Loudoun County Public Schools intends to return students to the classroom five days a week for the 2021-2022 school year, offer some form of in-person graduation this spring and provide comprehensive summer school programs for students who need to catch up.

The school system initiated a hybrid learning model last week for its middle- and high-school students, meaning more than 29,000 children in the county now visit physical classrooms two days a week and learn virtually for the other three.

LCPS Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler on Tuesday provided an operational update for next school year to the Loudoun County School Board and said LCPS staff plan to review the effectiveness and safety of hybrid learning later this month.

The review will also go into whether the school system is ready to expand in-person learning to four days a week for the remainder of the school year.

Administrators will evaluate feedback from teachers and principals, schools’ ability to accommodate students given spatial limitations, and the potential impact on student and teacher schedules.

Ziegler, responding to a question from School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles District), predicted LCPS could expand to four days of in-person learning as early as the fourth quarter of this school year, which begins April 12, though staff would need time to prepare accordingly.

While the school system surveyed parents in late 2020 to determine how many children would engage in hybrid learning for the spring 2021 semester, no such survey will be distributed before a possible fourth-quarter expansion of in-person learning.

“We would need to develop the survey, provide at least a two-week window for the parents to respond to that, and then another three-week window for principals to disaggregate that data and make scheduling changes,” the interim superintendent said.

“We would then need to forward that information to transportation, where they would need at least three weeks in order to update routing system information,” Ziegler said.

Planning for the expansion of in-person teaching both this year and next is also incumbent upon the impending Virginia State Senate Bill 1303, which was filed Feb. 1 and would direct all Virginia school systems to “make in-person learning available to all students.”

Governor Ralph Northam (D) has yet to sign SB 1303, so it is not yet known whether the bill, if signed, will mandate Virginia school systems to offer five days a week of in-person classes or some other blend of in-person and virtual learning.

Commencement ceremonies for graduating seniors are scheduled for June 7-17, according to the LCPS website, and Ziegler said administrators “anticipate some form of in-person graduation,” though specifics have not yet been announced.

“Principals are working on having hosted graduations in the football stadium with more details to come,” Ziegler said. “I don’t want to make any promises prematurely, but we are working on that as a possible solution.”

LCPS will also provide five-week, no-cost summer school programs for students at all grade levels, including specialized programs for English Learners and special education students.

Before giving details to the School Board on Tuesday, LCPS Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ashley Ellis assured that both her department and the Department of Pupil Services — led by Assistant Superintendent Asia Jones — are still working to plan curriculum and support for next school year atop the rigors of summer school planning.

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“That’s not the focus of this presentation, but I did want to make sure that you knew that that work was underway as well,” she said.

Per Ellis, elementary students will undergo a five-day-per-week program focused on language arts and math, with at least four of the five weeks taking place in person at six Title I sites and six regional sites.

Elementary teachers will reach out to parents whose children have not met growth goals in English and/or math this year to recommend enrollment by April 5. Registration will close May 28.

Each LCPS middle school will host its own virtual or concurrent summer school program, which is recommended for students with a C or lower in English and math to ensure they cover key concepts.

Information about each school’s program will be posted to its website by April 12, according to Ellis.

Unlike the two lower levels, the high school summer program will focus specifically on credit recovery and will only be available to students who are failing a course.

Along with the four core subjects of English, math, science and social studies, this program will offer students the opportunity to recover credits in the subjects of economics, personal finance, world languages, career and technical education, and others.

High school summer programs will start as early as June 16 and finish as late as August 6, depending on the school.

Students may earn as many as three high school credits through Virtual Loudoun during their high school career, with a limit of one course per summer.

For English Learners, summer programs will be offered in-person from June 28 to July 30 for all grade levels as well as limited virtual options for secondary students, according to Jones.

Special education summer programming is planned for the same timeframe, though Jones said Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams will determine each student’s needs and whether they will require recovery services or an extended school year.

“Despite the efforts of school divisions across the state and also across the country, we recognize that there are some students that may show regression in their progress and gaps in their learning,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, the Office of Special Education will host a summer program recruitment fair on March 22 with the hope of accruing enough staffers to aid in the program over the summer.

In a recent survey of SPED teachers and teacher assistants, 65 percent of respondents said they would be interested in working in the program.

While certain factors may prove problematic when arranging summer programs — insufficient staffing, teacher and student fatigue from the past year, limited space and transportation issues — Ellis concluded her and Jones’ presentation with vocal determination to welcome all students who would benefit from summer school.

“Our hope is that we will be able to accommodate any student who needs credit recovery at the high school level or any student who is recommended [from] elementary or middle school,” she said.

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