In what many Loudoun parents view as a major betrayal, LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams proposed, and the Board of Loudoun County Public Schools voted 8-1 in the early hours of the morning of July 22, to condemn all 83,000 Loudoun County school children to 100% distance learning for the start of Fall semester, with a “return to a hybrid learning model in stages.”
The school board members supported this denial of service are:
Brenda Sheridan (Chair, Sterling District) 571-233-0307, brenda.
Atoosa Reaser (Vice-Chair, Algonkian District) 571-291-5325, Atoosa.Reaser@
Denise Corbo (At-Large) 571–246-3766, Denise.Corbo@
Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn DIstrict) 571-420-9312, Harris.Mahedavi@
Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) 571-420-1628, Ian.Serotkin@
Leslee King (Broad Run District) 571-439-5570, Leslee.King@
John Beatty (Catoctin District) 571-440-1410, John.Beatty@
Beth Barts (Leesburg District) 571-440-1473, Beth.Barts@LCPS.
Jeff Morse (Dulles District) was the only dissenting vote.
The board’s shift looks like an about-face from an earlier statement on the LCPS website page titled “Return to School 2020 Planning” which reads, “LCPS wants to maximize in-person, safe learning experiences for all our students in the 2020-2021 school year, and we know that many families and students share this priority. Our preference would be for 100% in-person learning, as long as we can provide learning experiences safely and in accordance with the requirements and recommendations of state and public health officials.”
This earlier preference for in-person learning was rooted in the science-backed recommendations of the CDC and Virginia Department of Health, both of which suggest reasonable social distancing and recognize the minimal threat of the virus to children. It also reflected our collective experience in Loudoun this past Spring: Online learning is a disaster for children in comparison to in-person classroom experience.
As one commenter at yesterday’s meeting pointed out, a lost semester of learning in childrens’ educational development at this crucial stage in their lives is gone forever and will set children back in their learning and development in ways from which many may never fully recover.
Several weeks ago, the LCPS board gave Loudoun parents only two choices: hybrid learning or 100% distance learning. Parents were not given the option to express their preference for a full return to in-person learning at that time. Even so, nearly 50% of Loudoun parents opted for the hybrid model by either selecting it (38%+) or not responding (10%+) which they were informed would default them into the hybrid model.
Public comment at the July 21 meeting was limited by the Chair to one minute per speaker. I accordingly had to somewhat abridge my prepared statement, the full text of which (with some personal detail redacted) follows:
My name is Daniel Brubaker. We [are LCPS parents].
I have a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from University of Washington, and a PhD in another area.
My wife is a family physician [who manages many other physicians].
Both of us know how to read and handle data.
Both of us also understand how to assess the relative danger of medical situations.
Both of us love or children and would not send them, or others, into unusual danger.
Both of us want our kids back in school 5 days a week this fall.
We understand that some parents may be uneasy about sending their kids back to school. Unless their kids have an underlying condition, such fear is mostly irrational in my view, but fine: Provide an option for any parent to keep their kids home with alternate ways to keep up with lectures and homework.
The default should be schools open five days a week, as usual.
The default should be schools open five days a week, as usual.
LCPS does not exist to serve the teachers’ unions.
LCPS does not exist to serve the teachers and employees (though we are grateful to them).
LCPS exists to serve the children.
If Costco can set up a plexiglass barrier at the cash registers in order to conduct essential business, LCPS can set up plexiglass barriers for any teachers who are uncomfortable without them. LCPS can assess those teachers and employees in risk categories and make appropriate provisions. For the remaining 80-90% of us, please stop scarring our children with this breathless fear-mongering … and get back to business.
A few meeting highlights (time stamps on LCPS video are noted):
5:31 Dr. Goodfriend (a medical expert) affirmed that, regardless of mask or no mask, CDC guidance (also followed by VA Dept of Health) calls for no testing or contact tracing if 6ft distance was maintained and contact was no more than 15 minutes from even a virus-positive individual. Atoosa Reaser seems to object to the CDC’s scientifically-backed and evidence-based guidance as not sufficiently stringent. But (5:36:20) she admits that the school board members are not scientists or medical professionals.
7:24 Mahedava says that under the 100% distance learning plan, kids living in cramped apartments or condos, or with limited or poor internet connections, will be disadvantaged.
7:27 Morse: Calls attention back to the most important item: Those parents who chose the hybrid model and whose children will be denied an in-person learning experience under 100% distance learning. Children may go all year without ever meeting their teachers.
7:30 Board is not using facts. Board is using feelings and sentiments. Students wanting two days of classroom assistance are now going to get zero days of classroom assistance.
7:37 Altoosa Reaser expresses her intent to hold in-person learning for children hostage until she gets “a coordinated national or state strategy for testing, tracing, and isolation.” Again (see 5:31 above), her expectations clearly exceed what is recommended by the CDC and VA Department of Health. She says it has become clear that we will not be able to effectuate a safe plan, again, seemingly elevating her level of alarmism beyond the science-based precautions recommended by the above agencies. In an apparent call to keep LCPS in fetal position indefinitely, she continues, “I don’t know at what point, if ever, we would know what a ‘hot spot’ is, and I certainly don’t want to be determining that…”
7:42 Reaser asks if there are going to be layoffs of people not needed under a 100% distance model, but phrases it as a leading question suggesting these people need to be kept on payroll in order for schools to be ready to return. Williams answers that his intent is to keep staff occupied, so as not to lose employees subject to furlough to other opportunities.
7:47 Denise Corbo says that two students (out of 83,000) “have symptoms” — she does not say that they have the virus — and then states, “schools are not designed for COVID.” She says we have to be prepared or we will have to be prepared for loss of life.
7:48 Denise Corbo suggests that N95 (full fitted surgical) masks are needed in the schools. She does not cite any CDC or other guidance to support such a claim.
7:51 Denise Corbo says that “We should not put our employees in the position to choose between their safety and their lives.”
8:21 Harris Mahedava “I make the motion that LCPS, based on the latest information, LCPS start with 100% distance learning with very limited or no exceptions, and then proceed in implementing the planned hybrid model in stages.” Beth Barts seconded. Reaser moved to strike the words “or no exceptions.” Williams clarified that only “or no” to be struck.
Vote is taken. All supervisors vote to force all Loudoun Public School Children into 100% distance learning, except Jeff Morse, who votes to give parents a choice.