As Fairfax County Public Schools prepare to transition to online learning now that the school buildings are closed, the school board wants to make sure the plan is realistic.
“Launching a distance learning plan to reach 189,000 students that engages nearly 16,000 classroom teachers is a complex challenge,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to parents yesterday.
Ahead of plans for FCPS to kick off distance learning on April 14, the Fairfax County School Board held a meeting today to share questions and concerns about realistic expectations around the new education model.
“Distance learning does not equal classroom instruction,” Sloan Presidio with the Instructional Services Department said at the meeting today.
Proposal for Distance Learning
Beginning next week, teachers will receive virtual training to begin the transition. Last week, elementary and middle school principals met with the school system’s leadership to receive updates on the overall plan for resuming instruction.
The draft proposal includes closing all third-quarter grades as of March 13 and assigning a “no mark” for the fourth quarter to “allow students’ work in the 4th quarter to positively influence their final grades” for high school and middle school students.
For elementary school students, no fourth-quarter grades will be assigned “due to equity issues of access to technology and limited student ability to submit work.”
The Virginia Department of Education says it will ensure seniors who are on-track to graduate as of the school systems’ closure will graduate on time.
High school students will participate in teacher-led instruction and independent learning. Teachers are expected to contact students beginning next week.
Middle school students will receive learning packets for language arts, math, science, and social studies. Virtual, teacher-led instruction will be conducted for these four classes. Teachers for electives will post learning activities to Blackboard.
Elementary school students will also distribute learning packets to students beginning this week. Teacher-student engagement online will be emphasized, as well as teacher check-ins, phone calls and emails with students. Parents will also receive a published schedule of instruction from school principals.
Students enrolled in special education programs will have access to resources online as well. More information about other programs, including guidance for English to Speakers of Others Languages, is available online.
Draft proposals before the board on learning schedules are below.
Presidio said that FCPS will work to identify students who are not engaged in the learning activities during the distance learning plan and contact them individually to get them engaged.
“Maximum flexibility will be our approach on all these issues,” Presidio said about the overall approach.
Getting Students The Tools They Need
The distribution of 15,000 wireless hotspots and laptops for students in need has already begun.
Currently, staff are pulling laptops out of classrooms and reconfiguring them so that they can be given to students, Maribeth Luftglass with the Department of Information Technology said at the meeting.
“We do feel like we have enough for students in need,” she said about the computers.
Starting next week, laptop distribution for grades three-six will be able to pick up their computers by appointment only.
As for personal wi-fi hot spots, Luftglass said that there FCPS is prioritizing high school students. Each device can be used by five devices, she said.
While FCPS recently ordered more devices, she said that the nationwide supply is starting to dwindle due to demand.
FCPS is working to update its internet access maps for each school pyramid since some of the wi-fi hot spots in the county — like public libraries — aren’t available at the moment due to closures.
To reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, Luftglass said that students will be issued laptops one by one by staff who will wear gloves and disinfect the tables between appointments.
When families arrive, they will go through a health screening station before staff help the students log in to their newly-wiped down laptops, she said.
School Board Members Urge Flexibility
Concerns raised by board members included privacy for teachers’ contact information, different levels of outreach to families from schools, how to best support special student populations and the availability of the technology.
Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin said that the proposal might exacerbate the equity issues and achievement gap and urged FCPS to compare how their plan compares to ones for other jurisdictions.
Several board members, like Hunter Mill District Representative Melenie Meren, said that it’s crucial that FCPS remain flexible about student learning as the pandemic continues.
“I hope we can adjust expectations of staff and parents,” she said, adding that she is wary of creating events where students and teachers have to be available at a specific time.
Overall, Meren praised the work that has been done so far to prepare for distance learning.
“I’m relieved we’re not taking in-person learning and taking it to digital,” she said. “I can’t overstate enough how savvy I think this approach is.”
She added that she’s glad that teachers and students will be able to maintain relationships.
“I think there is an understanding that students won’t be able to receive the level of service that they did in the school buildings,” Meren said.
Fatimah Waseem and Catherine Douglas Moran reported this story
Two images in story via FCPS
The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously at the meeting on March 9 to expand their study of a possible boundary change for McLean and Langley high schools include the two feeder middle schools — Cooper and Longfellow.
The draft CIP says that McLean High School is currently at 118% capacity, with projections showing the population increasing to 122% capacity in the 2024-2025 school year.
The boundary change would shift students from McLean High School to nearby Langley High School, which has a current capacity of 83%.
Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District on the school board, said that community input at meetings in December pushed for middle schools to be included in the proposal.
Tholen added that Cooper Middle School is set to get renovated. “That doesn’t need to slow this process,” she said.
Originally, boundary scope meetings were expected to continue into the spring with the goal of voting and having a decision so that the change could impact the 2020-2021 school year.
But Tholen and Brabrand said that the 2020-2021 goal is too soon, especially since high school students have already signed up for their fall classes.
Brabrand said that having the boundary change in effect by the 2021-2022 school year would be more likely.
It is unclear if the coronavirus pandemic will delay that timeline.
As the number of coronavirus cases grows, Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for the rest of the school year along with all other schools in the state.
In a press briefing today (Monday), Gov. Ralph Northam announced the closure of the schools.
All recreational and entertainment businesses must also close by midnight tomorrow (Tuesday), along with non-essential businesses that cannot limit patrons to 10 people or less, Northam said, adding that grocery stores, banks and pharmacies will remain open.
Northam said that restaurants can stay open for carry-out, curbside pick-up and delivery service.
“We are in this for months, not weeks,” Northam said. “So we are taking additional actions to keep Virginians safe.”
The state is currently seeking help to provide child care for essential personnel like health care providers.
So far, the state has 254 confirmed cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Fairfax County has the highest number of cases across all jurisdictions. The number jumped from 31 on Sunday to 43 today.
Governor Northam COVID-19 Briefing – March 23 https://t.co/u8kXFDq03u
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 23, 2020
Image via Twitter
Fairfax County Public Schools has changed the time for its grab and go meal sites at 34 school locations.
Starting Tuesday, March 24, FCPS will have the meals available from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The altered times will not affect the breakfast and lunch availability, according to FCPS.
Families can also find breakfast and lunch at 10 pop-up locations around the county and bus stop locations in several school neighborhoods. The complete list is available online, along with an online map created by the county to find food distribution sites.
Curbside pickup is available at Westgate Elementary in Falls Church and Oak View Elementary in Fairfax from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Meals are free for kids and $2 for adults. Families must bring their kids when requesting meals.
Photo via FCPS
Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a Facebook Live event today (Friday) that he is not aware of any new coronavirus cases with Fairfax County Public School employees.
FCPS announced on Saturday (March 14) that a teacher at Lynbrook Elementary School tested presumptive positive for coronavirus.
“We received no additional information about any of our employees receiving such a diagnosis,” he said.
Lynbrook Elementary School has been “thoroughly cleaned,” Brabrand said.
Fairfax County Public Schools closed last Friday (March 13). “It is our plan to return to school on April 14,” Brabrand said today. “This situation continues to evolve from day to day.”
Brabrand said that grade books are not closed and that students will have opportunities to complete assignments from the closure.
Brabrand said that he is trying to delay decisions on canceling proms and find ways for students to participate in graduations, which run from late May to June.
Brabrand said that a decision will be made next week about the laptop distribution that was supposed to happen on Monday (March 16).
More updates from Brabrand:
- April 13 is still planned as a Teacher Work Day
- FCPS is “committed to pay employees during the closure”
- will share decisions on pay for substitute teachers next week
- working on an access plan to schools for an emergency or critical school supplies
- parents should wait for schools to reopen before registering their kids
- teachers will get distance learning training in a distance learning environment
“This is not an optimal situation for any of us here in Fairfax County Public Schools,” he said.
Image via FCPS/Facebook
Updated at 4:10 p.m. — All Fairfax County public schools will be closed through school break until April 10, FCPS announced today (Friday).
While the staff development day scheduled for Monday, March 16, is postponed, school offices and central offices will be open that day to let students and staff get their things.
“We will promote digital and online resources to FCPS students that will help student learning continue,” FCPS said. “This work will not be required nor graded. Additionally, FCPS cable channels with learning activities are now available.”
Food distribution will also continue throughout the closures, FCPS said.
Earlier: Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for two weeks as the state scrambles to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The move was mandated by Gov. Ralph Northam for all state schools earlier this afternoon. Northam ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the spread to the respiratory disease.
A spokesperson for FCPS said that more details on the closure are forthcoming, Reston Now reported.
As of Friday afternoon, Virginia has 30 cases of coronavirus with six in Fairfax County, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Test results have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.
Here’s more from Northam’s office:
“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam.
“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus. This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”
Virginia Department of Education officials are working closely with school divisions and the Department of Social Services to ensure students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs are able to access those programs while schools are closed.
The Department of Education will issue guidance and memos to superintendents across the Commonwealth to provide specifics about the continuity of education, school nutrition, and updated public health guidelines.
This story was written by Fatimah Waseem and appeared on our sister site Reston Now.
Updated at 8:45 a.m. — FCPS schools will be closed today (Friday). Late last night (Thursday), FCPS reversed its decision to keep schools open on Friday.
All FCPS schools will be closed Friday, March 13, 2020.
School offices and central offices will open on time with an unscheduled leave policy in effect for 12-month employees. (Condition 2). More details to follow.
— Fairfax Schools (@fcpsnews) March 13, 2020
The SAT scheduled for FCPS locations on 3/14 has been cancelled. Students registered to test will receive information from @CollegeBoard. Given high volume of closures, communication from College Board and options for rescheduling will likely be delayed.
— Fairfax Schools (@fcpsnews) March 13, 2020
More from FCPS:
School offices and central offices will open on time with an unscheduled leave policy in effect for 12-month employees. (Condition 2). The following activities in schools and on school grounds are canceled:
- extracurricular activities
- interscholastic contests
- team practices
- field trips
- middle school after-school programs
- professional learning and training courses
- adult and community education classes
- recreation programs and community use by outside groups not affiliated with FCPS
School age child care (SACC) centers are closed.
Monday, March 16, will remain a student holiday/staff development day to allow our classroom teachers to prepare for the possibility of distance learning.
At a press conference today (Thursday) with Fairfax County officials, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that the public schools are staying open because there is no evidence of “community spread” with the virus from health officials.
“FCPS takes very seriously the COVID-19 challenges that are before the community today,” Brabrand said, adding the school system is “working very closely” to monitor the virus with local public health officials.
The school system is under growing pressure to close its schools due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
“We woke up to have a neighboring school division close,” he said, referring to Loudoun County’s announcement that it will close its schools through March 20.
FCPS announced earlier this week that there is a plan with different scenarios for school closures. FCPS will also have free digital learning and citizenship events on Wednesday (March 18) at Kilmer Middle School and South Lakes High School.
“If we were to have a positive response, we would make a decision to close that school or schools were that was to happen,” he said today.
Brabrand added that the schools are undergoing “deep cleans” with a protocol confirmed by medical officials that “kills viruses, including COVID-19.”
As of 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health says that there are 17 cases in the state, with Fairfax County having the most.
Two new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were announced earlier today in the county, bringing Fairfax County’s known count of coronavirus patients to four.
Also earlier today, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia.
“This is a very serious matter,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the press conference. “We must accept this is a changing situation hourly.”
McKay said that Fairfax County is “well prepared” and looking to phase-in additional telework and remote work options for county employees.
While county buildings will remain open, McKay urged people to do transactions online if possible.
Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director for Fairfax Health, said the risk for the general public in Fairfax County is low.
FCPS announced after the press conference that all extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, field trips, after-school programs, community use activities conducted by groups not affiliated with FCPS are canceled from March 14-April 12.
“SACC centers will remain open,” FCPS said. “We will share with you updates about today’s decisions by March 31.”
FCPS said it a review is underway for the food service and food handling procedures and that several parent-teacher associations are canceling school-based events “due to anticipated low turnout.”
Image via Fairfax County
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Fairfax County Public Schools will give students the day off next Monday (March 16) so that staff can make coronavirus preparations.
The student holiday will be a “staff development day” to give staff time to plan for distance learning if any of the schools close due to the virus.
FCPS tweeted the announcement shortly after 3 p.m. today (Tuesday).
“We will use this day as a staff training day and all staff will report to work,” according to the updated FCPS website.
FCPS said that all after-school extracurricular activities on Monday are still set to happen, along with adult and community education classes, recreation programs and “community use by outside groups not affiliated with FCPS.”
The middle school after-school program is canceled, FCPS said.
FCPS said in an email sent shortly after 4 p.m. that all overnight field trips in and out of Virginia have been canceled.
More from the email:
Any overnight trips scheduled on or after March 11 are canceled, and this cancellation notice is effective through April 12, 2020. Any trips scheduled to New York state are also canceled, including day trips. All other day trips will proceed as scheduled. We recognize that the decision to cancel overnight field trips may be disappointing; however, the decision is made in an abundance of caution for our students and staff.
With the recent spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Fairfax County Public Schools has a plan with different scenarios for school closures.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand outlined the two different scenarios in a letter on Monday (March 9).
In the first scenario, most of the schools would stay open, but one school or a few would dismiss students to limit the spread of the virus.
“The superintendent may authorize the dismissal of students from class based on recommendations from the local health department director,” the letter said. “Instructional program support and division-wide support services may be limited due to high absenteeism rate or the redeployment of staff.”
In the second scenario, the schools would close either due to either a large absent number of students or staff or by the orders of the state health commissioner.
“FCPS facilities may remain open to faculty and staff to support continuity of learning,” the letter said, adding that snow days may be used if schools close.
“We learned [Sunday] at the [Fairfax County Health Department] briefing that the risk to the general public remains low,” the letter says.
As of this morning, 14 people in the D.C. area have coronavirus — six in Maryland, three in D.C. and five in NoVa — and no one has died from the virus, WTOP reported.
The full letter is below the jump.
Two school buses were recently vandalized at the Vienna Elementary School, police said.
According to the police report, the buses were in the school’s parking lot when someone vandalized them.
One bus had a broken window and honey mustard packets thrown at it, Juan Vazquez, a spokesperson for the Vienna Police Department, told Tysons Reporter.
The incident occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 and 6:20 a.m. on Feb. 24.
Vazquez said that the damage is roughly $375 and that the case is inactive.
Image via Google Maps