FCPS Update, Virtual Office Hours from Melanie Meren

Dear Hunter Mill community members,

What a week this has been as we’ve all adjusted to an unexpected new way of life. This newsletter has information that reflects questions I’ve heard from students, families, and staff, and offers ways that I can support you at this time..

Virtual Office Hours

Please join me for my Virtual Offices hours. These will be town hall style meetings and there will be options to participate via video or phone. You may also contact me anytime at MKMeren@fcps.edu to ask a question or arrange an individual time to talk.

Tuesday, March 24 from 11am to noon.    

or join by phone: 1-573-609-8595 PIN: 461 320 429#

Thursday, March 26, 8-9 pm

or join by phone: 1-929-324-2264  PIN: 340 429 981#

Current Updates about FCPS:

I’ve been most often asked about the decision-making happening among the School Board and FCPS Leadership Team. Let me tell you a bit about it here:

Under normal circumstances, it’s challenging to convene as a 12-member School Board. By virtue of Virginia “sunshine” laws, if three or more of us meet, talk, or email, it’s considered a public meeting that we have to announce and provide the public with a means of viewing or participation. The School Board office goes to great lengths to ensure this transparent approach to governing. In this extraordinary situation where in-person meetings are out of the question and the safety of our student population demands immediate attention, the constant calls and emails among us - two-by-two - was head-spinning.

When the Governor declared a State of Emergency, this at least gave us the ability to hold virtual meetings where we could only discuss the emergency. This has been critical, because so much of our division’s work is related to the people who work to support our children.

Our School Board has asked the Governor for the ability to hold virtual meetings on non-emergency topics that we make accessible to the public. 

FCPS had a strong plan for how to navigate the unfolding crisis, and I supported the plan. As information and response levels accelerated rapidly, and community anxiety matched pace, the school division adopted a different course of action that included closing our schools. I am grateful to my School Board colleagues and FCPS Leadership for the thoughtfulness of our deliberations and the incorporation of public input to our decisions impacting the nearly 200,000 students and 25,000 employees of FCPS.

The guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Education is that since school divisions cannot ensure equity in access, student instructional assignments should not be required or graded during the closure that the Governor has ordered at least through March 27.

Because schools are closed, services like the FCPS Online High School and other online learning programs are also “closed” because staff isn’t working to provide support for functionality.  However, Online High School is expected to be available by March 30.

A limited number of essential FCPS staff has been working tirelessly to prepare online and virtual education to reach our nearly 200,000 students, aiming to accommodate the vast array of needs and abilities. Switching from classroom-taught materials to virtually-delivered materials (some of which may need to be paper-based and somehow distributed) is a daunting task.

In the meantime, FCPS has provided a website of Continuity of Learning resources by grade level, which offers supplemental materials to help keep students in the rhythm of their learning. Furthermore, while teachers are not posting new or graded assignments, some teachers are contacting their classes to offer positive thoughts and greetings, or sharing topics for response as a general exercise for keeping learning habits fresh. This varies across our county.

Regarding access to laptops and Wi-Fi: FCPS expects to start scheduling device pick up times  in the days ahead for families who do not have a device at home for student use.

Before the closure, FCPS’ plan included a strategy to distribute laptops and Mi-Fi spots to those in need. In accordance with the governor’s announcement suspending the division’s ability to enter schools and distribute equipment, staff is now barred from executing distribution out of an abundance of caution that seeks to limit social interaction on school grounds. Unlike distributing food, distributing equipment currently requires a set up inside (protected from weather), where students can start up the equipment. Staff also wants to clean any equipment from germs before distributing. Finally, staff are concerned for their own health and we must respect their legitimate concerns in participating in device distribution. Nonetheless, FCPS is working on a plan to safely distribute devices within the boundaries of healthy practice.

Clarity is forthcoming about the target date for online learning to be available and I will share it via email and social media as soon as I know.

FAQs from FCPS

I have heard many of your questions and I have been asking our staff for details. Here is what I have so far from FCPS staff:

What resources are available to help families talk with their children about COVID-19?

There are a number of resources to support families in talking with children about COVID-19.

What is happening with standardized testing?

Virginia Department of Education will seek maximum flexibility for schools and students to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including relief from federal and state requirements related to testing.

The State Superintendent has also directed VDOE staff to review state laws and regulations related to state graduation requirements to determine what steps must be taken to ensure that seniors who would otherwise graduate this spring are not denied diplomas. We will provide updates as soon as they are available.

What is the plan for 3rd Quarter Grades?

Instructional Services Department will work with principals associations to develop procedures and timelines. These will be communicated as soon as possible. 

Will students be able to pick up medication they have stored in the clinic? If so, what is the procedure?

Parents should contact their primary care physician if additional medications are needed. We are planning to schedule a day or days next week where students/families and staff can pick up essentials, including emergency medications. 

We are hearing concerns about AP/IB testing.  Is there an update regarding testing schedules?

FCPS staff members are working closely with officials from the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) program and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) regarding the impact of school closures on AP/IB instruction, review, and testing.  With the evolving COVID-19 health crisis, we do not yet have answers about the impact to the 2020 AP-IB testing schedules. Our current focus is providing parents and students with resources for continuity of learning. The following links will provide ongoing updates from the AP and IB programs.

We will keep parents, students, and staff members informed of updates to AP/IB instruction and testing. As students continue their preparation for spring 2020 AP and IB examinations, they are encouraged to use resources and tools provided until direct teacher instruction and support can be provided.

Supporting Each Other

Finally, thank you to those who have brought food to the South Lakes HS Food Pantry, the Madison HS Food Pantry, volunteered with Fairfax County Meals on Wheels, and stopped in to donate during the blood drive shortage. Hunter Mill has come together in ways that are truly heartwarming as we all take precautions.

This is a trying time, with many disappointments over cancelled plans and this abrupt change we are forced to make. Signs of spring are showing up around us - reminders that we will continue on and new opportunities will emerge. Our priority now is to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit.


Stay healthy and be well,




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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