Tysons, VA

Falls Church City Public Schools will revert to online-only classes for the shortened week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, FCCPS Superintendent Peter Noonan announced on Monday (Nov. 16).

Students already attending in-person classes at Mount Daniel Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will continue doing so, but the one day of in-person learning that had been scheduled for next week will instead be virtual for all students.

Athletics and other activities at Henderson Middle School and George Mason High School have been suspended for the week of Nov. 23 to 27, which was already truncated since Thanksgiving is on Nov. 26. FCCPS will also not provide daycare in any of its buildings that week.

“Today’s data we received from the Virginia Department of Health and Fairfax County Health District is not moving in a good direction,” Noonan said in a letter to families. “While we remain in the moderate category overall, we are continuing to see a rise in the NOVA region data and our home community.”

The five-school system joins its much larger Fairfax County counterpart in reevaluating its plans to provide in-person classes for students after seeing a steady rise in COVID-19 case rates both locally and statewide.

The City of Falls Church has not reported any new COVID-19 cases since it saw four on Nov. 11, but school officials are concerned by trends in Northern Virginia, including an average 7.6% test positivity rate across the region’s four health districts and a rate of 17.6 new cases per 100,000 people as of Nov. 16.

After closing its campuses on Mar. 13 when the novel coronavirus pandemic first hit the area, FCCPS has been phasing groups of students into a hybrid learning model with in-person and virtual instruction since approximately 80 special education and English-language-learning students returned on Oct. 6.

Kindergarten and third-grade students started hybrid learning on Nov. 10. Plans to start in-person classes for elementary school students in first, second, fourth, and fifth grades today were not affected by Noonan’s announcement about Thanksgiving week.

Unlike Fairfax County Public Schools, which reported its first outbreaks last week, FCCPS has not seen any outbreaks since starting in-person instruction, but as of Nov. 16, two staff members and one contractor have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the FCCPS COVID metrics dashboard.

Noonan says the city school system is currently planning to resume hybrid learning after the Thanksgiving break. He urged community members to follow public health guidelines, including avoiding travel unless absolutely necessary and limiting celebrations to household members.

“This temporary pause is vital for our collective school community,” Noonan said. “It provides time and space to ‘hunker down’ and stay in our family configurations to slow and stop the spread of COVID…If we all do our part, we will be able to continue to ‘dial-up’ and reopen schools.”

Photo via FCCPS/Facebook

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