- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Montgomery County school board has tentatively approved a phased plan to allow students to return for in-person instruction in January, and the Loudoun County School Board has approved allowing nearly 7,000 students to begin hybrid learning next month.

The Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday tentatively approved opening classrooms, starting in December with special education assessment centers at three schools.

Beginning Jan. 12, students in select special education, career and technology programs would return to classrooms, and other students would be phased in starting Feb. 1.

Officials have sent families a survey to select their preferred mode of instruction for their children, whether it’s to remain fully online or transition to “direct,” “simultaneous” or “support” learning.

Direct instruction will be conducted primarily in-person by a teacher with “limited virtual services.”

Simultaneous learning will involve a teacher instructing some students in-person and others online at the same time.

Support instruction will be conducted online by a teacher, but students will be physically in a classroom where they can receive help from a staff member. The school system will “need to reallocate current staff or hire additional staff” to accommodate the support model, officials said.

Under the plan, schools cannot reopen if Maryland’s COVID-19 case positivity rate goes over the 5% benchmark set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Board members are to cast a final vote on the proposal on Dec. 3.

Meanwhile, the board for Loudoun County Public Schools on Tuesday gave the green light for nearly 7,500 students to begin hybrid learning on Dec. 1.

Under a hybrid instruction plan, third- through fifth-grade and senior academy students will return to classrooms for two days a week and learn online two days, with one day reserved for “independent work.” The returning students will those those who opted to return in-person for the first semester in a summer survey.

Board members also approved a proposal for Loudoun County students in sixth through 12 grade to transition to hybrid instruction on Jan. 21.

A survey sent to families Wednesday asks if they want their children to return for in-person instruction or remain learning online for the second semester.

The board voted to allow school officials to make adjustments to classroom layouts if the number of students who want to go back to face-to-face instruction “increases significantly.”

In related news around the region:

Arlington Public Schools allowed students with disabilities to return for in-person instruction last week, but a recent hike in coronavirus cases led Superintendent Francisco Duran to put the brakes on allowing more students back this week.

Arlington Parents for Education tweeted: “Arlington’s children will feel the effects of this decision for years to come.”

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand is set to present Thursday an updated plan to bring more students back into classrooms sooner. Many students have been returning in phases since October.

D.C. schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said plans to begin sending children back in phases to classrooms last Friday were halted earlier in the week amid “feedback” from community members.

The initial proposal received criticism over equity and school operation disruption concerns due to reassigning staff to Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) classrooms.

Nonetheless, the chancellor wrote in an email to parents that a revised plan will begin with opening CARE classrooms “as soon as staffing plans are confirmed.”

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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