For the first time in 51 weeks, students on Wednesday walked through the doors of Loudoun’s middle and high schools for a full day of in-person classes.
Loudoun’s schools were closed March 12, 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While special needs and elementary school students, along with some students at the Academies of Loudoun, returned to parttime in-person learning last year, secondary students remained all online until this week. For one school—the new Lightridge High School—students will be walking through the doors for the first time.
Only about a third of the school division’s 81,000 students have opted to return to the classroom for two days of in-person learning per week during the second semester. Most will continue to learn from home—elementary students continuing in their distance learning classes and secondary students through a new concurrent instruction program where they’ll be logged into in-person classes.
Now school leaders will be assessing the next steps to expand in-person learning. On March 9, the School Board will hear recommendations on how to expand summer school offerings to help students who fell behind to catch up before classes resume next fall, when it is expected that students will return to a full time in-person schedule.
On March 23, administrators will return to the School Board with a review of the hybrid model implementation and to explore options for expanding in-person learning to allow for more days in the classroom before the end of the school year.
Although school leaders are planning for a return to normal classes when the new school year begins in August, virtual learning won’t be going away. The bill the passed by the General Assembly mandating that school divisions offer in-person learning to all students requires that virtual learning options be offered as well. The School Board’s adopted budget includes new funding to expand online classes, but the scale of that offering may be determined by another parent survey planned for May. It is then that families will be asked if they plan in-person or virtual classes during the 2021-22 school year.