Updates on COVID-19 and Our Schools

Hello all,

I know many are concerned about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and have been asking about the plans for our schools to remain open. As a parent with a child in our schools, I understand and share many of your concerns. Our staff is working with the Fairfax County Health Department and other officials to coordinate efforts and ensure safety of our staff and students with minimal disruption to effective instruction and school operation. I am sending this email to update you about the latest developments and FCPS’ plans with respect to COVID-19. I hope you will find this useful.

Update on COVID-19 and Our Schools

COVID-19 remains a very fluid situation. This past weekend at the County Health Department briefing, we learned that the risk to the general public remains low – even though we have confirmed cases in the county. The Health Department continues to work aggressively to identify anyone who’s been infected or exposed so they can be isolated or quarantined, reducing the chance of spreading illness. We understand the heightened anxiety and concern among our parents and the community and are working tirelessly to develop varied plans and keep our students and staff safe.

Latest Developments

All overnight field trips in-state and out-of-state are canceled, effective immediately. 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.  

Monday, March 16, is a student holiday/staff development day. This student holiday will provide an opportunity for staff to prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the event of a school(s) closure. We will use this time as a staff training day and all staff will report to work. All after-school extracurricular activities on March 16, including interscholastic contests and team practices, will proceed as scheduled. SACC centers will be open.

FCPS COVID-19 Presentation

Monday, the School Board held a work session during which the Superintendent’s office shared an update with the School Board about our response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and the various contingency plans in place for different response scenarios impacting our schools.

As your At-Large School Board representative, I encourage you to watch videos of both the COVID-19 response presentation and the subsequent question and answer session.


In addition to watching videos from Monday’s informative presentation and dialogue, you can stay up to date on this fast-evolving issue by signing-up for email alerts from FCPS and regularly visiting the special FCPS Coronavirus Update Website which includes frequently asked questions, fact sheets, other videos, and additional resources that you may find useful.

FCPS COVID-19 Response Team's Plans

  • The COVID-19 Response Team has been established to formulate an overall response strategy for schools and departments.
  • This team will meet regularly to review updates from FCHD, prioritize division-wide matters, develop internal and external communication protocols, and implement the FCPS Response Plan (currently under review by FCHD). 
  • In addition to the response team, work groups are being established to operationalize specific components of the response plan. Work groups will consist of FCPS staff members, School Board members, and representatives of employee associations and community organizations.
  • Work group topics identified thus far include:
    o Instructional delivery
    o Academic supports
    o Equity of access
    o VDOE requirements
    o HR matters
    o Field trips/transportation
    o Athletics and community use
    o Food distribution
    o Cleaning protocols


  • There are no hard and fast rules on what the County Health Department will recommend if we do start to see cases of COVID-19 directly impact our schools. It is entirely situational and we would be focused on containment and mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of disease.
  • We will take our guidance from the Health Department if a decision to close one or more schools is under consideration.
  • The Health Department is in the process of reviewing and updating the existing FCPS pandemic response plan.   
  • The plan addresses the specific activities necessary to keep schools open and operating while providing a clean and safe environment during an outbreak and the essential functions that must be performed by FCPS, if schools are closed.
  • The plan utilizes two planning scenarios:
    • Planning Scenario 1: Under this scenario, a large percentage of the division’s schools are in session but a single school or a small group of schools may have dismissed students from classes to limit/restrict social contact and slow the transmission of the influenza virus.  The Superintendent may authorize the dismissal of students from class based on recommendations from the local health department director.  Instructional program support and division-wide support services may be limited due to high absenteeism rate or the redeployment of staff.
    • Planning Scenario 2: Schools are closed. Under this scenario, students have been dismissed from school either by order of the state health commissioner to limit/restrict social contact and slow the transmission of the influenza virus or by order of the Division Superintendent or the School Board due to falling class attendance and/or rising staff absenteeism. FCPS facilities may remain open to faculty and staff to support continuity of learning.
  • Other variations of these scenarios could also be considered and implemented.
  • There are “snow days” built into the FCPS school year calendar that could be utilized if schools need to be closed for any length of time. 
  • The objectives of the plan include limiting and delaying the spread of a virus pandemic; minimizing disruption to operations and the education process; assist affected employees and their families; and achieve an orderly recovery from emergency operations.
  • Our overall goal would be to do all we can to maintain continuity of operations while minimizing student and staff exposure.
  • Food Distribution: We recognize the importance of the free and reduced meals to our students and families and the planning scenarios include how the food programs could be maintained if the coronavirus impacts the operations at one or more schools, including a possible grab-and-go option.


  • Our existing school cleaning protocols utilize products that kill the virus and we have a six month supply of these products on hand.
  • We will be shipping out additional sanitizing wipes to schools as a supplemental resource. We also have more hand sanitizing gel on order that will be sent to schools as soon as it has been received. Washing hands with soap and water is key. Cover your coughs. Stay home when sick.
  • We are reinforcing with our custodial teams the importance of following our standard cleaning protocols by using disinfectants on high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucet handles, and handrails.


  • We continue to update our frequently asked questions and answers on our FCPS Coronavirus Update webpage
  • Materials are being translated into multiple languages.
  • Health Department Hotline: 703-267-3511


We recognize that uncertainty creates anxiety.

We want to remind our community that coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality, or ethnicity. Having Asian ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness. 

We can fight stigma and support others by sharing accurate information and staying informed through reputable, trusted sources. 


  • We received CDC guidance from the County Health Department that any individual who has traveled to South Korea or Italy should self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. This is in addition to the Health Department monitored 14-day quarantines for individuals who have been to China and Iran.
  • These travelers will receive information upon their return to the U.S. about the self-quarantine.
  • With these changes, beginning March 9, we implemented a travel history questionnaire for students. This is a protocol we used during the Ebola crisis.
  • Students who are newly enrolling or returning to school after international travel from these countries (South Korea, Italy, China, Iran) will be informed of the CDC recommendations and should not attend school for 14 days after returning to the U.S.
  • SIAs and Registrars received training in this process Friday at the Registrars’ Conference.


  • We are working on a tiered plan to address instruction if there are school closures.
  • We recognize that some of our families lack access to computers and internet access at home and we will make available, through local schools, loaner laptops and mobile hotspot devices (MiFi), if needed. 
  • In addition, we are considering the potential impact on staff members who may be unable to provide instruction in the event of a school closure due to their personal health or responsibilities to care for a family member.  
  • The instruction plan addresses both short-term and long-term scenarios that would include the possibility of distance learning. 
  • March 16 is a staff development day/student holiday. This day will provide an opportunity for staff to prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the event of a school(s) closure.


The CDC advised institutions of higher education to consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs. Based on this information, and in an abundance of caution, FCPS suspended all FCPS-sponsored international field trips and short-term international visitations through June 30, 2020.


The Fairfax County Health Department has not advised FCPS to cancel or reschedule community events or programs with large crowds.


The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: Fever, cough, and shortness of breath. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html


    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. 
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

We have encouraged our schools to find time to allow students to wash hands throughout the day and reiterate the importance of students and staff staying home if they are not feeling well.

Currently, there is no reason to keep healthy children home from school. There are no cases of COVID-19 in our schools. FCPS and the Health Department will coordinate in determining appropriate next steps regarding any school cancellation decisions. These decisions will be guided by sound science and best practices in public health.

It is critical that we all stay informed and calm. FCPS will continue to provide frequent updates for the community as new information becomes available. Again, I encourage you to watch Monday’s COVID-19 response presentation and the subsequent question and answer session. Do not forget to sign-up for email alerts and regularly visit the special FCPS Coronavirus Update Website, which is updated frequently with additional resources and other useful information.

I encourage you to forward this email to friends, family, and other members of the community who may be interested.

In service,

Rachna Sizemore Heizer

Fairfax County School Board At-Large Member

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Special COVID-19 Message from Superintendent Brabrand and School Board Chair Corbett Sanders:



P.S. If you have questions about the illness or symptoms, or how to prevent respiratory infections, you can call 703-267-3511 to speak with a Communicable Disease Nurse at the Fairfax County Health Department during business hours.

The views contained within this newsletter reflect the views of the individual school board member who is the publisher of this newsletter and may not reflect the views of the Fairfax County School Board.

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