Loudoun Chamber "State of Education" Webinar 2020

Clockwise from top left, LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams, Loudoun Chamber board chairwoman Stacey Metcalfe, Brambleton Middle School Principal Renée Dawson, Cedar Lane Elementary School Principal Robert Marple, Briar Woods High School Principal Sheila Alzate and Northern Virginia Communicy College Loudoun Campus Provost Julie Leidig gather virtually for the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce’s “State of Education” webinar Aug. 19.

As part of its 2020 PolicyMaker seminar series, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce welcomed Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams and Northern Virginia Community College Loudoun Campus Provost Julie Leidig as featured speakers for its “State of Education” webinar Wednesday morning.

Sponsored primarily by Inova Loudoun Hospital and Telos Corporation, the event was originally meant to focus on Virginia’s “Tech-Talent Pipeline,” through which STEM-focused students in the commonwealth are propelled into its ever-growing tech industry.

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced public education to rapidly change gears and go fully virtual in March, event organizers pivoted the subject to how LCPS and NOVA are strategizing next month’s return to classes to ensure high-quality education for students, while also keeping them and faculty members safe.

Stacey Metcalfe, who works in government and community relations for Inova and serves as chairwoman of the Loudoun Chamber board, hosted the virtual event and first introduced Leidig, who explained the impact of coronavirus on NOVA’s operations in the spring before detailing its planned services in the fall.

Per Leidig, NOVA was “one of the earliest” regional institutions to have specialized in asynchronous virtual education through its NOVA Online program, but it is largely new to “synchronous, in-real-time online learning of the type that you would do over Zoom.”

“We started our spring break thinking we might have to go remote, and then by the end of our spring break we had decided that everything was going to have to go remote,” she explained.

Leidig said NOVA students’ spring break was extended by a mere two days, during which time all teachers had to prepare to resume the semester in a fully virtual setting.

“Everyone who wasn’t already ready to teach from home had to come to our campus, get a laptop, get any training that they needed in order to teach from home,” she said. “We were transitioned to fully remote learning by March 18.”

NOVA students have multiple options for resuming classes in the coming semester, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 24. The majority of courses will be offered through NOVA Online or synchronous delivery via Zoom, though pupils will be able to determine how much of their instruction takes place in person or virtually.

Many on-campus student services will continue to operate with limited hours and social-distancing restrictions this fall, including computer labs, libraries, bookstores, cafés, personal protective equipment distribution, parking and student identification services.

Leidig also addressed the topic of students considering a gap year, an option she discourages.

“Students don’t know what they want to do at this time, because they had big plans and they feel like their plans were blown up,” she said. “If you are familiar with students in that situation … encourage them [to] go ahead, move forward with their education, get more comfortable with the online learning environment, and make sure that when things come back to a more normal setting, they’re in a good position to move forward.

Williams followed, detailing the various elements of LCPS’s 100 percent distance-learning model with limited exceptions, as well as its plans to implement a four-stage hybrid learning model later in the fall.

Just 12 hours prior, per the recommendation of Williams and other senior staff, the Loudoun County School Board voted to include a select group of special-education students to enter a remote learning model by Oct. 13 in “Stage 1” of that process, as well as certain English learners and preschool students no later than Oct. 27.

About 900 students at the Academies of Loudoun’s Monroe Advanced Technical Academy will also be permitted to return in a hybrid model on the first day of school Sept. 8, as many of MATA’s courses involve hands-on instruction.

“Yes, our preference would be for 100 percent in-person learning for all students, safely delivered, and while that’s not where we are, we’re incredibly enthusiastic about the start of a new school year,” Williams said in his opening remarks Wednesday. “Teachers can’t wait to meet their kids, principals are excited that teachers are back to work this week.”

According to the superintendent, LCPS staff’s four key components in planning for the new school year include: wellness, including students’ and staffers’ physical and social-emotional prosperity; deeper learning, which Williams described as real-world application of learned material; culture, which involves community care and a “whole-child approach;” and operations and systems — “organizing our people, time and resources for success.”

The superintendent then introduced three division principals — Robert Marple of Cedar Lane Elementary, Renée Dawson of Brambleton Middle and Sheila Alzate of Briar Woods High — who presented brief slideshows demonstrating their schools’ implementation of these four key components.

Metcalfe spent the back half of the program conducting a question-and-answer session with the visiting educators, accepting questions from spectators via Zoom instant message.

Williams responded to the first question, which asked how much weight feedback from LCPS families and community members plays in the back-to-school decision-making process.

The subject of community involvement has been prevalent for Williams and LCPS senior staff, particularly following the School Board’s July 22 vote to begin the school year fully virtually, which contravened its earlier decision to start in a hybrid model with a 100 percent distance-learning option.

The July 22 vote also effectively nullified the previous process by which families and employees indicated whether they wished to return to school partially in person or entirely remote.

“Community feedback regarding distance learning experiences led to changes to how we wanted to approach distance learning this fall,” he said. “At the end of the day though, in terms of decisions about safety, we need to be driven by data, not only about public health measures, but also in terms of data to be able to operate schools effectively, relating to staffing needs, supplies, consistency of public health mitigation practices.”

He and Leidig also responded to questions regarding achievement gaps within their institutions’ respective student bodies. For NOVA, this involved — among other efforts — increasing the number of courses with remote-learning options, particularly in predominately hands-on fields.

“As a college, we are re-centering ourselves completely around equity work, because although we’ve made some progress in closing achievement gaps and so on, there’s still a lot that we need to do,” Leidig said.

Internet use for students with limited broadband access is another equity-related concern that has faced LCPS, and one which Assistant Superintendent for Digital Innovation Vince Scheivert addressed in a presentation during Tuesday’s School Board meeting, though no related board action was taken.

Per Williams, LCPS has so far distributed 1,000 Internet hotspots to families with inadequate Web access, and the school system has ordered another 800.

Further, both NOVA and LCPS have made efforts to better understand individual student, family and faculty needs, with Brambleton Middle and Cedar Lane Elementary conducting what Dawson referred to as “empathy interviews.”

“We formulated a list of things that we knew we needed to do to make sure we provided engaging and authentic lessons for kids that they would be interested in,” she said. “The work we’re doing in the fall is actually the voices of our community, which we’re really, really excited about.”

One of the most common questions addressed was what metrics educators hope to eventually see that will indicate a readiness for students to return to school in person.

“We want to start small, and then attempt to scale up,” Williams said, adding LCPS will continue to monitor local health data tracking community transmission to make decisions regarding when to implement the second, third and fourth stages of the planned hybrid model.

While, as Williams earlier remarked, LCPS aims to eventually return to in-person learning across the board, NOVA may well be looking at a post-pandemic paradigm shift.

“We are really adjusting a lot as we go along,” Leidig said. “For this fall, the rate of people signing up for asynchronous learning has skyrocketed … Once they get used to that, are they going to want to continue with more asynchronous learning in the future, and should we shift our resources more into that? We’re not expecting the post-COVID world to look exactly like the pre-COVID world, and our goal is always to meet our students where they are.”

(20) comments

Barry Hussein

Let's see ...distance learning in the spring was a debacle of epic proportions, LCPS parents offered hybrid option (40% chose hybrid and number would have been higher for too much BS asynchronous time), Comrade Williams then decided to remove the in person option after the vote, virtual learning guaranteed to be a joke this fall, teachers whining "we can't teach from the grave" on their way back from the mall while the rest of us are back at work managing the risks, all sorts of teachers (PE, Arts, TA's) and LCPS getting paid for nothing, and zero school age kids have died due to Covid . I'd say the state of educated in Loudoun County is pathetic. The only quality instruction kids are getting is from in person tutors we are paying for. Let me know when school opens for real so I can wake up my kids.


Maybe you could convince everyone to wear a mask and we can get past all this and things can go back to normal. Remember why they shut the schools in spring to begin with? It's still here. There is also free school online

K12.com VA Tuition-Free Online School


I wouldn't be surprised if LCPS and the teachers, especially elective teachers plotted this whole pandemic out so they can just get paid for doing nothing and go to the mall and shop. Yep, It is all beginning to make sense. Since they are lazy, unmotivated and do such a horrible job. Now I see why so many young people are disrespectful to teachers now and not only do they have to play teacher but parent and police too because of the example some of us have towards teachers most likely rubbing off on our kids. Sad and sick. Yep, teachers are such whiners. I guess we can say the same about the professors at Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Michigan State. In fact, all the coaches and elective teachers at these colleges should be let go of since they won't be doing anything virtually and will never go back to school. And now, Wow, Loudoun made the wise decision weeks ago shortly after the survey because facts from the CDC came in and are being adhered to. Now many, many school systems who said they would open on a hybrid model are quickly backing out at the last minute in our general area, Check Clarke county just a few days before opening at a meeting last week. I know of at least 2 others in Northern Va that are about to do the same and very little time for parents to react now.

Virginia SGP

Private schools aren't backing out. The overreacions will soon fade away and many schools will actually be teaching kids in-person unlike the irrationally paranoid LCPS.

You see, it doesn't make sense to close schools because 50% of the student body has HIV. HiV doesn't spread easily. If LCPS students are not in close contact (and even for close contact, European research showed it rarely spread in school PRIOR to the lockdown/mitigation measures), then incidence rates in LoCo is not very relevant.

Teachers are irrationally paranoid and ignorant (see Franklin Templeton-Gallup survey about complete overeaction by Hypcrats who are emulating Chicken Little on COVID). They refuse to allow teachers who will go teach (both current and new teachers that could be hired) to replace them. As we know, schools DO NOT exist to employ highly paid adults (to sit at home) but rather to effectively educate students. Why don't you repeat that 1000 times and see if you can get over your teacher apologist act and put students/science first.


You are so good at ignoring things I bring up statistically and in the real world and then throw out one thing to advocate you point that had nothing to do with my post. Private schools in the area are very small and many are closing down throughout America FOR GOOD as we speak. https://www.cato.org/covid-19-permanent-private-closures. There are tons of articles regarding private schools that are having to close down for good now. I am sure there is an "obligation" to stay open with the huge cost and small enrollment of No Va. private schools. And in about 2 weeks after opening, check back in and lets see.... You totally ignored the college closures I mentioned and other area high schools who had planned to go totally virtual right after planning in person for a few days, just like you have ignored the embarrassment between Manassas City and Prince William Counties payscale being way, way higher than teachers in Loudoun and having other retirement perks that are far better. And no, the average pay for the teachers with 30+ in Fairfax did not include ESY or Homebound. I actually talked to someone on the phone in Human Resource in Fairfax and the average was based on a lot more than a 1% yearly raise. You overall worth of value of benefits and retirement is also leaving out many key facts that just plain throw all of your jibberish out the window. You like to belittle and say condescending things to those who say anything contrary to your anti-teacher anti-school system rhetoric. I am sure with your small physical stature some of it revolves around having "Napoleon Complex" and you bully people on social media and attack one of the most reputable professions constantly to make up for your inferiority. Then you take them to court if they speak contrary to your beliefs. .That is about as cowardly as it gets. We do live in a high pressure world right now and you may want to think before you attack a group of people the way you do and their livelihood. One day you will cross someone who will be tired of your hateful comments and it will make you think twice about being the school yard bully. You say "Teachers are irrationally paranoid and ignorant," and yet every LCPS teacher I know chose to teach in person and did not want to teach virtually. 23 of those friends chose in person and 2 teachers I know that are actually younger than 50 with pre-existing conditions chose virtual. Oh, but if they are scared they should retire and give up all there years of service in the mean time and let one of the 4000 waiting in line have their job. How would you like it if you had done your job 25,26,27 years and were close to retirement but compromised to have issues if you got Covid. How would you feel if someone said that about you after working most of your life in teaching and being so close to the end. When you make blanket statements like that you offend a lot of people. Your "fairyland" thought that students in middle school will stay 6 feet apart and social distance and follow those guidelines is a joke. Why don't you repeat 1000 times "I hate teachers", "I hate teachers" and be honest. No matter what is brought up about heroic and life changing moments that teachers play in a students life you will say something to the contrary. I feel sad for the parents who follow your ramblings like puppets in LEAP and it is a sad state of affairs that you can propagate such anti-teacher sentiment.


SGP, again with all the bully BS? Always your opening line. Start off with degrading the other person. Can’t you just hold a debate without being nasty? 1) I gave you the site to see if FX pays more after the steps but you don’t use it. 2)18K students is consequential compared to 50.7 million public school students in the US. 3) Many colleges are having REAL problems with covid since opening. They thought they were so prepared too, but left out the human component of people will be people. They have a policy and students’ behavior doesn’t always match those polices, and they limited in enforcing the policies over those behaviors. Chapel Hill 177 students tested positive, The University of Notre Dame suspended in-person classes after positive tests by 147 students. The number of students getting suspended from classes is growing for not following the rules. How many college have even reopened or been open long enough to pass any type of judgement on how they are doing with Covid. It is wait and see for most of them, 4) The CDC also recommends that everyone 2 years and older wear a mask and recent data show that 7.3% of all cases of COVID-19 in the United States reported to CDC were among children (as of August 3rd, 2020). The CDC also says; Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults7 and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings. And for that blip, the CDC says; While children infected with SARS-CoV-2 are less likely to develop severe illness compared with adults, children are still at risk of developing severe illness and complications from COVID-19. Recent COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance data shows that the rate of hospitalization among children is low (8.0 per 100,000 population) compared with that in adults (164.5 per 100,000 population), but hospitalization rates in children are increasing. While children have lower rates of mechanical ventilation and death than adults, 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States were admitted to the intensive care unit, which is the same in adults. You can call the teachers all the name you want but it doesn't change the facts


That's ok Amerigirl, these rants and attacks give him worth in life. Like I said, A Napaleon type complex for sure, The schoolyard bully, believe me, If her were telling this 6 ft 7 290 pound 20 year Marine in person that he is ignorant, a charleton, and other indignities and not be hiding in his little virtual world I, well, I just don't think that would play out the way he would like it to finish, but I know cowards will not do that in person, Brian has absolutely no class and lives to bully. His hate for teachers is a sad testament to what an unappreciative fool he is. It sad that his LEAP group does not realize what a arrogant man who loves himself so much leads them in such a negative manner and blatantly lies. Pretty soon he will get his wish and 90% of the Loudoun teachers will be driving over the mountain and others will simply drive to Manassas or get that HUGE Extra retirement in Fairfax along with the HIGHER salary in the last 20+ years on the scale. He has a scary bitterness towards one of the most important professions around. I had a friend of mine look over his many rants over the numerous articles that he has responded to who works as a psychologist/profiler and she deemed him to be very a very concerning individual, to watch out for his personality type and that he was very psychotic and to avoid going back and forth with him, so the proof is in the pudding. Unfortunatley, i have always had a hard time ingnoring bullying. As I have said, someday his hate for teachers and careless bulyling will come around in life when he makes the mistake or belittling the wrong person. Notice how LCPS is always touted as paying so high but he has not addressed the HUGE difference that I have listed in the past in the payscales of the Manassas City and Prince William in comparison to LCPS. I have had the scales printed copies for years of PWCS, Manassas City, Farifax and Loudoun and he is way, way off on his facts but will not admit it. There is no reason to continue to banter back and forth and live a life arguing with someone who carries himself the way he does. I just think it is sad that he is even allowed to comment in the way he does in these comment sections. Part of the freedoms I have fought for I guess. And you say teachers are highly paid employees to sit at home. I know 3 current teachers who are absolutly more overwhelmed than any time in their 10 years of teaching in all tha trainings, special meetings, phone calls to parents, and hours of prep that are going into this virtual teaching and all it will entail. You are so, so out of touch with what is really going on but play like the expert. Funny, where the heck did you get the 6% raise from.I know Mr. Morse wanted that way back during talks BEFORE that pandemic but you threw that out a few time recently and know it is not in the works. That is a straight out LIE, There is no raise in LCPS this year and yes, understandable with the current Pandemic. Oh, I know, they are all rich anyway..yeah, compare a teacher salary to the average salary of Loudoun residents. Oh, I am sure you will pull some obscure stat out of your #)$)# and claim it to be true. Life is way to short to live with the hate you carry for teachers.


I guess University of Notre Dame,, Michigan State, University of North Carolina, Oklahoma State are run by a group of uneducated losers too since they actually had students attend a few days and now due to outbreaks are sending them home. Many others are considering following suit. I am sure the parents of these college kids are going to get their money back and their teachers have it made now since they ONLY have to teacher virtual. Teaching virtual is much, much more stressful than in person totally and completely. The virtual that took place in the Spring was NOT effective. Some of you just love to hear yourself talk. It gets old...Sit there and eat your bon bons while you respond to Loudoun Tiimes all day while you get paid for doing..well..ah..not sure..with continual hate for LCPS for the day will come when all the hate and criticism comes home....This virus will pass and will and is becoming less lethal and very possibly mutating to a more contagious but less deadly strain. I will say that some local teachers not too far from Loudoun West, (like 2 miles) were hospitalized with severe symptoms, both active teachers, and had the fight of their life in the past few weeks, In shape and healthy men. It easy to all be experts on how things will play out but there is a legitimate reason Loudoun went virtual and is playing it smart. Now we are seeing many, many, many, many others follow suit.


Where is the fairness? Where is the school board? Where is the data to justify degrading what has been heralded as one of the best school systems in America? Where is Dr. Hatrick? :-)


Where is the pandemic? Safety first


Students that are serious about school, will try in school. They will see no difference between in school and online class, because they are there to learn. If kids have the passion to learn, they will do anything to get that A. Stop complaining how LCPS is messing up, you know that LCPS can't send students back to school in person. You know cases are on the rise again. Stop being so childish about it and think about lives. Kids can learn if they have passion for it. If they don't take it seriously, then they will fail.

More Cowbell

I wonder if LCPS will publish the number of kids that show up for zoom classes. Last year(March - June), most grades were at 33% according to several teachers I know in Loudoun. When the teachers tried to reach out to the kids not showing up, some said computer/tablet didn't work, no internet, and why show up. Don't expect much to change... Parents need to realize, kids are not going to school this year.

Virginia SGP

Supt Williams never fails to go big in his lies: "we need to be driven by data" said the Supt who has created no metrics nor detailed any quantitative basis for banning students from attending school in-person. What a complete joke. This is what happens when ill-prepared liberal arts majors with a penchant for lying are given the reins of a public school district -> an unmitigated disaster.


Agree SGP. Squeaky Eric Williams is a huge failure. He and his merry band are in the process of destroying the Loudoun education system. He should resign.


He should be fired!

Virginia 5GP

Shocking. Yet another negative comment from VA SGP about LCPS.

Virginia SGP

Yet another comment with no data, research or logic from a silly satirical account. At some point, the apologists will have to defend LCPS lack of facts, research or logic to be considered credible.


Again with the superior attitude. Admit it you aren't thinking about what is best for the kids as for yourself and your political stance. So go ahead, make your little degrading comment about me and use the pseudo science to prove the point


Bob Marple is an awesome principal. Very hard working and good at his job. Hope he stays at cedar lane.


the state of education is the worst it has ever been....pathetic and these clowns are laughing about it....

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