As Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for virtual classes, some private schools in Reston and Tysons are bringing students back into classrooms.
Four private and parochial school administrators told Tysons Reporter a high demand for in-person instruction and their ability to socially distance students are the main reasons they are offering in-person learning.
Green Hedges School in Vienna noted an increase in enrollment interest for the 2020-21 school year, according to Jenn Boehnen, who is the head of the school.
After initially planning for a hybrid of in-person and online classes, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced in July that the public school system, which is the largest one in Virginia, would open virtually on Sept. 8 for the fall. Concerns about public health safety and staffing levels prompted the switch to fully online classes.
Unlike big public schools with larger class sizes, the private school administrators Tysons Reporter spoke to said that they will be able to keep students spaced out.
Green Hedges is requiring that students sit in assigned seats for lunch and snack time, according to the school’s reopening plan. The seats will be 6 feet away from each other and students will have the option to eat outside when possible. Additionally, the school is instructing students to stay 6 feet away from each other during recess.
Photos the school shared on Facebook show desks spaced out in the classrooms.
Oakcrest School near Crowells Corner plans to move classes with 20 or more students outside, weather permitting. The school is looking to use its 23-acre campus to keep its approximately 260 students safely spread out.
“We’re trying to implement as many safety precautions as possible without disrupting the normal rhythm of the school day,” said Miriam Buono, who heads up operations at Oakcrest.
To further ensure social distancing, Oakcrest is implementing unilateral stairways to avoid overcrowding in the halls. The school is also extending passing periods from five to 10 minutes to compensate for the stairways and to allow students to step outside for mask breaks.
In addition to figuring out how to keep students physically distanced, school administrators are also finding ways to deal with another new element: getting kids to wear face coverings for several hours.
To address the issue of mask fatigue, St. Joseph Catholic School in Herndon is allowing teachers and students to pull down face coverings when 6 feet apart or when alone. Students will also be able to remove their masks while eating.
Even while many private schools in the Fairfax County area are planning for in-person learning, some are offering a virtual option for families with health concerns. The school administrators told Tysons Reporter that they have to remain flexible if new state guidelines or a COVID-19 surge requires a switch to fully-virtual learning.
Administrators want parents to know they are tracking the ongoing conditions to determine whether or not in-person classes are safe.
Photos via Green Hedges School/Facebook