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.

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams presented a list of potential scenarios for the 2020-2021 school year to the Loudoun County School Board during its emergency meeting Tuesday to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Williams began by discussing various models forecasting the rate of coronavirus spread and peak hospitalizations, which Virginia State Epidemiologist Lilian Peake presented to commonwealth superintendents last week.

Models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show hospitalizations peaking between late April and late May, while a model produced by the University of Virginia projects this peak for mid-July to late August, assuming Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) stay-at-home order lifts as planned on June 10.

The superintendent then summarized three basic scenarios for the return to school next year: Scenario 1 would send students back to school buildings without major physical distancing or public health mitigation strategies; Scenario 2 would involve a physical return to school with such strategies implemented; and Scenario 3 would extend distance learning, either right from the start of classes or after a period of in-person teaching and learning.

"We're using these three basic scenarios to inform our planning, but I want to emphasize that the planning will be modular," Williams said. "We will take modules or parts of planning for one scenario and integrate them with modules of planning for other scenarios in order to respond to hybrid scenarios."

Williams said he hopes planning for these scenarios will provide "directional clarity" and that they will help LCPS families and staff enhance their understanding of possible pathways moving forward. When planning for the various scenarios, he said the division will aim to articulate its purpose for each one, as well as what success would look like in each case.

"That will include identifying examples of actions that need to be taken in order to prepare for each scenario, and questions that need to be answered," he said.

LCPS will initially build prototype responses to the scenarios, or "roadmaps," rather than detailed, step-by-step manuals. Each prototype will then be refined over time with help and feedback from various stakeholders including employees, parents, students, advisory groups, the School Board and other community members.

Per Williams, this strategy allows the division to "support continual progress without unrealistically developing a highly detailed plan in the absence of clear information," before shifting to more detailed planning in the future.

Several board members had questions for Williams later in the meeting, including Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District), who asked whether LCPS will consider the role funds play in different scenarios. Williams responded yes, saying the division has a certain level of flexibility for changed expenditures within the budget and that board action will dictate major adjustments.

Jeff Morse (Dulles District) asked whether a date has been determined for when LCPS will decide which scenario to pursue, a question Williams said staff will return to as plans are refined in the coming weeks and months. Morse then suggested that the board forgo its usual July hiatus this year to assist in necessary decision-making before school presumably begins in late August.

"I do apologize if we end up holding meetings in July, because I know that will impact staff as much as it impacts the board, but I think we're in unprecedented times, and ... we need to have as solid a plan as humanly possible when we expect our teachers to come back in the fall," Morse said.

Tuesday's meeting, which was conducted virtually via Cisco WebEx, is available to view in full at vimeo.com/410160962.

(36) comments

mamabear

Just wondering, is there an update on how they will implement distance learning K thru 5 with parents who are essential employees? Not all parents can stay home or work from home...

ace10

Have private schools thrown in the towel?

amerigirl

Have public schools thrown in the towel? Nope.

ace10

Your reading comprehension is atrocious. I asked about PRIVATE schools.[offtopic]

amerigirl

Poor ace, you think I'm off topic but this article is about public school, very sad you are [offtopic][tongue]

CoffeePlease

Our children go to a local Catholic school, and they have been facilitating e-learning since March 16. The kids have about 3-4 hours of work per day that they have to complete and submit. We've been very happy with the response from the Diocese of Arlington's Office of Catholic School.

ace10

Looks like that was a wise decision to not send your children to Loudoun's public schools. Looking at the stats for the Diocese... 17,300 students (incl K and pre-K). 1800 staff. Their 2019 annual report shows educational operating expenses of $102 million. Nine of their 50 schools have the capability to educate students with disabilities. Those schools are doing more for less and the kids are the beneficiaries.

jrintegrity

My wife is a current teacher in LCPS and I am former teacher. The challenge facing schools and teachers right now is unprecedented. In all of my education training (I have Master's Degree in Secondary Education), there is no teaching model for distance learning with Elementary, Middle, or High school students. The system in place for educating students begin with a structured and well managed classroom environment, building relationships with students, and planning lessons that cater to the entire classroom, small group, or individual activities. So how do you replicate that model using distance learning in a short period time without properly trained teachers? The answer is you don't and you do your best to come up with a new model on short notice.

The comments suggesting that teachers are lazy, lack of desire to hold live instructional videos, or are just incompetent are all off base:

1. Regarding laziness, my wife is in meetings throughout the day and has worked more on weekends since the beginning of this pandemic than she ever worked during the regular classroom model.

2. Holding live recorded instructional videos is a good idea, but training teachers and coming up with an effective video model on short notice is a challenge. Many of you do not realize that in the classroom, the amount of time that a teacher can use direct (in front of the whole class) instruction is probably about 10 minutes at a time. Students need more interactive learning activities rather than listening to a teacher talk for 30 or more uninterrupted minutes. That being said, I agree that instructional videos should be a part of distance learning solution if this pandemic extends beyond this school year. The summer will give education professionals more time to plan for how to best implement videos into the teaching model at each grade level.

3. As for incompetence, teachers realize that distance learning places a much greater burden on parents, particularly if their student is going to get anything out of this. Teachers also realize that the vast majority of parents lack the formal education training to provide instruction, which is what makes this such a challenging period for students to learn. Again, there is no education model for this in a system where change is often slow adapt new techniques. Building an entirely new instructional model takes more than a couple of days or weeks. I encourage many of you to bear with teachers and schools as you are having to do with all the other changes going on around you. If this continues, they will figure out how to best make this work for students.

More Cowbell

Most of the complaints I read were about the chiefs in LCPS not doing anything for weeks. Distance learning is not good for kids in Kindergarten to 5th grade. 6th -8th is a crap shoot, where a few will be interested, others won't be able to site through entire class. HS students should do better, especially those wanting to go into college. Unsure what they're(distant learning) doing for those going to Academy of Loudoun? And all kids in grades 1-12 next year will be way behind previous kids at that level since they missed about 3 months. some will really struggle next year. And there is still a chance the public school won't be able to open on time due to social distancing. maybe only 10 kids to a classroom? It's not the teachers fault. Parents will have to step up and help their kids learn.

BobOhneiserEsq

On a positive note I'm glad parents were mentioned as a source of input. I would. hope that as remote (at home) learning is becoming a most probable event that parental input be FORMALIZED for all levels of activities of LCPS including performance reviews of all staff. I hope the BOS weren't omitted deliberately as they are necessary to represent non-parent taxpayers who no doubt might assume that remote learning would increase the student to teacher ratio by 4 fold at least. I bet the LEA would argue the opposite but thats called lobbying to pay their salaries if I remember their motives correctly. :-)

amerigirl

parents were mentioned as a source of input, they always are. Who is doing your performance review?

ThatPerson

wow

Toriroderick

Virginia, I’m not going to bother reading all your comments, because just the few I read made me nauseous enough.

I’m a teacher. A GOOD teacher, like I’m BETTING, the majority of your school’s are.

I am not twiddling my thumbs and getting an extended vacation.

I am working harder than ever before. I am on the job ALL HOURS now. I start at regular teaching time, take a quick lunch to eat with my OWN kids, who I’m also responsible for, then get back to teaching.

Make and eat dinner, then go BACK to teaching to be there for the parents that are essential and need help after my school day TECHNICALLY is done.

I’m responding to parents at 9, 10 o’clock at night if that is what they need.

I’m daily checking in with kids needing extra work, help, or support.

Live lessons, recorded lessons.

Whether you are intending to or not, your comments are SO damaging to our profession.

Just sad.

Loudoun1965

Amen to that. He's going to claim you're outside of the majority, but we're all in the same boat, and we're all rowing equally. Keep the faith and ignore his insults; they're all he's got.

Love Loudoun

Here here! My hats are off to all these teachers and administrators. Virginia SGP really needs to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Virginia SGP

We don't need anywhere close to 10K teachers now. Most teachers are NOT conducting live sessions more than 30 minutes per week or at most 30 minutes/day. We should use the best 25% of teachers to create lessons/instruct and furlough the rest.

#KeepTheBestFurloughTheRest

Love Loudoun

If you don't like how LCPS is handling this crisis - move to Fairfax County. Read up on how their distance learning is going. I think LCPS is doing an awesome job and teachers and administrators are working very hard to accommodate everyone.

Virginia SGP

LL, Frances Hazel Reid Elementary just announced they would be moving from 30 minutes of live instruction to 60 minutes of live instruction..... PER WEEK!!!!

if you don't teach, you cannot have technical difficulties. Fire most of the teachers if they won't do their job.

amerigirl

Do you know for a fact that they won't vs. they can't?

Virginia SGP

Every other industry:

1. Has meetings when they normally occur. If you had a 9am meeting in person, you typically conduct a 9am meeting online now.

2. Continues to provide effective solutions for their customers remotely. The customers can move with their feet/wallets so folks must deliver.

However, LCPS has almost no live instruction. They could being each regularly scheduled class with a 30-minute, live instruction by the teacher. Then, record that session and post it for students with conflicts. But they don't. They might have one 30-minute session for the week or for the whole day. Since when is that "teaching"? Is this what we have to look forward to?

Ultimately it comes down to requiring teachers to either do their jobs or take leave. We should be giving all parents a $15K stipend per student and letting the parents vote (can't use it but on education). If LCPS doesn't get the full $1.4B from our students, then we would know parents don't value LCPS (cannot spend it on non-educational activities so it's not like the parents are stashing it or letting it go to waste). This would solve 99% of the problems really quickly and we would see LCPS employees shape up or be removed.

Loudoun1965

How would that even work? My kids have four classes on an A day. So what you are proposing is that each watch two hours of live video instruction, disseminate that information, then combine that instruction into activities/exercises/practice of that concept on a Google Classroom platform, then email the teacher individually for comment/assessment/feedback/questions and wait for a response, all in a 7.5 hour day? Then the teacher is going to respond to what, potentially 75 different email questions, comment/assess/ 75 different activities, then plan for the next round? I see a weekly "Hyper Doc" from each teacher with specific directions for a variety of activities, and multiple platforms of instruction in both Google Classroom and the new Edmentum. Are you actually suggesting that both the students and teachers are working for a maximum of 30 minutes per day? I watched my high schooler work for 2.5 hours on ONE class this evening. Where are you getting this?

Virginia SGP

Loudoun1965, I see you are not very good with time management. Let's consider what happens in a normal class in school. Teacher might review prior assignment/homework before introducing a new concept. Some "live instruction" occurs in the first half of the period before students are given assignments to work on via small groups or on their own. Teacher reviews progress and likely reconvenes the entire class to review, dispel misunderstandings, give out homework, or prioritize the concepts. This happens 4 times per day in MS and HS.

So let's use both brain cells in transferring that process to "distance" learning. At the appropriate time (normal class time), the teacher holds a live webconference to perform the homework review and new concept introduction. Students can ask questions. After 30-40 min, students are left to work in small groups or on their own for assignments. Teacher ends recording and immediately POSTS that video for any student unable to attend because of family conflicts. Teacher then is open for office hours online for the duration of the period until the 2nd class time starts. The kids do the SAME thing as they would in school but just online and at home.

This aint's rocket science. But it does require LCPS employees to stop whining and DO THEIR JOBS. Professionals in other industries do this all the time. It is called training. Have you never been to an 8-hour online course for multiple days in which you were tested? They give you breaks and time for lunch of course. Oh, that's right, you work in the educational field where "work" is a very loose term.

Qwertyuiop

This is your chance to step up and show everyone how it’s done. No more anecdotes, no more hypothetical situations, no more saying how others should do it. Sign up and lead the way. Show us that you’re “Teacher of the Year” material.

Virginia SGP

Keyboard, like many folks, I still have a full-time job (am fortunate in that respect as 10Ks of Loudouners are having to pay higher taxes to gov't bureaucrats sitting around not doing much). But, of course, parents teach their kids. How do you think kids obtain high scores in any given year or learned anything while LCPS was out to lunch for 33 days (March 12 - April 14)? How do you think Khan Academy got started but for a hedge fund manager teaching kids concepts that dozens of teachers obviously could not.

This is the perfect time to identify the best teachers and fire the other 75%.

Penguin

Every other industry? What an idiotic comment! Every other industry doesn’t utilize live teenagers/ kids for their end product on mass scale.

Virginia SGP

The kids are not "end products", they are clients, you fool. Kids sit in front of screens all day and you are suggesting LCPS is incapable of teaching kids via a screen with a live instructor? Have you lost your mind?

amerigirl

SGP, he didn't say kids were end products, why twist it? reread the statement. Industries, for their end product,

DavisB

SGP - student are not clients.

Virginia SGP

DavisB says "students are not clients". That sums up LCPS in a nutshell. They treat students as a distraction to justify sending $1.4B+ to lazy, incompetent teachers who constantly whine about getting more, more, more and working less, less, less.

DavisB

Correct, SGP, students are not clients. This is not like getting a haircut or having a personal trainer. This is not like hiring a firm to build a web site or design a corporate logo. If you knew anything at all about education your would realize this.

BobOhneiserEsq

Some schools may be well managed and problem free, others may require intense separation efforts and some may outright fail needing all students to be learning remotely. Please assume and prepare for multiple versions of plans not one. :-)

applicant45554

Can we start school in august to make up for the shortened school year? I’m I crazy for suggesting that?

DavisB

school already starts in August

amerigirl

SGP, It just amazes me that being a semi intelligent man you doesn’t seem to realize how much goes into completely changing an entire format for teaching in a large county. You expected immediate online teaching while the system was still trying to get all the students online by giving out chrome books and creating hotspots. Do you even understand that teachers need to be trained to be able to teach online and be responsible to make sure all kids are accounted for? You seem to think you are the authority on the subject when it isn't even your profession and you seem pretty clueless on what they are dealing with.

DavisB

SGP - for once you are correct - no extra cost - that is a good thing

Virginia SGP

Better question is whether teachers who were twiddling their thumbs from March 12 - April 14 work through July 4 to make up for the time the students missed. At no extra cost to the taxpayers since they basically received a 22 "work"day vacation!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.