Falls Church and Fairfax County officials are revisiting efforts to rename schools with names linked to the Confederacy as communities across the U.S. tackle a racial reckoning.
The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis has reignited discussions of how buildings, monuments and places with Confederate ties perpetuate racial oppression.
The push to remove names and images linked to the Confederacy at local schools isn’t new.
Fairfax County officials renamed JEB Stuart High School to Justice High School in 2017, with students changing the mascot in 2018. Fairfax High School’s principal changed the mascot this year. A few weeks ago, the Fairfax County School Board voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School to honor late U.S. Congressman John Lewis.
Tysons Reporter looked into how the two public school systems have tackled the renaming issue this summer and what’s coming up for schools in the Tysons area.
Falls Church Moving Forward With Renamings
After several meetings and hundreds of public comments, the Falls Church City School Board made the decision to move forward with renaming George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in late June. Both Founding Fathers were slaveholders.
A few months ago, a petition with more than 250 signatures and growing public pressure prompted the school board to start considering the name changes in the second week of June.
“We’re at a point where it’s time to really begin the conversation,” Greg Anderson, the school board’s chair, said at a school board meeting this summer.
One of the biggest renaming questions the school board tackled is whether or not to hire a consultant to aid in the process, with some members saying it was a good idea in order to maintain neutrality and to gather more information about Mason and Jefferson and others pointing out the costs.
“Lots of folks don’t really know the history of who he is,” School Board member Lawrence Webb said about Mason.
The school board resolved that dilemma this week by voting to hire Herndon-based K-12 Insight to conduct the surveys, the Falls Church News-Press reported.
Now that the school board has approved moving forward with the renaming process, they will need to decide what the new names will be.
The school board wants to make sure the renaming process isn’t rushed, agreeing that it’s important to get many perspectives on this issue.
“I think we need to take our time so we know what the community has to say,” said Susan Dimock. Read More
A new tutoring service and study space will soon open in McLean, offering families a place to bring kids for extra help in school or just find a quiet place to work.
Called ‘The STUDY studio on Elm,’ the facility is located at 6846 Elm Street in McLean and run by Carly Latessa, a Northern Virginia native, the website said. The studio posted on Facebook that it opens next Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Students seeking a place to study outside of school can sign up for either a private desk or room at the studio. The location also offers places for group work too.
Pricing varies depending on the time of day and time. For example, a desk can be reserved for $8/hour from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. and $5/hour from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Memberships are available on a monthly basis for $50 f0r an individual and $80 for families with two kids. “Membership fees cover cleaning supplies, strong wifi, snacks, water refill, printing and a committed staff,” the website said.
The business also offers flexible tutoring options starting at $35/hour. “Tutoring sessions can be held at our space, in your home or virtually,” the website said adding that tutoring is also available for a wide variety of subjects.
Tysons Reporter reached out to Latessa for an interview but didn’t receive a response.
Image via Google Maps
School is starting again for kids in the Tysons area, leading parents and educators to not just focus on possible health risks from COVID-19, but also from students who haven’t gotten their required vaccines.
Even though it’s starting the new school year off virtually, Fairfax County Public Schools is requiring all of its students to be up-to-date on required immunizations.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found indications that fewer kids are getting immunizations — possibly due to parents’ worries that their kids will catch COVID-19 at the doctor’s office.
In addition to COVID-19 concerns, some parents are now worried if vaccine-preventable diseases pose a new threat from unvaccinated kids, National Geographic reported.
The CDC said in July that health care providers seem to have the capacity to give kids their routine vaccinations.
Fairfax County officials are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. This summer, the county expanded its number of community childhood vaccination clinics and the hours for the clinics offering the school-required Tdap vaccine.
Let us know in the poll and comments below if your kids have all their required vaccinations for the new school year.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
Fairfax County officials warn that vaping may be linked to a higher rate of COVID-19-associated side effects.
Today (Monday), the county’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response shared information on the possible associations between vaping and the novel coronavirus, noting that vaping and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity among teens and young adults in the last few years.
As schools reopen virtually and in-person in the Tysons area, county officials want people who vape to know that initial research shows that vaping, which has been linked to lung damage, could be tied to more severe complications of COVID-19.
“According to the 2018-2019 Fairfax County Youth Survey, 20% of Fairfax County Public School students ages 13 to 18 vape, similar to the national average of 20.8%,” the message said.
The “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19 that Gov. Ralph Northam pointed out in late July is continuing both statewide and in Fairfax County.
As of today, data from the state health department shows that people in their 20s represent roughly 17.7% of the total COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (17.9%). Statewide, people in their 20s account for the highest percentage (20.1%) of all of the age groups for COVID-19 cases.
The county’s health department now plans to launch a text to quit program with the Truth Initiative aimed at kids and young adults, the county said.
The county, which noted that research on vaping and COVID-19 is limited and still ongoing, spotlighted work done by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped,” Stanford found.
While researchers in France earlier this year claimed that nicotine may prevent the virus from attaching to cells, the Centers for Disease Control says that smokers may be at an increased risk for worse COVID-19 complications than non-smokers.
As Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for virtual classes, some private schools in Reston and Tysons are bringing students back into classrooms.
Four private and parochial school administrators told Tysons Reporter a high demand for in-person instruction and their ability to socially distance students are the main reasons they are offering in-person learning.
Green Hedges School in Vienna noted an increase in enrollment interest for the 2020-21 school year, according to Jenn Boehnen, who is the head of the school.
After initially planning for a hybrid of in-person and online classes, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced in July that the public school system, which is the largest one in Virginia, would open virtually on Sept. 8 for the fall. Concerns about public health safety and staffing levels prompted the switch to fully online classes.
Unlike big public schools with larger class sizes, the private school administrators Tysons Reporter spoke to said that they will be able to keep students spaced out.
Green Hedges is requiring that students sit in assigned seats for lunch and snack time, according to the school’s reopening plan. The seats will be 6 feet away from each other and students will have the option to eat outside when possible. Additionally, the school is instructing students to stay 6 feet away from each other during recess.
Photos the school shared on Facebook show desks spaced out in the classrooms.
Oakcrest School near Crowells Corner plans to move classes with 20 or more students outside, weather permitting. The school is looking to use its 23-acre campus to keep its approximately 260 students safely spread out.
“We’re trying to implement as many safety precautions as possible without disrupting the normal rhythm of the school day,” said Miriam Buono, who heads up operations at Oakcrest.
To further ensure social distancing, Oakcrest is implementing unilateral stairways to avoid overcrowding in the halls. The school is also extending passing periods from five to 10 minutes to compensate for the stairways and to allow students to step outside for mask breaks.
In addition to figuring out how to keep students physically distanced, school administrators are also finding ways to deal with another new element: getting kids to wear face coverings for several hours.
To address the issue of mask fatigue, St. Joseph Catholic School in Herndon is allowing teachers and students to pull down face coverings when 6 feet apart or when alone. Students will also be able to remove their masks while eating.
Even while many private schools in the Fairfax County area are planning for in-person learning, some are offering a virtual option for families with health concerns. The school administrators told Tysons Reporter that they have to remain flexible if new state guidelines or a COVID-19 surge requires a switch to fully-virtual learning.
Administrators want parents to know they are tracking the ongoing conditions to determine whether or not in-person classes are safe.
Photos via Green Hedges School/Facebook
As the start date for Fairfax County Public Schools approaches, school officials are in the midst of developing metrics to guide how and when schools would reopen.
At a Fairfax County School Board meeting in late July, the board directed FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to begin drafting preliminary metrics to inform decisions about school openings and closures.
School officials anticipate a spike in COVID-19 cases in the late fall during flu season. Another possibility is “recurring waves across many months until a vaccine is developed,” which could reflect a “loss of stamina” for strict social distancing precautions, according to FCPS documents.
The move comes in the absence of state or county level metrics on the issue. In a recent email, Melanie Meren, the school board member for the Hunter Mill District, said this step was taken due to lack of guidance from state officials on the issue.
“Therefore, the school board felt it was vital for FCPS to begin developing our own, because no one else was doing that for or with us,” Meren wrote.
The latest plan for reopening and closures notes that “multi-faceted metric and thresholds” will be used to guide decision-making.
School officials will take several factors into consideration based on community transmission and disease trends, which will determine if the level of community transmissions creates conditions for face-to-face transmission.
Other factors include operational metrics like the school system’s capacity to support in-person instruction, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Finally, school officials will also consider school metrics.
Until then, FCPS students are set to return to virtual classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8, right after Labor Day.
With the start of the new school year quickly approaching, the latest Fairfax County Public Schools town hall will focus how staff will support students with disabilities in a virtual learning environment.
Tomorrow (Wednesday), FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will talk to some of the school system’s special education staff.
“Staff members will explain what they do to support students with disabilities in Fairfax County and will talk about student engagement in the virtual environment, family partnerships, student support, and specialized instruction,” according to FCPS.
Recently, Brabrand has held town halls on Wednesdays to talk about the plans for the virtual return to school and answer community members’ questions.
FCPS has a town hall about the return to school in Spanish scheduled for next Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, on resources for parents.
Image via Fairfax County Public Schools
The Parent Technology Help Desk launched yesterday (Monday), FCPS announced. The school system also offers an online portal adults and older students can use to request tech help.
The help desk (833-921-3277) will be staffed between 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, according to FCPS. Callers can ask for an interpreters to join the call.
“If help desk staff members are unable to solve the issue, they will request help from the appropriate FCPS team,” according to FCPS.
Currently, the school system is working to distribute roughly 55,000 laptops to students. Before the first day of school (Tuesday, Sept. 8), families can expect teachers to hold virtual orientations and reach out to students.
Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash
In previous years, the Children’s Art Walk was an open-air gallery, but due to the pandemic, the juried show will take place virtually. The New Dominion Women’s Club of McLean is sponsoring the exhibit, which is a part of MPAartfest.
Students in the Langley and McLean public school pyramid, as well as students at private and parochial schools, can participate, Bethany Nguyen, MPA’s marketing consultant, told Tysons Reporter.
Entries will be accepted between Aug. 24-Sept. 6. MPA asks students to submit art related to one of three themes: “Abundance,” “Small Stories” and “Natural Inclinations.”
MPAartfest is scheduled to take place Oct. 4-18. People will be able to view the exhibit, which will also include art made by kids during MPA’s summer art camps, online during the duration of the festival.
Last year’s Children’s Art Walk featured work from more than 150 students, according to MPA.
Photo via McLean Project for the Arts/Facebook
As families, educators and school systems grapple with how to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic, some parents are turning to “learning pods” this fall.
Learning pods — also known as “pandemic pods” — are essentially micro-schools. Small groups of kids learn together in-person either from a tutor or parents.
A New York Times survey found that most of the families who said they plan to use learning pods said that they address both concerns about health risks at school and desire for in-person education.
Some local parents say that having multiple families chip in makes hiring a tutor more affordable and that the pods will make it easier for them to go back to work than if their kids were learning virtually.
However, the concept has raised questions about the wealth disparity with education.
Fairfax County Public Schools recently brought up concerns about “tutoring pods,” saying that the school system is declining requests from parents to have FCPS teachers lead their pods.
“While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students,” the statement said. “Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.”
Let us know in the poll and comments below what you think of learning pods.
Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash