loudoun county public schools

Rally in Loudoun County Pushes for Return to Schools 5 Days a Week

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As Virginia schools are working to reopen with a hybrid model within the next few weeks, parents in Loudoun County are holding a rally to push for students to return to schools five days a week.

Republicans are hosting Monday's rally, and Republican candidates for governor have made returning to school five days a week part of their campaign platform, but so have Democrats.

The path to get there is driving a wedge between communities.

"I don't know a teacher who doesn't want to be back in the classroom," teacher John Hoffman said.

He wants to return to the classroom once fully vaccinated.

"I honestly feel like we just can't wait any longer," parent Missy Hillenbrand said.

The debate has become an unpleasant spectacle at school board meetings.

"Figure it out!" parent Brandon Michon shouted at one meeting.

Five Loudoun County teachers said parents are directing aggression at them, too.

"I've been called names like bimbo, filthy, dirty," teacher Jennifer Hitchcock said.

Teacher Michele Hoisington said she’s been told to get a new job because she doesn't want to work.

"I have been told to F off because I could not open the schools," Hitchcock said.

Loudoun County will return some kids to hybrid learning next week and the rest by March 3.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says schools can safely reopen despite community spread if five mitigation strategies are implemented in school: wearing face masks, physical and social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, regular cleaning, and contact tracing.

I've been called names like bimbo, filthy, dirty.

Teacher Jennifer Hitchcock

The teachers who spoke to News4 said they don’t think executing those mitigation strategies at a level that keeps people safe is realistic.

"I can elaborate for you, but hard no," teacher Heather Malam said.

She said Loudoun County Public Schools don't have a reliable method for contact tracing.

The interim superintendent recently showed the school board that the four other strategies meet expectations but didn't show any data on contact tracing. News4 asked for that data but hasn't heard back.

The vaccinated population in D.C. may be overestimated in this map because some non-residents who work in D.C. are included in the totals.

LCPS said it’s new, full-time contract tracer starts work this week.

Teachers are pleading with families to not make this a fight between people who ultimately want the same thing.

"We absolutely have to come together,” teacher Terry Lucas said. “We are in this together."

Monday's rally is another example of how political return to school has become.

A Loudoun County parent said a year ago most people probably couldn't have named a single person on the school board, but now school board meetings are all they talk about.

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