("project-based learning"), and yes teachers. Your ignorance is astounding.

2. Even I didn't know Morse's spouse worked in LCPS. And while those in the administration may have known, the public didn't know. Why would the school board resist disclosures/transparency if "everybody" knew? You don't like them following laws? A little sore I see.

3. LEAP recorded meetings and posted them online within a couple of hours by 1 person as Eskins-Gleason presided. After that happened, the excuse that it was "too hard" to record committee meetings despite 10x the number of manpower at those committee meetings was no longer tenable. SB members who had been on the board 7 years without any recordings all of a sudden saw the light. Amazing how that works, eh?

4. We even have ignorant, deceptive teachers today who say they haven't received raises "in years". Bill Fox was saying that in 2015 when it was false. I don't say it was a lie because Fox didn't appear to even understand his own votes. I forced them to acknowledge on a single FOIA response that teachers had received raises since at least 2011 and continued to get ever larger raises each year since. The BOS becamse aware of just how large those individual raises were. You can just look at the Q&A on SB budgets in years before and after my FOiA requests to see that.

5. So the hiring of a boss for Wayde "lie to everyone" Byard had nothing to do with the new FOIA system? Really? I would pay $$ to get a sworn statement on what Doolittle thought of Byard's "processes".

Come back from NeverNeverLand soon.

DavisB

Oh, SGP - at it again with your "alternative facts"

1 - your plan was to use SOL scores to create a teacher evaluation process. You sued the state for this data and then failed to produce anything at all. And this was while you were aggressively lobbying for the schools to adopt your plan - so aggressively that you got yourself banned from school properties - MAPS is not based on anything you did. It is a recently addition to the schools which happened without any input from you

2 - you knew about the spouses at the time because you were quite vocal about it - do you forget your tirades on Leesburg Today about cover-ups?

3- LEAP is not a school group - it is independent so anything there is irrelevant to the notion of you arm chair quarterbacking

4- again, pay scales are public so you did nothing here

5 - FOIA requests and processing continues to evolve - again without your majestic input

So, yes, you are an armchair quarterback with nothing to back you up

Virginia SGP

DavisB, you really need to do something about that reading comprehension issue. An armchair quarterback is "someone who second-guesses a decision someone else has made after the event is finished". I have always led with reforms, not second-guessed decisions for which I had no recommendations.

So I guess, according to you, my handle is "Virginia SOL" because I wanted to use "SOLs". Do you even know what the term "student growth" means? In the educational context (where you and LCPS have always been out of their league), it represents a change in knowledge over time on a validated test. Pop quizzes like LCPS tried to justify don't do it. It was Cynthia Ambrose who was appalled at how LCPS blew off the student growth requirements of NCLB waivers who set about to implement true student growth metrics. There are a number of ways to do that with SGPs or MAP scores both representing one such method. You just don't have a clue.

It's nice to hear you will be preaching that LCPS teachers have received raises for going on 9 years now. Those $7000 raises were questioned when I posted them but I guess if you coulnt payscales buried in the LCPS budget without any comparisions showing the raises for individual teachers, they were plain as day. So how come so many teachers lie about receiving $7000 raises or even just a raise every year since 2011? Is the profession just unethical if everything is transparent?

You seem to have no problem with SB members not only violating the law but blowing off demands to follow disclosure laws. You think paper disclosures hidden away in the castle as sufficient for conflict of interest dicslosures? You want the BOS to stop articulating their meetings with developers now as long as they file a note at the bottom of a bureaucratic mountain?

You are such a joke. Folks, I have NOT created the DavisB account to represent teachers and LCPS admins in a bad light. He does that all by himself.

DavisB

SGP - stop with the lies - those of us who have been watching since the beginning and reading your posts way back on Leesburg today understand what you tried to do - and yes, you were all about SOL scores - that is the data you got from the state - and the data you failed to turn into anything usable because you entire premise was flawed. Why do you think you were turned down by so many parent meetings and told to stay away (which you chose not to do and go yourself banned from school properties)

Do not try to take credit for things you did not progress - that is simply sad. Stick to fact for once and own your history

Virginia SGP

DavisB, even the LCPS staff is laughing at you now. You do realize the original FOIA request said "value added metrics", right? And the articles in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal focused on SGPs. You are so pathetic. And so wrong all the time.

DavisB

SGP - here are the facts:

you asked for and received data based on SOL testing - why are you trying to distance yourself from that -

you announced to the world that you intention was to create a teacher evaluati0n process using the changes in SOL scores which you failed to produce

you had nothing to do with MAPS but tried to take credit for the program in postings on this page -

you were upset by being called an arm chair quarterback

DavisB

SGP - we are not that far apart

we both agree that your original plan was based on SOL testing and you received data based on SOL scores

We both agree that you plan was to create a teacher evaluation system based on student growth calculated using SOL testing

we both agree that LCPS ridiculed your ideas and removed your access to the schools when you continued to badger parents

we both agree that your approach failed miserably

we both agree that systems and processes have progressed and LCPS now has better systems and metrics

If fact, I think you and I are considerable aligned

Fiscalconservative

If the students will not be going to school every day, then it is time to reduce the property taxes so parents will have addition funds to pay for child care. How can both parents work if their children will be home the majority of the week?

applicant45554

There’s a lot of bashing of Eric Williams here, but it seems like the problem is the school board dragging their feet. You can wait on the survey, but we all know what it’s going to say. Parents want a normal school and teachers don’t. Make a decision school board and tell Eric Williams to implement it.

Virginia SGP

Normally I would agree with you. The governor made it clear that the prerogative is with the local school boards. Every year the LCPS school board has on its legislative agenda "more local control" but now that they have to make a decision, they want directive from above to avoid accountability. It is the SB's choice.

That being said, did you listen to the meeting? Williams made statements like "do you really want me to ignore CDC, national, state and local guidance and put kids in school every day". In other words, he tried to box the school board in by implying anything other than his plan was disregarding safety precautions. Yet, at the same time, despite CDC and others saying "use your judgment" and make appropriate tradeoffs (e.g. wear shileds so you can safely have less than 6 ft distance), Williams claimed it was not LCPS role to make any adjustments whatsoever. He literally abdicated any critical thinking.

Those are not the actions of an indepedent administrator just trying to carry out the will of the school board and provide options. Those are the actions of an ex-teacher trying to carry the water for the teachers' unions and avoid 5-day in-person school. He was acting as a political animal in casting blame on the school board for any decision other than his own plan. Just look at the whereas clasues he included in his motion. He cherry picks the ones that support his view while ignoring CDC guidance (it specifically says use plexiglass shields where distancing not appropriate such as desk shields) issued in the same press releases. And Williams unilaterially sent out the email to parents right after the survey was released saying "LCPS was not considering" 5-day in-person plans. When the Supt is trying to control the school board, even he is acting in cahoots with other members of the school board (he certainly did this in years past but I am uncertain what the alignments are today), it is time for him to go. Everybody has lost trust in him. Nobody believes the words that come out of his mouth.

applicant45554

Interesting. Thanks for the info.

Loudoun4Trump

This is a scam for Williams and his band of incompetent bureaucrats....these people are all about serving themselves instead of the public....I heard Barts talking about providing day care for teachers (at your expense) and too bad for you if you need to pay for daycare yourself....what a pack of confused individuals. There appears to be some school board members that are at least listening....but I have doubts about King, Sheridan, and Barts....they are not for trying to figure out a solution to get your kids a quality education....I guess someone could start a recall petition, but that may be premature based on whatever the final decision will be.....all will be watching....

Marys5000

Why they do not consider 2-3 hrs a day every day? Do the teaching and send kids home with homework. They won't have to spend time in the cafeteria or even bathrooms. Cancel all busses. Not a big deal to drive kids to school.

1995 Resident

I've observed responses and queries from all parties, yet neither the school board nor concerned parents and teachers have brought up split session options, 5 days per week. Why is this so? We may be an affluent county but not everyone can afford to be home to monitor students three days a week or pay someone to do this for them. Split schedules where everyone goes 5 days per week, AM or PM, provides structure for students and a semblance of order to home life.

Virginia SGP

Williams claimed that it is not possible. He said the transportation (buses) is ot possible. However, a mid-day run where the buses both drop off and collect students on the same run would mean a total of 3 rounds/day instead of 2 rounds. That seems feasible.

I think the bigger issue is whether they can disinfect everything in the middle of the day. I am not a stickler on that (kids contract it less often and rarely transmit it) but it would be hard to implement controls mid-day.

DavisB

not a stickler on cleanings - how many kids do you know that wash their hands regularly? Students are basically walking germs. Who is running the pool to see how long before each school gets shut down because of infections after they open them in the fall

Virginia SGP

CDC only recommends contact tracing for folks in "close contact" with a confirmed positive case. In other words, if you are not in "close contact", no need to quarantine or shut down. What is "close contact"? Being within 6 ft of someone else for a minimum of 15 minutes without a face mask. That will almost never happen. So unless they can show kids were playing tag football, you only need to shut down anything after confirmed, uncontrolled spread in a school. Everything else would be quarantines for just those testing positive. If you are scared, get a new career.

DavisB

I like my career (not a teacher) and I am very much afraid of parents who let their kids mingle knowing they are sick. If you and everyone else would wash their hands and mask up, we might be able to beat this

Virginia SGP

This is not rocket science. LCPS is intentionally refusing to even consider 5-day in-person learning in an attempt to protect some teachers who don't want to return. Schools do not exist to employ adults but rather effectively educate students. LCPS and Williams' actions are immoral, misleading and should lead to his removal.

1. Williams stated classes could only fit 10-13 desks. That is false. Williams had his subjects use 8-ft diameter circles instead of the 6-ft recommended by the CDC to avoid acknowledging that classrooms can fit 18-20 desks even with 6-ft circles. Fairfax has smaller classrooms yet fit more desks than Loudoun did because they used 6-ft circles as intended.

2. CDC guidance notes that localities should adjust the precautions to fit their environment. Research clearly notes that 3 ft of separation reduces risk by ~80% (WHO recommends 3 ft separation). Each additional 3 ft (3 -> 6 ft) reduces risk by half. But SO DOES a face shield/goggle. So putting 25-29 desks in a room with 5 ft of distancing combined with face shields provides MORE protection LCPS is contemplating. Williams claims LCPS teaches students "critical thinking" but Williams himself is unable to think criticially.

3. LCPS can live-stream presentations by teachers to those at home. But Williams and others are putting out bogus "privacy concerns" to avoid doing this. Yet, LCPS records students every year on video for the National Board Certifications. Even when a student opts out, they just keep them off-camera. This is another lie from LCPS.

4. Williams claims there were not enough teachers for 5-day in-person learning and distance learning. That is a lie. According to the WABE guide, LCPS has 1.6 teachers for every elementary classroom. This is because they often place multiple teachers in a class. If each HS teacher taught 6 of 8 periods (some only teach 5 now) or just 75% of the day, we would have 1.4 HS teachers for every classroom. There are sufficient numbers of teachers to cover both.

5. LCPS claims a shortage of substitute teachers. This is solely caused by underpaying substitutes. Subs get no benefits. But even just considering salary, subs are paid less than 1/2 of what a Step 1 teacher makes. Raising the pay of subs is needed even in regular times. Increasing sub pay by 50% would provide more than enough subs when teachers are unavailable. That is just supply and demand - a foreign concept in LCPS.

6. Some have claimed LCPS can be sued if a student/teacher gets sick. This is false. Sovereign immunity bars suit against a county unless they were grossly negligent (didn't consider a risk in any fashion). Not only has LCPS put appropriate precautions in place, but weighed against the damage to children's education and mental health, there can be no finding of negligence much less gross negligence. They are immune from suit.

Ultimately, this is about whether Loudoun will allow LCPS to shirk its responsibility to students because some teachers want to demand they keep their jobs AND dictate the terms. No teacher should teach if they are in real risk. They should see if a distance position exists or find another career. But there are more than enough teachers to make this work (including 5000 applicants for teaching positions every year). Kids deserve better. Single, essential-worker parents deserve better. We should not let the tyranny of entitled, highly-paid teachers destroy our public education system.

ChocolateDinosaur

Great info with #5. Could you please share a source? This has been a topic with my irl group. Many thanks.

Virginia SGP

Substitutes are paid $113/day. At 180 days, that is $20,340. Long-term subs are paid $154/day. At 180 days, that is $27,720. Step 1 LCPS teachers earn $69,600/year (in salary and pension contributions alone).

For years, despite sub shortages, the school board has handed out $1000s in annual raises to teachers but have not increased the sub pay. For example, in FY20 a rising Step 22 teacher (~age 44) received a $7,777 pay raise, the equivalent of 28% of a long-term sub's entire annual salary. The Step 22 teacher earned $102,375 in salary+pension alone. This is despite an oversupply of teacher candidates and a shortage of subs. Supply and demand are foreign concepts in LCPS. It is the greedy $102K/year Step 22 teachers who are insisting nobody teach your children in person next year.

DavisB

I thought LTM was going to monitor comments for personal attacks. I guest Brian gets a pass? The discussion, Brian, is about keeping everyone safe, despite your personal vendetta against teachers

Virginia SGP

I know how you teachers love to censor. Criticism about one's position is always justified. See the VEA's position and the Fairfax teachers' refusal to teach. Fire them all. Hire ones that will teach. The greed among these highly, highly paid teachers is unconscionable.

DavisB

the greed among parents who think their kids cannot spread the virus is unbelievable and is putting the rest of us at risk - see the stories of Ashburn families that sent their kids to beach week and then to graduation, knowing their kids were exposed - this is educating all of our children while not killing anyone - this is not about convenience

Virginia SGP

DavisB, the WHOLE point of social distancing is even if somebody has contracted it, they will not spread it. You should the thank those kids. They will be immune by fall. If you don't want to teach, quit. 5000 ready to take your place.

DavisB

Still not a teacher, SGP. I do know what the inside of a school looks likes the your idea that there is any way for social distancing to occur on busses, in hallways or classroom, or anywhere else at school is hilarious. The schools will be filled with virus carrying kids who don't wash hands or wear masks - then, as soon as someone gets sick, and it will happen, what will the schools do but be force to close.

Virginia SGP

Do Amazon distribution centers close if one person gets sick? Do office buildings close? Do police stations close? The official CDC guidance for contact tracing says only trace folks who spent (i) at least 15 minutes (ii) within 6 feet of someone who (iii) was not wearing a mask. When will that happen in a school? Virtually never. In the hallways, they are wearing masks and are not within 6 ft for 15 minutes. They eat at their desks. And teachers will almost never come in contact with kids for 15 minutes within 6 ft and without a mask.

For most of America, this was never a thing to begin with. It certainly makes sense for teachers to seek new careers if they are scared. The high salaries are not worth it if you are vulnerable. But there are 1000s of applicants begging to be a teacher who have no concerns at all. Education should go on as effectively (in-person) as possible. Best wishes to the departing teachers seeking new careers (that many often talk so fondly about - I wonder how many will take 20% pay cuts?)

DavisB

Oh SPG - schools are not like an Amazon warehouse - kids are not going to be wearing face masks. They are not going to keep socially distant (have you been in a classroom?), They are not going to have their temperatures monitored. We already know parent won't keep them home when they are sick. How many staff members and students are you willing to sacrifice so that you can feel better about yourself?

Virginia SGP

Numerous folks have posted research showing that when kids with proven cases of the virus were in school for days, nobody contracted the virus. Kids acquire the virus less frequently and are not as contagious.

You act like this is some kind of deadly pathogen in the schools. According to the CDC, even if a person under 50 contracts it, they have a 1 in 40K chance of death without underlying health conditions. The notion that 40K of our kids will contract this is ridiculous. Based on your logic, the schools should shut down for the flu.

Markmittens

I always read never compelled to respond until now after reading your comments. I teach in Fairfax, but live here in Loudoun with my son about to start school soon. I have a really difficult time understanding what you are implying with the facts you provide, and for the most part they are facts, poorly understood facts but facts non the less. If you care to know about the teachers who teach 5 out of 8 classes, they assume other responsibilities such as doing student testing mandated by law, acting as a principal designee in an IEP meeting or a host of other things I'm not familiar with but I can ensure you they are not playing darts in the teachers lounge. These responsibilities do not change because of virtual school. I am in 100% agreement with substitute pay but you seem to suggest that the teacher pay is out of whack or what I think you are saying is sub pay is not in line with teacher pay? If that is the case what other things need to be cut because you do not sound like the type that believes in raising taxes, that is a serious question? I mean Loudoun has so many applicants because it's a pretty nice place to live and the pay relative to other parts of the country is ok, but then again the cost of living is some of the highest in the country as well. I also agree with recording teachers or streaming video works for me.

I believe a big mistake people make is trying to take their business sense and extreme intelligence applicable to public school. It just doesn't apply if everyone in Loudoun goes back to school and two kids die was it worth it? I feel like in the times we live in now most people would say yes, caveat if it's not their kid. As a teacher in a public school we have to take extreme precaution with everything. My co-teacher has a tea station set-up for kids one kid burned themselves in HS and you can't imagine the things that come from that.

Most teachers want to be in school with the students this isn't natural for us either it's not what anyone is use to but implying this is happening because teachers don't want to teach in person I believe is patently false and a reflection of your beliefs of the work ethic of teachers, especially the older ones. I love the occasional snowday but I want to be in the classroom with my students so does every other teacher I know. I came in this profession at 30 and it is the hardest I've ever worked and it's also the most rewarding work I've ever done but the hardest part is dealing with the parents, if you could believe that. My solution would be virtual school students in high school and focus on elementary school because they don't really understand the concept of spreading germs, social distancing, and they need childcare. There are things these people have to consider that you don't even understand or know about. Do you want your kids AP class taught by a first year teacher because he or she was one of the 5k applicants you speak of, well other parents may not want that, we don't get the benefit of living in a vacuum which I'm sure you know.

Virginia SGP

It does appear that many teachers want to go back. However, the reason that 100% in-person schooling is not being considered is undoubtedly teachers. Did you read the Fairfax teachers' union statement? They even object to going back to a hybrid situation. And word has it that VEA plans to sue any district that goes back 100%. They have no shot whatsoever because of sovereign immunity but districts don't even want to have to respond to a lawsuit.

You suggest that parents will erupt if any kid gets sick. But that is not a credible argument. Parents have the choice to utilize distance learning. It makes no sense that a parent would opt for 100% in-person learning and then be upset if any unexpected virus transfers occur. Even if such a parent made an irrational complaint, they would be dismissed for having made that choice.

Speaking of AP courses, those kids are generally motivated and have a reason to learn. The best thing that happened in 2019-2020 was they were given access by the College Board to videos from the best teachers. Even if you had a proctor (e.g. sub) in a classroom showing such videos, that would be sufficient. A huge reason we want kids in school is not because of the teacher per se, but because the kids can socialize and disadvantaged kids need not babysit their siblings while trying to learn. It gives every child a more level playing field. In fact, for many of the MS or HS classes, having the kids in school but the teachers remote is just fine.

If you support being in school 100%, just say it. Parents will thank you. Speak up at the SB meeting.

DavisB

the only reason you want kids in school is because you consider them publicly funded daycare

Virginia SGP

DavisB, wrong again.

1. Public schooling was designed to educate students together in a building. If not, these buildings would never have been constructed. And if remote learning was the plan, then we would pay LCPS teachers half of their current salaries if for no other reason than they could live in Texas or Alabama or Montana and teach remotely. i understand you have a tenuous grasp on supply/demand but the community at large does not.

2. My child can stay at home and can walk to school. Like so many others, I don't "need daycare". However, children gain from the view of others in class and from the socilization they receive as well. It also helps them interact with kids from different backgrounds (aren't you a big BLM and "diversity" proponent?).

There is no reason not to have in-person learning. The Amercian Academy of Pediatrics recommends it (oh, I know, you will say they want kids to die, right?). Many doctors recommend it. Other countries in Europe who have successfully implemented it also support it. But you seem to think schools exist soley to transfer huge $$$ from taxpayers to teachers. No so.

DavisB

surprising to read something positive about teachers from you, SGP. You frequently characterize your children's teachers as greedy, untalented, lazy, bon bon eating leaches.

DavisB

Question for you SGP - with you insistence that kids go to the buildings, please explain how much difference it will make in their classes since they will only see each teacher once a week (and only in 5 day weeks) at the high school level. They will still be doing the bulk of learning remotely.

Virginia SGP

What are you talking about? Kids & teachers go to school building all 5 days. That's what the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics says. And nations who restarted schools have not seen the virus spread from those schools.

DavisB

what are you talking about SGP - the hybrid model apparently being adopted tonight has students in school two days a week - at the high school level, they will meet with each class only one day of the week

LoudounPulse

Open Schools 100%. Anybody who doesn't want their children in school can do the Distance Learning.

ChocolateDinosaur

Is there an option to have schools as open as they can be and have webcasts running/archived for every (relevant) class? Are considerations being given to tweaking curriculum and taking more classes outside when possible? (Biology, Botany, Care of Magical Creatures, etc).

There is no easy answer. We are in this with everybody else although in this house.

Keep wearing masks and washing hands if you want schools to have a shot at staying open all year.

Also, give those teachers a raise! I'd rather do my job any day of the week.

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