News & Politics

Could Virtual School Return After the Holidays?

Prince George's County schools will revert to distance learning after the holidays. So far, no other area systems have followed its lead.

Photograph by golero via Getty Images.

There’s a distinct March 2020 energy to the Washington area this week, with Covid cases rising, restaurants and bars closing, and athletic contests being postponed. Now, as many students wrap up the 2021 portion of their school year, many parents are contemplating the return of another early-pandemic fact of life: Could virtual school return after the holidays?

That’s the case in Prince George’s County, which announced on Friday that school would go virtual this week and from January 3 until at least January 14. (Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who just announced he’s tested positive for Covid, called the county’s decision a “terrible mistake.”) Meanwhile, some school systems have canceled extracurricular activities this week—the city of Alexandria doinked a lot of sports activities through the break, and Howard County suspended extracurriculars before dialing back its prohibition. Individual private and public schools have suspended classroom learning, at least for now.

For the moment, other area school systems appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach. Fairfax County Public Schools’s “mitigation/prevention strategies are working for us right now,” spokesperson Helen Lloyd writes in an email to Washingtonian.” Although we are constantly reviewing the transmission rates and our own data around positive case, we are not considering a wholesale return to virtual learning at this point.”

Montgomery County has suspended a raft of extracurriculars, but it doesn’t intend to revert to virtual learning, county education board President Brenda Wolff told Bethesda Beat last week. DC shares that reticence, Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee told the Washington Post. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that DC Public Schools would return on January 5 instead of January 3 to provide time for testing. It will provide rapid tests for students and families, Bowser said. While individual schools may go virtual, there’s no plan yet for system-wide distance learning.

Loudoun has not considered going virtual, schools spokesperson Wayde B. Byard says in an email. Alexandria is monitoring the situation and will notify families and staff  if there are any changes. A spokesperson from Arlington has not yet replied.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.