Update: March 12, 4:53 a.m.
Superintendent Eric Williams has cancelled school for Loudoun County students March 12 through March 20.
Williams sent the following message to the LCPS community early Thursday:
"I sincerely apologize for sending you a message regarding school closure with minimal time to make adjustments; however, given the rapidly evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus, Loudoun County Public Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 12th through Friday, March 20th. All activities are also cancelled at this time. Administrative Offices will open at twelve today with regular office hours on other days during the school closure."
Williams said he is not aware of anyone connected to the school system testing positive for coronavirus.
His message continued:
"As you may know, the World Health Organization declared the novel Coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic yesterday, travel between the United States and Europe was recently suspended, and some events and large gatherings have been postponed or cancelled in our region, state, and nation. Loudoun County has experienced at least one presumptive positive case of COVID-19. While Loudoun County has not experienced the extent of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 as some other areas within our nation or globally and has not had cases that meet the definition of community transmission, we are making this decision out of an abundance of caution. We plan to announce next steps by the end of next week.
The safety and well-being of Loudoun County Public Schools’ students, staff, and families is our highest priority; therefore, we need time as a school system to reassess this rapidly evolving situation by taking time to:
•continue our daily consultation with the Loudoun County Health Department to consider the latest information regarding presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Loudoun County as well as recommendations based on that information to determine whether to reopen schools on March 23;
•review recommendations from other experts, such as the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC;
•consider the community mitigation strategies for school systems recently set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as any related follow-up recommendations; and
•develop specific mitigation strategies to implement when schools reopen, as early as March 23.
While we are unaware of any presumptive positive cases of individuals connected to schools, schools will be thoroughly cleaned before they reopen.
Please continue to exercise proper hand washing with soap and other universal preventive actions such as covering your cough, sneezing into your elbow or tissue (throw away tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at home.
We will provide you with multiple updates during the closure. Among numerous issues, we are considering different ways of supporting students who rely on our school meals program due to food insecurity. We are also developing guidance to principals and teachers regarding potential distance learning options and expectations in the event that the closure is extended.
Thank you for your support and understanding as we balance proactive measures of caution and timely communication."
Original report: March 11, 6:05 p.m.
Loudoun County Public Schools will close for a teacher work day March 20 to prepare faculty for the possibility of distance learning resulting from COVID-19, Superintendent Eric Williams announced Wednesday night.
"...all teachers will participate in training and structured planning time regarding distance learning options," Williams wrote.
To further aid distance learning efforts, the Loudoun County School Board has approved the transfer of $5 million to accelerate a one-to-one rollout of Chromebooks to students grades 3 through 12, according to LCPS.
Williams also announced LCPS has canceled all in- and out-of-state overnight field trips from March 11 to April 30. All scheduled day trips, except those destined to New York state, will proceed as planned. Student participation in instructional field trips, athletic trips and other outings remains optional.
Regarding attendance, the superintendent referred to Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend's remarks at Tuesday's School Board meeting. "...if there was no underlying medical basis to keep [your] child home during influenza season, it is unlikely that the condition would prevent the child from safely attending school," Williams wrote.
He further encouraged families to visit the LCPS "COVID-19 Preparedness" webpage, where visitors can watch presentations to the School Board from Goodfriend and LCPS Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Asia Jones, as well as other information and preventive strategies. That page is available at lcps.org/Page/227421.
"LCPS has not announced any changes to the regular school schedule -- other than canceling classes for the March 20 teacher work day -- at this time," school system spokesman Rob Doolittle told the Times-Mirror.