Northern Virginia

Remain Virtual or Move to Hybrid Learning? Parents Face Tough Choices

Why the decision isn't cut and dried for many families

NBC Universal, Inc.

The debate on when to send students back to school has been heated for almost a year now. With many Northern Virginia school districts set to expand hybrid learning to more students, parents are making tough choices about what to do with their kids.

What's best for one school district might not be best for another. In fact, what's best for one student might not what's be best for their own sibling.

"I am parenting two extremely different human beings, and their needs are different," said Arlington County parent Lara Daly-Sims, "and that's why you'll see that I have a different decision for each of them."

Her kids, Aly and Nick, are both in Arlington County schools. Virtual learning is going well for Aly, so she's going to finish the year that say. But Nick will move to hybrid learning.

In Loudoun County, Charlie is in special education. His parents want him in school five days a week but will actually keep him fully virtual.

"At this point, hybrid learning for him would be way too disruptive; it'll throw a whole other schedule into his week," said his mother, Linda Gagnon.

So how many students are actually moving to hybrid learning in Northern Virginia? It varies by school district:

  • City of Alexandria: 60%
  • Arlington County: 53%
  • Fairfax County: 58%
  • Fauquier County: 80%
  • Loudoun County: 36%
  • Prince William County: 40%

"Communities are different," Fauquier County Superintendent David Jeck said. "Just between our community and Frederick County, our community and Prince William -- which we border, right? Their needs are different, their wants are different, their metrics are different, so you have to work with them, work with your school board and figure out what's best for your community."

Jeck said that the more students who return, the more virtual learning could change.

For many parents, there are still too many unknowns.

"There's a little bit of a wait-and-see for some of us who are choosing hybrid because we don't know exactly what it's going to look like," Daly-Sims said.

No one questions that students learn best in school full time, but since that's not an option yet, there's a lot to consider when finding the best option available.

Some school districts are planning to return students to hybrid based on surveys that were taken prior to the school year even starting. Others have more recent survey results.

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