Tysons, VA

The Fairfax Education Association is petitioning Fairfax County Public Schools to remain virtual until August 2021.

“​Science and Health Safety data support and require that no one should return to in person instruction until there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment,” the petition said. “The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread.”

So far, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures and is 600 away from its goal. The union, which represents 4,000 staff in the school system, published the petition on Sept. 30, but received renewed attention after a tweet about it went viral.

But not all teachers support the petition, according to one Twitter user.

Read More

0 Comments

McLean High School is one of three Fairfax County public schools that have canceled plans to serve as test centers for the SAT on Nov. 7.

One of the other schools, Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, has scheduled a make-up date for Nov. 21, but McLean’s next SAT test date is not until Dec. 5. The third school to opt out of the Nov. 7 testing date — Westfield High School in Chantilly — does not appear to be offering the SAT again until Mar. 13.

Fairfax County Public Schools says it is customary for individual schools to make their own decisions about hosting the SAT, because they are responsible for assigning staff to proctor the test.

“The three schools that cancelled in Fairfax County for November 7 cited various reasons for doing so, primarily due to staffing difficulties,” FCPS director of news and information Lucy Caldwell said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “Fortunately, students are able to take the exams at any of the schools where it is offered.”

Higher education institutions have long used scores from standardized tests like the SAT to help determine student admissions, but skepticism of this approach has grown in recent years, with critics arguing that the tests tend to be culturally biased and favor students whose families can afford to pay for private tutoring.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as FairTest, more than 1,630 four-year universities and colleges in the U.S. have made reporting SAT or ACT scores optional for fall 2021 admissions, including Fairfax’s George Mason University, which became the first public university in Virginia to adopt a test-optional policy in 2007.

Because of school closures and public health concerns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a statement on Aug. 26 urging public institutions to make standardized test scores optional for the 2021-22 admissions cycle.

“Inequities caused by COVID-19 disruption – loss of family income, secondary school closures, interruptions in the K-12 educational program – will worsen an already difficult situation for millions of students,” NACAC said. “In this critical time, public colleges must be mindful of their founding purpose of serving students and families and recognize that lifting testing requirements in 2020-21 will be in the students’ best interest.”

College Board, the nonprofit that oversees the SAT, asked colleges to provide flexibility by extending deadlines for receiving test scores, giving equal consideration to students who can and cannot submit scores, and recognizing that students who do submit scores may not have had the opportunity to take the test more than once.

After putting the SAT on hiatus in April, May, and June, College Board resumed administering the test in August, but the organization notes that “there is limited testing capacity in certain areas due to public health restrictions and high demand.”

FCPS high schools hosted an SAT School Day on Sept. 23. A list of schools that will be hosting the SAT on Nov. 7 can be found at fcps.edu/sat.

Students are required to wear masks, complete a health screening questionnaire, and register the exam ahead of time, rather than on-site, among other guidelines.

“Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to the health and safety of all staff, students, and parents/guardians,” FCPS says. “All testing procedures and safety protocols will be followed to ensure testing and cleaning practices meet current health department and division guidance.”

Photo via McLean High School PTSA

0 Comments

Fairfax County Public Schools could expand in-person learning to more students starting next week based on current health data, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand says in a presentation that he will deliver to the county school board at its work session tonight (Thursday).

Virginia Department of Health data indicates that Northern Virginia has started seeing a slight uptick in reported COVID-19 cases in October, with 314 cases reported on Oct. 15 for a seven-day moving average of 248 cases. However, the burden and extent of community transmission in the region is still considered low as of the week that ended on Oct. 10.

Coupled with efforts to implement mitigation strategies recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and prepare staff for instructional and operational changes, Fairfax County’s current health metrics support FCPS continuing to phase in in-person learning, Brabrand’s presentation says.

After introducing in-person instruction for select specialized career preparation classes on Oct. 5, FCPS is planning to expand in-person learning to some of its early childhood special education services, including its preschool autism class, on Oct. 19.

Under Brabrand’s tentative timeline, FCPS will continue phasing cohorts of students – mostly younger students and students with special education needs – into in-person classes throughout the rest of the year before introducing hybrid learning for all students in early 2021.

For hybrid learning, students can choose to remain completely online or to receive two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual instruction. This phase will start on Jan. 4 for grades three to six and on Feb. 1 for grades seven through 12.

“We believe in-person instruction is best to meet our students’ academic, social, and emotional needs,” Brabrand’s presentation says. “We want to phase students back to in-person instruction as safely, efficiently, and as early as possible. All phase-in decisions will be made with student and staff safety as the highest priority.” Read More

0 Comments

In an update to the McLean Citizens Association, School Board members Elaine Tholen and Karen Keys-Gamarra outlined some changes coming up as Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) begins to take a look at long-term planning again.

One of the biggest topics in the area before the pandemic was a proposed realignment of McLean’s high school boundaries.

According to FCPS:

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is considering a boundary adjustment to provide capacity relief to McLean High School. Currently, McLean HS has more than 2,350 students in a building with design capacity of 1,993 students. Enrollment at McLean HS is projected to increase in the next five years.

Langley High School, which is close in proximity to McLean HS, recently completed a renovation that increased its design capacity to 2,370 students. Current enrollment at Langley is 1,972. Enrollment at Langley HS is projected to remain the same or decrease in the next five years. FCPS is not planning to recommend moving students out of Langley HS as part of this boundary adjustment.

Those plans got put on the back burner as FCPS dealt with the response to the pandemic, but Tholen said those plans are starting to come back.

“We don’t have specific dates around the McLean/Langley boundary change,” Tholen said. “That’s something that we had started working on at the end of last year and through community comments have incorporated Cooper [Middle School] and Longfellow [Middle School] into that process. We anticipate that we will be moving forward with that so we can have something in place for next fall.”

School Board members also said that the Board had told Superintendent Scott Brabrand that the proposal to change admissions the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology needed more data.

“the goal is to make sure those students who rise to the top will not be overlooked while giving oppurtunities to those schools that have previously not participated,” Keys-Gamarra said.

The McLean Citizens Association had previously criticized FCPS for the speed with which it introduced the merit lottery proposal, saying that the process needs more transparency and community engagement.

0 Comments

The Fairfax County School Board will discuss a proposal to overhaul admissions policies for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology at its meeting tonight (Wednesday).

With the goal of improving the diversity of prestigious magnet school, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has proposed eliminating the standardized test currently used to evaluate applicants, waiving the $100 application fee, and implementing a merit lottery system to allocate seats.

“This process that we shared keeps rigor in the application while eliminating the testing component that squeezed out talent and squeezed out diversity in our system,” Brabrand told the school board at its work session on Oct. 6. “There are other ways beyond a test to be sure that we can support making sure that students can be successful at TJ.”

The school board agreed that the test requirement and application fee should be jettisoned and showed its support for creating a different admissions process for Thomas Jefferson Class of 2025 applicants in a consensus vote.

However, like the Fairfax community more broadly, board members were divided when it came to the question of a merit lottery, asking Brabrand to develop another possible admissions model that does not involve a lottery before its Oct. 8 meeting.

Since it was proposed on Sept. 15, the idea of using a lottery to select students for a school prized for its high academic standards and strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has proven contentious.

Concerns that top-performing students would be shut out prompted Brabrand to present a second proposal to the school board on Tuesday, where 100 of the 500 seats available to Fairfax County students would be allocated to the “highest-evaluated” applicants.

The remaining 400 slots would be awarded through a lottery in proportion to student enrollment in each of FCPS’s five regions. Under Brabrand’s original proposal, a merit lottery would have been used to select all 500 seats. Read More

0 Comments

The Fairfax County School Board’s effort to rename Mosby Woods Elementary School has a key source of support: the Confederate leader’s descendants.

The great-great-grandchildren of Colonel John S. Mosby requested in a June 19 letter to the school board that the Fairfax school no longer use their ancestor’s moniker, arguing that the school’s name should “reflect the commitment to diversity the school embodies today.”

Joined by four of Mosby’s great-great-great-grandchildren, John Mosby Fuller, M. Dare Fuller DeLano, and James Lewis Ransom Fuller acknowledge that Mosby was notable for his military skills, but they argue that Confederate leaders should not be recognized with monuments and school names, given the Confederacy’s goal of preserving slavery and its valorization by contemporary white supremacists.

“We grew up in Fairfax County and are keenly aware of the affection that many Virginians feel toward our great-great-grandfather,” the letter says. “…As parents and educators, however, we must consider what message we send when we choose which aspects of our history to celebrate and which to condemn.”

The letter’s signatories say they were compelled to ask for a Mosby Woods name change as a gesture of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests for racial justice that spread across the U.S. this summer after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd on May 25.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the Mosby Woods renaming today at 6:00 p.m. before voting on whether to change the name during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Mosby Woods is the second Fairfax County public school to be considered for a new name this year. The school board voted unanimously on July 23 to rename Springfield’s Robert E. Lee High School after late U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“In the FCPS strategic plan, we commit to fostering a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture,” said Providence District representative Karl Frisch, who introduced the Mosby Woods renaming proposal to the school board on June 18 with at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra. “We cannot live up to that standard if we force students to attend schools named in honor of the racist vestiges of our past. A school system that honors the Confederacy cannot honor Black lives.”

Provided to Tysons Reporter by Frisch, the full letter from Mosby’s descendants has been reprinted below the jump. Read More

0 Comments

In a presentation to the School Board earlier this week, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that some students could begin returning to classes in schools in late October.

By late October, administrators estimate that 653 teachers can teach 6,707 students in school buildings for anywhere between one half-day to four full days a week.

The district is targeting students who receive special education services, attend preschool, are English-language learners, newcomers to U.S. schools or have limited formal education. High school students can also come for certain technical-education courses.

The move was heavily criticized by members of the School Board, who said Brabrand’s plan lacked important data that parents and teachers need when planning to start heading back to school.

0 Comments

Fairfax County Public Schools must now wait until a formal grievance process has concluded to impose discipline against students and employees found to have committed sexual harassment or assault.

With three members abstaining and one not present, the Fairfax County School Board voted 7-1 on Sept. 17 to amend the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities book, which contains the district’s student conduct policies, to specify that discipline in Title IX cases cannot be dealt until the completion of the grievance process, including any appeals.

The board also agreed to discuss its new sexual harassment regulations further at a future work session to potentially bolster protections for both people who file complaints and those subject to the discipline process.

Necessitated by new federal rules regarding Title IX cases, which concern sexual and gender-based discrimination, the Student Rights and Responsibilities amendment is an extension of a new district regulation that dictates how Fairfax County schools will handle sexual harassment complaints.

Effective as of Aug. 26, Regulation 2118 establishes a separate process for reporting, responding to, and resolving sexual harassment complaints than the one used for other offenses, such as drug use and even sexual misconduct that does not meet the definition of harassment.

Where other potential student conduct violations are generally addressed by school principals, formal complaints of sexual harassment will be reviewed by Title IX investigators in the FCPS Office of Equity and Employee Relations, and hearing officers under the superintendent are now responsible for determining whether a complaint is founded and what discipline to impose.

All appeals go to the school board’s appeals committee except for an appeal of a complaint’s dismissal, which would be heard by the district’s deputy assistant superintendent. Read More

0 Comments

About 6,700 students could start trickling into Fairfax County Public Schools during October, according to a plan for limited in-person learning developed by the district.

Although Board of Education members indicated they approve of bringing back students, prioritizing those who need extra support in school, they criticized the plan as Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented to them during a work session Tuesday evening.

Members told Brabrand his presentation lacked the numbers that parents and teachers need to reconfigure their lives.  They also pointed out that there was minimal information on the thresholds that the district needs to offer or suspend in-person instruction, depending on health levels.

“We continue to say, ‘data, data, data, measurements,’ and I don’t see it here,” Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen said. “I don’t think this gives our staff and our families any sense of understanding of what is to come.”

Brabrand assured members that their thirst for data will be quenched once the Virginia Department of Health publishes a dashboard that currently only officials can access.

“The state dashboard health metrics will be a game-changer for this community and this school board, and it will be available in just a few days,” he said.

Members flooded FCPS administrators with other questions and concerns, chief among them, when kindergarten, first- and second-grade students can return.

Currently, students can come to be assessed for support services, groups can sit for socially distanced exams and teachers can access their classrooms.

By late October, administrators estimate that 653 teachers can teach 6,707 students in school buildings for anywhere between one half-day to four full days a week.

The district is targeting students who receive special education services, attend preschool, are English-language learners, newcomers to U.S. schools or have limited formal education. High school students can also come for certain technical-education courses.

But Vice-Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Petarsky said she is disappointed that English-language learners are only coming in for a half-day, once a week. She doubted that  was “worth the inherent risk of bringing kids to school.”

Melanie K. Meren, the Hunter Mill District representative, said teachers are overwhelmed, and some are “outright resigning.” Others told her they are hurting from funding shortages that resulted from lower enrollment.

This year, 8,000 students unenrolled from FCPS.

The extent of the impact of lower enrollments has yet to be measured, but staffing problems could strain the return-to-school plan.

Over the summer, the district surveyed teachers to gauge if they prefer in-person or virtual learning during the pandemic. Teachers who preferred virtual learning were separated into four categories: At-risk teachers formed Tier 1, while those living with at-risk individuals comprised Tier 2. Those who worried about child-care formed Tier 3, while teachers with none of these concerns formed Tier 4.

To support in-person learning, most of the teachers in Tiers 2 through 4 need to teach in schools, or “make a decision not to work for Fairfax County Public Schools,” Brabrand said.

“If we want to bring the majority of our kids in each cohort, we have to bring back the majority of teachers who themselves do not have health accommodations,” he said.

Teachers in Tier 1 would be offered accommodations or be given a leave of absence. Those needing childcare can have temporary absence covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The district would try to match some teachers with virtual students, Brabrand said.

In response, a majority of board members told the superintendent they want to review the data on the staff who said they would consider leaving the district, and see if they could be offered a leave of absence instead.

“We do have enough staff for the first phase of the plan and will work on other matters moving forward to ensure a safe return for our staff and students into school buildings,” Caldwell said in the email.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

0 Comments

When students at Cooper Middle School (977 Balls Hill Road) in McLean eventually do return to their classrooms, they could find their school in the middle of a sweeping overhaul.

At a School Board meeting last week, the Board unanimously approved a contract to make a series of improvements to the school, including a renovation of all systems and spaces in the building.

Some of these changes are technical and behind the scenes, but others are more prominent.

“This includes new HVAC, IT, electrical, plumbing, and life safety systems in their entirety,” said John Torre, executive director of communication and community relations for Fairfax County Public Schools. “Approximately 69,000 [square feet] of new space will be added to the existing building.”

This new space includes:

  • new two story classroom addition
  • new library space
  • new courtyard
  • additional classroom space in a new second floor that will be built over a portion of the existing first floor
  • new main entrance
  • reconfigured administration space
  • cafeteria expansion
  • main gym expansion

The existing Kiss and Ride circulation outside the building will be improved in the renovations, with parking at the school reconfigured and expanded. A new paved play area will be provided, Torre said.

“This project is currently scheduled to begin in mid-October 2020 with an end date of late summer 2023,” Torre said.

Image via Google Maps

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list