School Board Provides Updates on Mental Health, COVID-19 Case Reports, Policy Revisions, Rock Ridge Musician Honors

The LCPS School Board discussed methods to address the mental health and wellness of LCPS students, the rising COVID-19 cases, revised policies 7540 and 7542, and announced the naming of four musicians to the All-National Honor Ensembles.


Created by Amelia Chen

During their opening statements, the school board announced that virtual public comments would continue alongside in-person speaking following Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s passage of executive order 22 which allowed people to go in public areas without a mask. The executive order stated in light of the variety of circumstances confronted by students in the Commonwealth, parents should have the ability to decide whether their child should wear masks for the duration of the school day.

Kaleb Ryans, Lucian Tiller, and James Bowles

On Feb. 8, the LCPS School Board met to approve revisions on two policies, address mental health concerns, and discuss COVID-19 updates. Additionally, the school board  congratulated four four Phoenix musicians for making  the All-National Honor Ensembles.

Public Comment

Many public commenters expressed their disappointment in the lack of diverse curriculum being taught, especially during the time of Black History Month. “Black History Month is an annual celebration of the immeasurable achievements by African Americans, and a time for recognizing their central role in American history,” LCPS parent Ophelia Parker said. “It is imperative that African American stories are not silenced or discarded at LCPS. Black history is American history.” 

Additionally, concerns were raised regarding Youngkin’s executive order to end mask mandates in school from both LCPS parents and students, while other individuals shared relatively controversial opinions on the efficacy of policy 8040 — a policy that protects transgender and gender-expansive student rights in schools. “8040 threatens family ties and fundamental rights, which are paramount to a student’s health,” LCPS parent Carrington Cunnington said. “Aiding a student in hiding from their parents undermines foundational relationships, encourages deception, and facilitates exploitation.”

Policy Revisions

At the Jan. 27 school board meeting, the Human Resources and Talent Development Committee discussed minimal revisions relating to wording of policies 7540 and 7542, which detail consequences for criminal convictions. Both policies were voted 2-0-1 to be sent to the full School Board for consideration, approved at this meeting by the full Board and revised as written.

COVID-19 Case Report

Towards the end of the meeting, Superintendent Scott Ziegler presented his superintendent’s report, which highlighted a decrease in COVID-19 cases abroad since their last meeting on Feb. 4.

Ziegler also reassured that LCPS continues to prioritize in-person learning and is keeping a close watch on COVID-19 cases. “We’ve been monitoring our staffing levels, student absentee levels, as well as our contact tracing and data, which allow us to make informed decisions on mitigation efforts,” Ziegler said. “We are going to implement mitigation measures based on school impact levels.”

The statistics collected by LCPS have shown that conditions have improved overall since January. According to Ziegler, the entire LCPS average student attendance, as recorded by school averages, was 93.85%. “Every day over the past two weeks, we have been above the average daily attendance for January,” Ziegler said. This trend is consistent with staff absences decreasing, as cases have begun to settle. 

The cases per 100,000 in Loudoun County have dropped from 100 to 40 since the Jan. 25 school board meeting, however, the countywide percent positivity has remained constant at 13%. 

According to the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia vaccinations for kids aged five-11 have also been stagnant at approximately 53% in comparison to 80-90% of other age groups. “We would like to see this number rise,” Ziegler said. “The more this goes up, the less quarantines and isolations will be required at the elementary level.”

Mental Health Task Force

Ziegler has directed his staff to form a task force to prioritize LCPS students’ mental health. Its planning started July 2021 and their first meeting was in August of the same year. This task force includes parent representatives, mental health experts, teachers, and Loudoun County Health and Human Services representatives.

All-National Honor Ensembles

During Ziegler’s superintendent’s report, he briefly mentioned four Phoenix musicians who were inducted into the All-National Honor Ensembles: sophomore Ananya Akula, senior Eshaan Nair, junior Parv Gosai, and senior Ishan Saha. 

Akula, Nair, and Saha are Mixed Choir members, while Gosai is a Concert Band member. They were selected along with  230 other mixed choir vocalists and approximately 20 concert band musicians from around the country. 

Prior to the announcement at the school board meeting, Akula felt shocked after her biggest dreams came true. “In order to make All-Nationals, you need to make [states and regionals],” Akula said. “We’ve never had a freshman make States, so that was my main goal last year. [After] I had eventually made states, I was still really stressed about Nationals, so it was a big shock when I was named.”

Akula said that her choir teacher, Jordan Markwood, was especially helpful in achieving her goal.  “Mr. Markwood was really supportive, [as well as] the upperclassmen working with me,” Akula said. “I’ve always wanted to be a high school music teacher, and seeing Mr. Markwood’s passion when working with his students really made me reflect on myself and my future.”

Sponsored by the National Association for Music Educators, the ensemble’s performances will premiere in March during the 37th annual Music in Our Schools Month.

The next school board meeting will take place on Feb. 22.