Dear FCCPS Families and Community,
This has been an unprecedented year and I would like to begin by saying thank you. Your work as parents, dedication to your children’s education, and care were amplified at the end of the school year in a brilliant and beautiful way. Through your partnerships with our teachers and your efforts, our students in FCCPS were widely served in instruction and received emotional and social support. Those that needed food and supplies received them. Our families and community felt supported, despite the situation we faced. Our community was the model of excellence and I am so proud to be your superintendent.
Now we begin the journey back to school. Thank you for staying in contact and learning about our reopening plans. This journey is one that none of us have ever experienced and only together through our collective efforts can we make this work for all of our students, families, and our teaching and staff community. We will do this together!
When I arrived in FCCPS I shared early my “Four Pillars”, or values, with the School Board, School Community, and Staff. It is in moments like these that one must rely on our core values to make decisions that are important. As a reminder, my core pillars were Innovation, Collaboration, Ethical Leadership, and Ensuring Equity and Excellence for All. I believe this plan is a reflection of those values.
As many of you know, on June 16th I shared a detailed update with the School Board about our reopening plan. This plan has been the focus of our collective attention for the past months and has not been done in isolation. I would like to thank the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee and the Faculty and Staff Superintendent's Advisory Committee that were sounding boards for advice, ideas, and a source to share concerns. I would also like to thank many of you that have written and added comments to support our growing Parent Questions & Answers.
To be sure, this is a complex situation that all of us have anxiety and concerns about. I too am a parent and full-time school employee. This personal perspective has weighed heavily on me through this planning process. We find ourselves now in a position where we must make a decision that is best and consistent with the guidance we have received from the local and national experts. We have continued to meet regularly with the Fairfax County Health Department which is our local health authority, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Education, the Governor's Office, and our regional colleagues.
Using all of the guidance, feedback, thoughtful consideration, and trying to maximize in person instruction in mind, FCCPS will begin the year, presuming we are still in the Governor’s Phase 3 of Virginia’s reopening plan, in a hybrid alternating-day scenario. Our current plan for the hybrid alternating-day scenario is to provide at least two days of face-to-face instruction in an alternating day format with Mondays being reserved for teacher workdays, intervention, and small group instruction. Functionally this means that teachers will instruct half of their students on Tuesday and Thursday and then repeat the instruction for the other half of the students on Wednesday and Friday. Students will attend school face-to-face/in-person 2 days a week and participate in remote learning the other 3 days.
The schedules at your schools will include both traditional core and encore classes, so teachers will also have planning time during the instructional day. When students are at home we expect that there will be a combination of synchronous and self-directed asynchronous learning activities, group projects, teacher-directed activities, school counseling lessons, Morning Meetings, and the like to take place. Our schools will support families with daily schedules and assignments in our Schoology learning platform to help students navigate this at home.
While we recognize this is not the ideal situation, it is the best option to ensure the health and safety of our learning community as we follow the guidance from our health partners. The alternating day hybrid option allows us to bring students back in smaller numbers and it is the only way we can ensure appropriate social/physical distancing in our schools. We cannot keep a 6’ distance in classrooms when we have everyone on campus at the same time. Therefore we are going to begin the 20-21 school year in a hybrid model of instruction.
Further, and to be as family friendly as possible, we will be cohorting students by alphabet in an effort to ensure that siblings come to school on the same days. This is important for several reasons and a few include limited exposure, bus riding with siblings does not require the 6’ social distancing, and we have many families where older children help watch our younger children. In the event that you have children in your home with different last names, we will work to ensure that your children are put on the same schedule.
If you do not wish to have your students return to an in-person school environment, we have an option for you as well. FCCPS will be engaging with Virtual Virginia, a VDOE endorsed State-Wide online program that is fully aligned to the Standards of Learning for students K-12. Please see the video linked here for more information about what Virtual Virginia has to offer. Students will also be able to leverage our Hy-C program at the High School level as appropriate to provide a fully online option for any student whose parents choose this option. Parents who elect to keep their students home will need to make that decision understanding that at this time the service delivery through the online-only option will be core instruction and limited access to electives.
We recognize this closure has been very difficult for everyone, but especially for some of our most vulnerable groups of learners. Following guidance from VDOE, and recognizing the intensive needs of some of our students, we will be providing more face-to-face instructional time for them. Those include our special education students, our English Speakers of Other Languages students, our students on free and reduced lunch, and some of our youngest PreK learners. We are confident we can serve these groups of students and still maintain the appropriate level of social and physical distancing. Each school will work in collaboration with our families to determine how and when students will be provided instruction based on their needs.
With this plan, we will be ready to open and move into the next phase of the Governor’s plan (“post Phase 3”) when that is announced, or if needed, roll back into a “Phase 2” or “Phase 1” approach depending on the behavior of the virus.
FCCPS will follow the guidance of VDOE and the local and state health departments and put appropriate measures in place to keep staff and students safe. Each day when students arrive we will do a daily health screening and a temperature check. This screening will likely include a series of short questions to determine if someone at home is sick. Additionally, we will ensure that face coverings are worn by students and staff and remind everyone about the appropriate rules of social and physical distancing. There may be students and staff who are not able to wear face coverings full-time due to health conditions or disabilities. We will work through those specific situations to make sure everyone is safe. Health screenings, social distancing, smaller groups, less mixing of students, no congregate areas, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, and face coverings keep us all safe to prevent exposure to the virus.
Lastly, there are still many details we will need to work out before the plan is complete. Today’s update is really meant to give you a fairly high-level view of the general structure we plan to implement going forward. I promise you that as details continue to become clear we will communicate those through your principals and from me.
Below you will find further supporting details about the 7-points we are addressing in our planning. I hope that this information, along with the other attachments in this document, is helpful in providing you a robust view of what we are planning.
We look forward to seeing you back soon and ask that you remember this situation is temporary. We will get through this and there will be a time we can return to a “new normal.” I sincerely hope that is soon. As we can add more students to face-to-face we will as maximizing in school instruction in a safe fashion is our goal.
Public Health/Disease Response
FCCPS is committed to our continuing partnership with the FCHD. Additionally, and because of this partnership, our school health clinics will be staffed with school health assistants and we have two part-time Public Health School Nurses that support us. They will focus their work on education about mitigation strategies, provide helpful tools to post around schools as needed, and also train staff and faculty.
Our collective focus will be following the guidance from the CDC, VHS, and continuing to follow the progress of the phases of reopening as designated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Focus includes School Health Clinics, Nursing Support, OSHA, CDC Guidance for Disease Mitigation.
Some of the key components to a safe school environment are maintaining appropriate social distancing, everyone wearing a face covering, and educating students that they are not to touch each other. FCCPS understands the developmental phases youth go through and will work with students as appropriate. However, it is vital that our families support the schools by sending students to school with a face-covering every day. Please reach out to your student’s school if you need a face covering for your student.
The FCHD will be an important partner if a student or a staff member were to become ill with COVID 19. They have implemented a “box it in '' strategy where they can quickly contact trace, identify, support, and plan with a person/people that are considered contacts. They have worked on approximately 50 different scenarios associated with this and therefore each circumstance will be different if someone gets sick. However, they will help FCCPS navigate this as necessary and will also indicate how communication of an event will take place.
Frequent hand washing/sanitizing is another critical health strategy that will need to be reinforced and supported both at home and at school to limit the spread of germs.
Everyone must work collaboratively together to help prevent exposures which can lead to the need to isolate/quarantine and the spread of illness. It is critical that if students are feeling ill or have symptoms such as fevers, coughs, shortness of breath that they remain home. We are counting on our parents to partner with us to maintain a healthy learning environment for all of our students and staff.
FCCPS will continue to use the Morning Announcements, Facebook, Twitter, our FCCPS website, videos, etc...to communicate on a routine basis with our families.
Everyone should download and utilize the FCCPS App as it has wonderful resources and the most up to date information.
It must be understood that the best information, and that which parents listen to most often, comes from the schools. Therefore, our school leaders will continue to put information out in a consistent and thoughtful way so parents are kept informed of updates.
Transportation to school is a barrier for FCCPS that only through good community support will we be able to overcome. In order for us to maintain appropriate social distancing on a school bus, we can only have students sit every other seat. This means that a bus designed for 77 students can only transport 13 students. We are hopeful that our community can look for alternative methods for getting students to school through walking, riding bikes, ride-sharing with families you may have quarantined with, etc…
Nutritional/Food services will continue to offer food to all of our families who need support through the summer and into the school year. Lunches will be served by the division and students may bring their own lunches, however, no other outside food will be allowed and students must not share items. Social distancing will be maintained during lunchtimes and disposable/recyclable materials will be used.
Custodial and Maintenance Services are training and retraining about best practices in sanitizing to ensure we have the safest environments possible for your students. Each night we will do a deep cleaning to prepare for the next day of instruction. Further, our faculty and staff will be provided with appropriate PPE including cleaning supplies to routinely wipe high touch surfaces, etc...We have gone through each of our buildings and opened up all of the air handling returns as wide as possible to ensure the best level of airflow through buildings as we can.
Technology teams are ready to support our teachers, staff, students, and families as we ready ourselves for the next phase in our reopening journey. This includes all students in K-12 taking their devices home with them each day for remote learning.
FCCPS’ focus on instruction remains a priority. We recognize that through an alternating day schedule with online asynchronous instruction we may not be able to address all of the content we have in the past. However, FCCPS has a proud history of teaching much more than the required content by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Additionally, our Learning Recovery Plan serves as a guide to addressing learning gaps that are specific to missed content standards. We will work creatively to ensure student exposure to these standards.
It is our hope and desire that the supplemental resources we provide for the days students are not in school will support instruction and help students get more into depth and complexity of topics thus getting us to a place where we can continue to go beyond what the state requires.
We will also continue supporting our students in the IB programme. This means that we will utilize the Learner Profile, Approaches to Learning, and Approaches to Teaching that affords our students that broad range of learning we have all come to expect.
FCCPS will look for ways to support extracurricular activities throughout Phase 3. It may be online at first, but we are working to provide opportunities for students outside of everyday schooling.
Athletics are governed by the Virginia High School League and FCCPS does not have a say in whether or not sports seasons begin or end. However, in Phase 3 there will be opportunities for athletes to begin working out, conditioning, and weight training with appropriate social distancing which in sports is 10’ due to the respiratory factors associated with exertion.
Student Support Services
Student social and emotional health is always a priority, but during this time we are seeing even greater needs for support in the areas of school counseling, mental health, crisis response, and social services.
Our school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists are making plans to work with our students as they return to school.
Each school will be addressing their students’ social/emotional needs with in-classroom support, small groups, and individual counseling as needed.
Our schools will work with our special populations of students including those with IEPs, 504 Plans, and Health Plans to ensure they are fully supported during our reopening.
Any student who is in need of resources, supplies, or services will have access to support from our Family Assistance Fund to ensure they are successful in both face-to-face instruction and remote learning.
Staff Support Services (Human Resources)
Our staff members will be provided the Professional Learning needed to ensure the highest quality in-person and remote learning continues for our students.
Our Human Resources team will continue to ensure our employees are supported through our Employee Assistance Program.
We are committed to maintaining a strong and stable workforce. Staff will be able to access child care for their school-age children as needed.
All staff members will receive health support and be connected to resources as appropriate during this time.
We will continue to offer a robust onboarding and mentoring program for our new employees as they join our FCCPS family.
Parent/Family Support Services
FCCPS will continue to offer daycare through our before/after school programs.
We will provide training to parents via Parent University on a variety of topics including Schoology, developing schedules for remote learning, and helping students transition back to the school setting.
Our Family Assistance Fund will continue to be available to provide support to students and their families due to the generous support from the Falls Church Education Foundation.
We will have close communication, share resources, and work in partnership with our PTAs as we reopen.
Our Family Resource Center will continue to operate for families.