Hundreds of parents held a silent protest outside of the Loudoun County Public Schools administration building this morning, pressing for a virtual option for students as multiple classes are in quarantine because COVID exposure and concerns escalate over the potent Delta variant.
The district allowed students to sign up for Virtual Loudoun option earlier in the summer, before Delta had taken hold. Amar Athikam, a father of two elementary school students, was one of more than 4,500 parents who signed a petition requesting that the school district provide a synchronous online learning option for students. Currently, providing full-time in-person learning is the priority for the school district. To Athikam, and other worried parents who missed out on registering for the virtual option before the June deadline, the new variant’s late-summer onset is a game-changer.
“Cases are showing up in elementary schools. We are not asking everyone goes to distance learning, we can still do the in-person. We just are requesting an option,” Athikam said.
The death of a Fairfax County elementary school student last week, and positive cases at multiple Loudoun elementary schools, sharpened fears among parents.
“There was one kid lost in Fairfax. That left all the parents heartbroken. We don’t want to lose any more kids in Loudoun. That’s the reason everyone is here, especially elementary school kids,” said parent Sree NagiReddi.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the virus posed a much larger risk to older populations than to young children. Although, 76.2% of Loudouners 18 years old and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the county health department, the vaccine isn’t yet available to people under 12 years old, making elementary school populations more vulnerable to infection and spread.
The petition, which was presented to Superintendent Scott Ziegler’s office this morning, requested that students be permitted to continue in their current classes, with their current teachers, at home, using a video livestream.
Superintendent Scott Ziegler has said that under the health and safety protocols used by the district, which are recommended by the state department of health, parents of a student considered a “close contact” of a person infected with COVID will be notified that their child needs to quarantine. Close contacts are students who came within three feet of an infected person. Students who need to quarantine continue online learning using the Schoology platform. If an entire class must quarantine, the class will join on GoogleMeet.
One of the central concerns of parents at the march was that students sit near each other during lunch, and do not wear masks. During school students, teachers, and staff may only remove masks when actively eating and drinking, participating in P.E., or standing outside.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many parents have called for schools to reopen for full-time learning. This is the first five-day week of students in classrooms since March 2020.
The school district did not immediately provide comment on the petition.