ASHBURN, Va. — Tuesday was the first day of hybrid learning for Loudoun County Public Schools. In total, 14,828 students and 2,109 teachers are returning this week.
About half of those students will be attending on alternate days through a hybrid system: two days of in-person instruction, two days of distance learning. Students in grades pre-K through fifth grade and some specialized students are among this first wave of returning students.
Beth Lowden is a fifth-grade teacher at Steuart W. Weller elementary school in Ashburn, and on Tuesday, she spent her first day back in the classroom -- since March -- with 10 of her students. On day one, she gave them a math test!
"I'm passing it out and they're like I've never been more excited for a paper math test before," Lowden said.
Ella Jones is in Mrs. Lowden's class. After her math test, she gave a presentation on an influential American; Ella picked Michelle Obama.
"I felt like it wouldn't really be the same on a screen presenting [if I was at home] but I got to present it to the 10 kids in our class," she said. "I felt like everybody was listening because you can't really whisper."
Each desk in Ella's classroom is more than 6 feet apart and surrounded by a plastic sneeze shield. But she said that didn't make seeing her friends any less exciting.
"It was really nice being back," she said. "At lunch, you get to talk to everybody and it's really cool."
Ella is one of 15,000 students participating in hybrid learning within Loudoun County Public Schools this week. At Weller, Principal Julie Burton says 50% of her students will be alternating two days in the class and two days virtual.
"Today I would say we have about 170 students who are here today and then we'll have a different group tomorrow," Burton said.
As the day ended, buses arrived, and parents came to pick up their children it was clear that the students weren't the only ones to welcome this new experience.
"It was a very productive workday for me," Katie Gallagher, parent of three LCPS students, said. "The house was so quiet! And it was great just getting back into a sense of normalcy."
Middle school and high school students are in the next group scheduled to report for in-person learning, starting March 3.