Suburban D.C. districts reverse course, will stay online

Leaders in Fairfax, Loudon and Montgomery counties will track health conditions to determine when to reopen classrooms
By: | July 22, 2020
Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia, and Montgomery County Public Schools will stick with online learning despite Trump administration pressure to resume in-person instruction. (GettyImages/Dave & Les Jacobs)Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia, and Montgomery County Public Schools will stick with online learning despite Trump administration pressure to resume in-person instruction. (GettyImages/Dave & Les Jacobs)

Surging coronavirus transmissions have forced three large suburban-Washington D.C. districts to drop plans for in-person instruction and instead start the school year fully online.

Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia, and Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland all announced plans Tuesday to stick with distance learning despite Trump administration pressure to bring students back to classrooms.

“The pandemic looks much different now than it did even three weeks ago,” Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a message to his district. “We know this is very disappointing news for the families who chose the two-day-a-week in-person learning option … We all want in-person learning to resume as quickly as possible.”

When classes begin in Fairfax County on Aug. 8, students will participate in live, face-to-face instruction from Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be reserved for teacher planning and interventions with individual students.


More from DA: Why in-person elementary school should be a first step for reopening


Though infection rates in Fairfax County have declined and remained stable, Brabraband pointed out that a large number of employees live outside district boundaries.

“Should health conditions improve, we would first bring back students for intervention supports on a limited basis,” Brabrand said in the message. “Following that, we would work to bring students back to school as soon as possible starting with elementary school students, select PreK-12 special education students and English learners.”

Online learning logistics

Montgomery County schools will remain online for the first semester and will reassess public health conditions in November, the district announced on its website.

The move, which was recommended by local health authorities, also forced the district to cancel fall and winter sports, Superintendent Jack R. Smith said in a message to the school community.

Administrators are now figuring out how to open buildings in a limited capacity to provide meals, learning materials, tech support and limited childcare.

‘We continue to explore creative ways to support students receiving special services and families with significant challenges in accessing curriculum through a virtual model,” Smith said. “We also know that this decision to extend virtual instruction will significantly impact the work schedules of many parents in our county.”


More from DA: Why synchronous classes are key for English language learners


Loudoun County’s school board voted after midnight Wednesday to back Superintendent Eric Williams’ to start the year online, The Washington Post reported.

Coping with the COVID surge

Large districts in other states that have been hit hard by this summer’s COVID surge have also decided to remain online.

Last week, Flordia’s teachers union sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s department of education to block the reopening of classrooms, District Administration reported.

And California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered districts in hard-hit counties to start the year with remote instruction while Texas gave its school systems the option to remain online for the first four weeks of the school year.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.