Tysons, VA

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

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Editor’s note: Starting March 24, Tysons Reporter will have “Morning Notes” every weekday instead of twice a week to accommodate more news.

Here are the latest stories about the Tysons area that the Tysons Reporter team has been reading:

Grab-and-Go Meal Sites Have Curbside Service — “FCPS staff will deliver meals to children and adults while they wait in their cars in the kiss and ride line. Walk-ups are still welcome at all sites.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Hilton to Furlough Employees — “Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. will furlough hundreds — if not thousands — of employees at its McLean headquarters as part of ongoing cost cutting measures related to the novel coronavirus.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Student Makes Medical Masks — “When Beech Tree mom Van Nguyen heard about the shortage of medical face masks, she put her sewing skills into action. Her original goal was to make 20 face masks, but after posting about her project on social media, she received a plea from local medical professionals to make more. Beech Tree fifth grader Caroline got wind of Nguyen’s project and decided to put her own sewing skills to the test.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Falls Church City Employee Has Coronavirus — “Officials were notified this week of the positive test — the first of a City employee and third reported in the City itself — by the Fairfax County Health Department who determined there was not a public health reason to report the details of the case to the public… Falls Church officials told the News-Press the employee is not a City resident.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Former Vienna Town Councilmember Dies — “George Lovelace, a U.S. Army veteran and longtime Vienna Town Council member who also served one year as a state delegate, died March 22 at age 83.” [Inside NoVa]

Dry Cleaners Now Open in The Boro — The Boro Cleaners is now open at 8303 B Greensboro Drive. [The Boro/Twitter]

Falls Church Farmers Market is Back — “The farmers market in the City of Falls Church will reopen this weekend, though it will look a little different, after a one-week hiatus out of concern over the potential spread of the coronavirus.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Special School Board Meeting Today — “The Fairfax County School Board will hold a Special Meeting at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 27. All Board members will participate electronically due to the COVID-19 emergency.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

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Earlier today, teachers and staff from a local elementary school drove decorated vehicles through Vienna neighborhoods to say hello to families.

The “Love Parade” organized by Cunningham Park Elementary School (1001 Park Street) aimed to show support for families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parade started around 11 a.m. and made its way through several local streets. Families came outside to wave to the teachers and staff, who adorned their vehicles with messages:

“We love you.”

“CPES STUDENTS ROCK!”

“Remember Wash your HANDS”

Fairfax County public schools are closed through the end of the school year. FCPS is planning for teachers to provide distance learning to students while the buildings are closed.

Some people took to social media to show their appreciation for the parade:

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Before the coronavirus prompted Fairfax County Public Schools to close, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said a proposed boundary change for McLean high schools won’t impact students later this year.

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.

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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.

Image via Twitter

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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

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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

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Happy Friday. Here are the latest stories about the Tysons area that the Tysons Reporter team has been reading:

Non-Coronavirus News:

McLean Student Nabs State Pageant Title — “McKenzie Watt, the 9-year-old daughter of Philip and Andra Watt of McLean, has been awarded the title ‘Little Miss of Virginia’ 2019-20 and moves on to national competition.” [Inside Nova]

Religious Broadcaster Wants Tysons-Based Tegna — “Phoenix investment firm Najafi Cos. is teaming with a faith-based broadcaster in Texas in an effort to buy Tysons-based Tegna Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Format for Vienna Candidates Debate — “The Vienna town government will record and repeatedly broadcast an audience-free Vienna Town Council candidate debate to be held April 2.” [Inside NoVa]

Coronavirus News:

FCPS Prepping for Distance Learning — “If FCPS schools cannot reopen as scheduled on April 14, our plan is to begin distance learning either online, or by learning packets at that time. Over the next two weeks, we will begin distance learning training for teachers and give teachers the opportunity to plan and prepare for distance instruction and reconnect with their students. ” [FCPS]

COVID-19 Hurting Little City Restaurants — “The hospitality industry in Falls Church and beyond is being hit especially hard with the public ramping up its social distancing effort and authorities implementing new restrictions on restaurant and bar service in an effort the prevent the spread of COVID-19.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons CEO Slams Social Distancing — “Michael Saylor, the CEO and founder of Tysons technology firm MicroStrategy Inc., called social distancing measures enacted to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus ‘soul stealing and debilitating’ and stated the company would not close any of its offices around the world unless legally required to do so.” — [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Group Helping At-Risk People — “Unlike most of her peers, senior Sophie Howery has been spending her time off to help fight the spread of the virus. To do this, Howery created the Fairfax County Community COVID Aid Project, hoping to help support those who may be at risk of contracting the coronavirus.” [The Highlander]

How Will COVID-19 Impact the Local Economy? — The Stephen S. Fuller Institute at George Mason University’s recent report says that “the Washington region’s economy will also contract in the last three quarters of 2020, primarily because of decreased consumer spending and lost productivity.” [Washingtonian]

 

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Fairfax County Public Schools is expanding the number of grab-and-go sites and adding several pop-up options throughout the county.

Students can pick up breakfast from 8-10:30 a.m. and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one of the 39 sites in the county. The service is intended for students under the age of 18 who rely on free and reduced-price school meals. Adults can also purchase meals for $2.

On Wednesday (March 18), the county announced that its food truck will travel to nine pop-up sites in the county. The truck is expected to swing by South Lakes High School between 11-11:30 a.m.

Beginning today (Thursday), school buses will also deliver meals along some bus routes by stopping at designated intersections. The schedule is available online.

Local grab-and-go sites are below:

The complete list is available online. An online map created by the county also allows users to search for food distribution sites in the area.

Photo via FCPS

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To prevent the risk of spreading the coronavirus, Fairfax County announced today (Sunday) that all of the county’s senior centers and adult day health care centers are now closed.

The centers in the Tysons-area include the Providence Senior Center (3001 Vaden Drive), Lewinsville Senior Center (1613 Great Falls Street) and the Pimmit Hills Senior Center (7510 Lisle Avenue).

The centers are closed until further center, according to the county. “We are continuing to re-evaluate the need for closure and will reopen when it is appropriate to do so,” the announcement said.

Starting tomorrow (Monday), the county will provide meal delivery service to people are who registered.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 45 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth, with 10 in Fairfax County.

The pandemic has prompted schools to close or switch to online learning and companies to ask employees to work from home in the D.C. area.

Fairfax County Public Schools closed Friday for four weeks until April 10. A laptop distribution to students that was supposed to take place tomorrow (Monday), has been postponed, FCPS said.

FCPS announced yesterday (Saturday) the first FCPS-related case, saying that a staff member at Lynbrook Elementary School has tested presumptive positive for coronavirus.

“The Fairfax County Health Department is conducting an investigation to identify individuals who are at risk of exposure and will be contacting those individuals directly to provide further guidance and testing if necessary,” according to the county.

While the schools are closed, FCPS plans to expand its free grab-and-go meals to 18 sites by Monday, including the following in the Tysons area:

  • Bailey’s Primary ES (6111 Knollwood Drive)
  • Cunningham Park ES (1001 Park Street)
  • Graham Road Community Center (3036 Graham Road)

Families can find the food distribution outside the schools from 8-10:30 a.m. for breakfast and from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch.

Additionally, civil jury trials have been suspended for 30 days, starting Friday (March 13).

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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