Serotkin // 1-13-21

Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) comments on a motion during the Jan. 12 Loudoun County School Board meeting.

The Loudoun County School Board voted Tuesday to use a “risk matrix” as a more comprehensive means of deciding how to safely provide part-time in-person learning for students — that is, once local coronavirus spread significantly subsides.

During Tuesday’s meeting, board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) made a motion that would, among other actions, return students included in “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” of the school system’s hybrid learning implementation plan to in-person learning two days a week. These would include all K-2 students as well as preschoolers, pre-K students, those enrolled at the Academies of Loudoun’s Monroe Advanced Technical Academy, certain students with disabilities, and select English learners.

Serotkin’s motion would also have LCPS resume its hybrid learning implementation plan — which had most recently reached “Stage 3,” affecting grades 3-5 and remaining AOL seniors — once the two major core indicators of COVID-19 spread, as provided by the CDC, dip below what LCPS has deemed “highest risk level.”

As of Wednesday morning, Loudoun County has seen 421.5 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks, and the county’s positivity rate during the same timeframe is at 17.1 percent, both metrics well beyond the “highest risk level” threshold.

Last month, LCPS returned to 100-percent distance learning when the incidence rate surpassed 200 new cases per 100,000 persons and the positivity rate exceeded 10 percent for five consecutive business days, a decision Serotkin on Tuesday said “automatically and indiscriminately shut down all in-person instruction.”

Serotkin, John Beatty (Catoctin District) and Jeff Morse (Dulles District) voted against Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan’s (Sterling District) motion to establish that trigger during the board’s meeting on Nov. 17, 2020.

“As a result, our youngest learners and populations most in need of in-person instruction are not able to currently receive it, while at the same time we have high-school sports continuing to go on, our internet café is open, driver’s ed instruction [is] going on and Parks and Rec activities still occur in LCPS buildings,” Serotkin said. “The current situation does not make any sense.”

In addition, Serotkin’s motion called on LCPS to resume hybrid learning implementation continue once one of the two major core indicators dropped below the “highest risk level” for five consecutive days, rather than the five consecutive business days earlier established.

He also moved for the adoption of the “risk matrix,” a creation of LCPS administrators that combines the county’s case incidence and percent positivity rates with recently established school- and division-based indicators, including level of school transmission and implementation of mitigation strategies.

Morse moved to amend Serotkin’s base motion in the hopes that students at all grade levels would be able to participate in hybrid learning at the start of the spring semester, saying the board has “seen evidence again and again that the environment within the school is likely safer than the environment out of school.” However, he withdrew his motion following roughly 20 minutes of board debate.

Sheridan moved to make an amendment of her own, which would strike the resumption of hybrid learning for “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” students from Serotkin’s base motion. She cited the school system’s hopes to expedite vaccinations for on-site staffers as a potential conflict.

“We cannot accelerate vaccinations at the same time we bring a large number of students,” she said when speaking to her motion. “The reality is we are not at 9 percent [positivity]; we are at 16, pushing 17 percent.”

Sheridan’s amendment passed 6-3, with Beatty, Morse and Serotkin opposed. Prior to voting on his amended base motion, Serotkin said he could not vote in favor, referencing quotes from international epidemiologists who encourage the continuity of in-person or hybrid learning.

“I cannot vote for metrics that don’t have a defined path for getting our kids back in school. That’s the situation we’ve been in for the last 10 months,” he said. He further quoted Dr. Fiona Russell of the University of Melbourne in saying of the decision to keep students at home, “We are driving with the headlights off, and we’ve got kids in the car.”

The base motion as amended passed 7-2, with Morse and Serotkin opposed.Tuesday’s Loudoun County School Board meeting is available to view in full at vimeo.com/499615620.

(1) comment

watsonjones

How can we have sports being played in Loudoun County schools and continue to state that the schools are not safe for education?

Currently, the LCPS has indicated that they have 17.% positivity rate, and new 431 case per 100,000 over the last 14 days, which is considered the highest risk, according to the LCPS website. However, … according to the LCPS guidelines for a safe return to school the positivity rate must be below 10% and new cases must be under 200 cases per 100,000 over the last 14 days.

The schools are double their own metrics, which means that according to the LCPS's own guidelines, being in school is unsafe and categorized as the highest risk, yet they have kids in school playing winter sports, even wrestling.

Winter sports are being played, practices for basketball, wrestling, etc., are happening in schools now!

Competitions for these sports are now happening in schools, without masks, and close contact? If masks and social distancing is so vital, how can these sports take place without the safety precautions recommended by the CDC? At the same time, kids are not allowed to be in a school where adherence to CDC guidelines would be possible and effective?

The issue is that sports are taking priority over education, and this is wrong!

I am all for sports, but to allow kids to wrestle but prevent them from using the library, how is this reasonable?

If basketball is safe in school, if wrestling is safe for school students, then let kids come back to school too.

Are the metrics a lie? If the metrics are real, if the LCPS believed their own guidelines then how schools are safe enough for sports?

How is 17.1% positivity rate is deemed so unsafe that kids can’t be in school, yet safe enough for athletic practice and competition at the very same schools that are closed and not allowing our kids to attend in-person learning because of unsafe metrics?

Can you see the contradiction?

It can’t be both; we can’t have schools that are unsafe for learning but safe enough for in school athletics practices and competition.

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