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Most Fauquier public schools students will return to classrooms next week for the first time in more than a month.

The school board Monday night voted, 4-1, to resume “hybrid” instruction Tuesday, Jan. 19. Schools will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.

About two-thirds of Fauquier’s 10,300 public school students have chosen the hybrid model, which has them in classrooms two days a week and working independently the other days.

Schools across Virginia closed last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauquier students completed the spring semester with remote or “virtual” classes and started the fall term the same way.

County schools brought students back into classrooms Nov. 9 for the first time since March. Parents had the option of hybrid or virtual instruction for their children.

About 7,300 enrolled in hybrid instruction, with about 3,000 remaining virtual.

But, as community spread of the virus expanded, county schools reverted to all-virtual instruction for the fall semester’s final week before Christmas. Fauquier schools opened Jan. 6 the same way.

Since last summer, thousands of parents have urged schools to get students back into classrooms as much as possible. Lost instruction, mental health and the stress on families have ranked among the most frequent concerns.

Reopening proponents also have argued that the virus has not spread within schools and that healthy young people face low risk from COVID-19.

“Student mental health is a factor; there’s no doubt about it,” Superintendent David Jeck said during the school board discussion Monday night. “It’s difficult to identify. It’s difficult to quantify.”

Supporting the return to hybrid instruction, school board member Stephanie Litter-Reber (Lee District) said: “I feel strongly that our mitigation efforts have kept kids safe.”

The school system has reported only one “outbreak” — place-specific spread with at least two cases — among staff members in August at Bradley Elementary School in Warrenton.

Most of her colleagues agreed.

“Schools are not the spreader in our community,” Donna Grove (Cedar Run) said.

Duke Bland (Marshall) agreed that student safety ranks first, but he said the school system also must keep its 1,950 employees safe.

Mr. Bland wanted to delay the return to classrooms until vaccination becomes widespread. He voted against restarting hybrid instruction.

Administrators also plan to update the school system COVID-19 dashboard to provide more specific information about positive test results among school students and staff members.

Dr. Jeck noted that vaccinations of teachers and other school staff members will begin next week.

Within hours of sending a survey to employees Monday, 1,750 had responded, with about 80 percent indicating they want the vaccine, the superintendent said.

“It’s a little bit of a glance at the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Jeck said. “It tells me folks are anxious to get this done.”

The school board last week approved the resumption of interscholastic sportsfor the first time since March.


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