School District to Implement New COVID Protocols

Loudoun County Public Schools is shortening the length of time staff members and students infected with COVID-19 must isolate from 10 days to five, in accordance with the latest recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health, despite previously stating it wouldn’t do so until mid-January.

Superintendent Scott Ziegler previously announced plans to continue the 10-day quarantine requirement when classes resumed after winter break. Ziegler said in an email to families that the new protocols wouldn’t be implemented until Jan. 17, allowing for transmission data to be analyzed before a decision was made.

The new guidance also requires fully vaccinated individuals who are eligible for a booster shot but have not yet received one to isolate if they are close contacts of infected individuals.

Individuals deemed close contacts who are asymptomatic may forgo the isolation period after showing proof of having received a vaccine booster, two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in the last six months, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last two months.

The new guidance comes as evidence shared by the CDC found that transmission of the virus is most likely to occur one to two days before the onset of symptoms, and two to three days after. Now, infected individuals may return to school five days after testing positive, regardless of their status.

The spread of the Omicron variant during the holidays led to a pandemic era-high 1,215 new cases being reported in Loudoun County on Dec. 31. The seven-day average of new cases reported, as of Jan. 4, was 767.

The division is continuing with mitigation protocols, requiring all people in school buildings to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Still, parents and staff members took to social media to express concerns. Many speculate that the change in protocols is due to a shortage of teachers and substitutes.

One mother posted on Facebook a photo of her daughter’s positive COVID test on day eight of the child’s illness, three days after the student would have been permitted to return if school had been in session.

Staff at one high school were reportedly told that due to teacher shortages, classes might be combined in the gymnasium.

Shortly after the new protocols were announced, School Board member Andrew Hoyler said on Facebook that he had not been briefed on the change.

“When I have answers, I will share them with you all, but unfortunately at this point, I’m as confused as many of you,” he said in his post.

The school division did not respond with comment on the sudden change by press time. 

3 thoughts on “School District to Implement New COVID Protocols

  • 2022-01-04 at 4:45 pm

    I can’t fault Dr. Ziegler for changing course. He’s being flexible in a fluid situation. That’s commendable. We’re all in uncharted territory — doing our best without succumbing to fear & paranoia. Goodness know that’s not a healthy way to live. Somehow we must strike a balance & move forward with optimism. Happy New Year Loudoun!

  • 2022-01-04 at 6:43 pm

    So why was the entire school system closed today? Given state statute 22.1-79 REQUIRES school boards to operate with “utmost efficiency” I am hoping whomever is elected to be the new Chair will publicly explain why it is so difficult to keep most of LCPS open even if one or two schools apparently haven’t had a chance to shovel the sidewalks of the school. 🙂 It cost a few million every day even if schools are closed!

  • 2022-01-06 at 1:23 am

    Mr. Onhneiser, unless you are a relatively new Loudoun resident, which I don’t think you are, you know that the county has many miles of roads that are narrow and unpaved. While roads in Ashburn, Sterling, or in-town Leesburg may be clean as a whistle, those backroads may be treacherous.

    Years ago someone got the idea to split the county into east and west areas to close schools in the event of bad weather. That experiment last one day. Teachers at Eastern Loudoun schools who lived in the western portion of the county couldn’t get to school or, if they could, had to find emergency child care for their on kid whose western Loudoun schools were closed.

    Then, there was the school bus that slipped off one of those narrow, gravel roads and into a stream during a big storm. As I recall, the fire and rescue squads used boats to get those kids and driver to safety.

    Can you imagine trying to navigate that stretch of Edward’s Ferry Road, even now that it’s paved, between River Creek Parkway and Costco when that road was icy or snow covered while driving a bus load of children? I can’t and, I suspect that even a veteran school bus driver would white-knuckle that one.

    And then there was the time when River Creek Parkway iced up so much that even plows and dump trucks, much less school busses couldn’t pull the hill. The kids at Harper Park and Tolbert Elementary Schools ended up at school until late into the evening before the roads were able to be treated enough to get them out. By the way, that day Fairfax, where I taught, closed their schools at noon.

    And that, Mr. Ohneiser, and all the others who complain that Loudoun closes its schools too easily, is why that make that call.

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