Leslee King - 9/22/20

Leslee King (Broad Run District) listens to a presentation during the Sept. 22 Loudoun County School Board meeting.

During its Tuesday meeting, the Loudoun County School Board directed staff to prepare to initiate part-time in-person learning for Loudoun County Public Schools students in grades K-2 on Oct. 27.

This step comprises “Stage 2” of the school system’s four-stage hybrid model implementation.

Superintendent Eric Williams, as well as Assistant Superintendents Asia Jones and Ashley Ellis — representing the departments of Pupil Services and Instruction, respectively — presented on the matter earlier in the evening as an information item.

Per that presentation, staff suggested the School Board either hold a special meeting Sept. 30 to consider an action item relating to an Oct. 27 start date or discuss the action item during its regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 13, in which case “Stage 2” would commence Nov. 10 if authorized.

However, Leslee King (Broad Run District) successfully moved to suspend the rules, after which she moved to direct staff to set Oct. 27 as the “Stage 2” start date Tuesday, rather than wait more than a week for board approval.

Though Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) mentioned waiting until Sept. 30 to vote on the matter would give the public greater opportunity to weigh in further, King opined the LCPS community had already “weighed in quite a bit.”

“From what I’ve heard, things are going well right now,” she added. “I know Virginia [COVID-19 testing] numbers have been stable, and Loudoun County has been low.”

Jeff Morse (Dulles District) seconded King’s first motion and said an earlier vote by the board would allow school system staff an extra week to prepare for nearly 7,000 of LCPS’s younger students to return to school buildings. Beth Barts (Leesburg District), who seconded King’s second motion, concurred.

“I think we can wait and meet next week and drag it out, or we can let the community know now and start preparing — not just our teachers, which is important, but also the parents, who have various daycare situations, various family members who are watching [their kids],” Barts said.

After Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) inquired as to staff’s reasoning for not including at least some middle and high school students in “Stage 2,” Ellis cited the relatively complex schedules of LCPS’s older students compared to elementary schoolers, who tend to move around in “cohort[s] … of 20 or 25” rather than adhering to individualized itineraries.

Denise Corbo (At-Large) expressed concern at a perceived lack of “concrete data” supporting a safe return to partial in-person learning, primarily in terms of public health but also regarding the time and money the school system would spend to enact “Stage 2,” as well as whether staffing needs will be met.

Williams responded by saying LCPS has “talked for months” about said metrics, particularly the cost of supplies and the question of adequate staffing, and that he and other administrators, “at this point in time,” are comfortable moving forward.

“Do I get that people hate qualifiers like ‘at this point in time’? Absolutely, but it would be misleading to say that we can control everything and keep all the conditions perfect, because they can change,” he said.

Following roughly 45 minutes of discussion, the School Board approved King’s motion unanimously.

Per LCPS staff, families who still wish to have their children attend school entirely online may continue with 100 percent distance learning after “Stage 2” commences.

The board voted last month for “Stage 1” of the school system’s four-stage hybrid model implementation to begin Oct. 13 with in-person learning once or twice a week for select special education students, followed by certain English-learning students and preschoolers on Oct. 27.Tuesday’s Loudoun County School Board meeting is available to view in full at vimeo.com/460575112.

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