Fauquier County Students to Return to Class Monday

Across the school district, 70% of students have opted for in-person instruction

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For the first time in eight months, about 7,000 students in Fauquier County will be heading back to school in person on Monday.

The school district will be among the first in Northern Virginia to bring all grades back into the buildings at once, instead of phasing them in. In-person learning will resume using a hybrid model, meaning students will attend class two days per week in shifts, so only a small group is in each classroom at a time.

Karen Frye's graphic design class at Kettle Run High School is all set up. She's numbered the desks to correspond with specific computers, keeping student six feet apart as they work.

"I'm actually extremely excited to see the students," Frye said. "Fortunately, I don't have health risks so [I'm] not worried about that."

Across the school district, 70% of students have opted for in-person instruction. Those who will continue learning virtually will get the same live instruction online.

Teachers admit that the "concurrent learning" format adds more work during an already stressful time.

"If I'm teaching concurrent classes, I'm teaching students in front of me and also five other places at once, and that is challenging," said Kettle Run teacher Kelsey Howald.

A group of parents in the county is opposed to the reopening plan. They fear it's going to reduce instruction time and diminish the learning experience for students who continue to learn virtually.

Howald conducted lots of research to see what works with the concurrent model.

"It's not easy, but everyone has been putting their best foot forward," Howald said.

The setup has changed outside the classrooms, too. In the cafeteria, long lunch tables have been replaced by spaced-out desks. In the library, there is a quarantine area for books, where they will remain for 72 hours before they can be checked out again. And students who work there will be assigned tables, with the librarians keeping a record of who sits where.

"If we need to do contact tracing, we know who was at what number," said Kettle Run librarian Michelle Frazier.

Fauqiuer County's school reopening comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise, but Kettle Run High School Principal Meaghan Brill has confidence in their plan.

"We're mindful going into it if we need to make an adjustment here or there, but above all, [we're] making sure student safety and staff safety is top priority for us," she said.

And while Monday won't really be a first day of school for students, the way they'll learn will definitely be a first.

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