School Board decides Coronavirus metrics for return to online learning, sparks discussion on viability of decided metrics


This image features an image of the LCPS COVID Case Data webpage, containing information on the two metrics decided to indicate return to 100% distance learning by the Loudoun County school board, as of November 17.

November 17, seven days before LCPS’s Thanksgiving break, an emergency school board meeting ruled in a 6 – 3 decision that all hybrid students would be moved to 100 percent distance learning if two separate metrics were both passed for five consecutive business days.

The first metric is passed when the number of new cases per 100,000 residents exceeds 200 during a 14 day period.

The second metric is passed when the positivity rate of coronavirus tests reaches 10 percent. This means that out of all people tested if 10 percent of tests come back positive the metric would be passed.

As of December 15 the metrics stood at 573.9 cases within the last 14 days and 11.7 percent of test positive within the last 14 days. This means that the metrics have been passed for five consecutive days and children already in hybrid learning were returned to 100 percent distance learning. There is no confirmed effect on plans for introduction of new students to in person learning in January.

This decision had the majority of support with 6 out of 9 members of the school board voting in favor of it. According to a Loudoun Now article, many supporters are in favor of the motion because it allows parents to easily track metrics. This ability would help the school board be clearer about how they are deciding switches to online and hybrid, and may allow parents the ability to prepare for a switch to distance learning from watching the metrics.

Parents are able to see daily updated metrics, monitored by the Virginia Department of Health, on the LCPS COVID Case Data webpage.

There were also dissenters to the motion, who found the metrics used and the plan overall to be unsatisfactory.

Some think the chosen metrics should be completely changed.

John Beatty, the school board member representing Catoctin district, wrote in an email dated November 20, about why he opposed the decided upon metrics and what, in his opinion, would have been better: “They affected the whole district, rather than each school or grade level individually. We need to consider in school Covid cases and transmissions, and we need to do so on a school by school basis.”

Others believe that they should be changed in smaller ways, or supplemented.

“The two metrics are helpful, but wholly inadequate. The most important metric is in-school transmission rate. If we have no transmission in schools, then that likely means the environment in schools is actually safer than outside the school. The CDC agrees with this,” wrote Jeff Morse, school board member representing Dulles district, in an email dated November 20.

School board members have also had dissenting opinions on the plan based on the metrics.

“This plan provides no flexibility, either shutting down or opening back up. We might want to scale back hybrid, or if we are 100 distance learning, we might want to scale it up. And it might take a few days to phase the hybrid students back into the classrooms. The current policy means students could be out of school one day, in the next, and out the next!  We need to fix that,” Morse wrote.

“Taking students out of in-person instruction is very disruptive – that’s why I had supported an alternative to pause bringing new groups of students into school if our numbers get high, but to not automatically take everyone out of hybrid without having a conversation about it first,” wrote Ian Seratokin, school board member representing Blue Ridge district, in an email dated November 20.

“I firmly believe  that we should have enabled the school board to continue to make decisions allowing some high risk/high need students to continue in hybrid while others may have their hybrid scaled back or deleted,” Morse wrote.

The majority of support is behind the use of metrics as the school board decided, even with some finding the metrics used, or subsequent plan, unsatisfactory.

Parents and students can keep updated on where the metrics stand with this link:

Supporters of the motion including Beth Barts (Leesburg), Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn), and Leslee King (Broad Run District) were contacted for comment but did not reply.