Return to School Plan and Town Hall Tonight

Dear Fairfax County students, staff, and families,

As you may know, last week FCPS shared with the School Board the updated plans for Return to School in the fall. As Dr. Brabrand indicated in his letter to parents on June 26, school will look different in the fall. Trust me, I wish we could start the year with all students and teachers in the buildings. My son is going to be a senior and this is not how I want him to experience his senior year. But even with Virginia planning to move into Phase 3 of its reopening plan on July 1st, social and physical distancing are vital for the safe reopening of our schools. 

We have heard you and continue to listen to your many valid questions and concerns. I have been sharing your concerns and questions with FCPS staff, who are working around the clock to work out the details of the plans and answer all the questions. I know everyone, including myself as I navigate this decision for my son, wants all the details now, which is fair. It’s just impossible to know all the answers immediately. FCPS is having to reimagine public education in an unprecedented way. This is a once in a lifetime challenge, not just for FCPS, but for school districts across the country. And that takes time, thought, space, and grace to find that difficult balance between quality education and the health and safety of our students and staff. 

We are having to make lemonade out of some of the worst lemons I have ever seen. I know this lemonade will taste sour to some and probably not sweet to anyone, but I am hoping that it will be palatable to enough people. That’s really the best we can hope for given the realities of COVID. We all want to get it right even when no one really knows what is “right”. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

Please see below for information on:

  1. Tonight’s Town Hall - Monday June 29th 7-8 pm Virtual Town Hall with me, Ricardy Anderson, Mason District School Board Member, Dr. Frances Ivey, FCPS Deputy Superintendent, and Dr. Fabio Zuluaga, Region 2 Assistant Superintendent
  2. Return to School Options and Links
  3. Answers to Common Questions
  4. Upcoming School Board Meetings, how to watch meetings and find materials
  5. Other News – Calendar changes input needed, Lee High School Name Change, Happy Pride Month, Summer Resources, Summer Food Distribution, Mental Health and Wellness in the Black Community
  6. A Few Thoughts from Me

VIRTUAL TOWN HALL – 7-8 pm Monday June 29th (tonight):

Join me for a virtual town hall with Dr. Ricardy Anderson, Mason District School Board Member, Dr. Frances Ivey, FCPS Deputy Superintendent, and Dr. Fabio Zuluaga, Region 2 Assistant Superintendent.

We will discuss the latest updates to the Return to School Plan, answer questions and hear your thoughts.

The meeting will take place via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Zoom is limited to 100 participants. If you can’t get in on Zoom, the Town Hall will also be live streamed on Facebook and you can post your questions in the comments in both Zoom and Facebook. 

Return to School Plans:


Important Links:

  • Full Details on Fall Return to School Plan -
  • School Board Work Session Presentations on Return to School, including results from the Parent Survey. These contain many details regarding the plans.

FCPS FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions for Families page. FCPS will be updating this page often over the summer.  This FAQ page has information about face coverings, a daily health screening process, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, personal hygiene breaks, transportation, what happens if health conditions worsen or if there is a COVID diagnosis in the school, streamlined curriculum, technology access, and many other topics. 

I want to thank all who sent me emails with thoughts or concerns. While the sheer volume of emails has made it difficult to respond to each one individually, I am sharing your questions and thoughts to help FCPS create answers to your questions, which will be posted on the above FAQ page.

Options for Return to School:

While many of the specific details are still being worked out, the plan allows families to choose between:

  1. Two full days in person learning, with two days of asynchronous learning (independent learning) with resources and materials posted by FCPS staff. Extra intervention will be available for half day for certain populations such as Special Education and English Language Learners. OR
  2. Full time online learning, consisting of four days a week of face to face virtual learning and one day of independent virtual learning. This includes 
    1. Elementary School - approximately 2.5-3 hours of synchronous learning a day (whole group, small group, and individual)
    2. Middle school - approximately 3 hours per class each week, to include core classes and electives
    3. High School - Schedules and curriculum for high school students will vary depending on the delivery model and course enrollment, with alignment to the base school whenever possible.

 If a school or multiple schools close due to an outbreak: We will revert to distance learning consisting of four days of virtual face to face learning and one day of independent learning. 

Additional information on the two options:

Full-time online learning may not be able to offer all student options such as immersion, magnet, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, and certain specialized electives.

Staff will also be afforded the choice as much as possible, starting with those with underlying health conditions, then those with family members with underlying conditions and then those who would prefer to not return to in person teaching. And we know we need to ensure we have subs available.


Answers to Some Common Questions:


While I cannot summarize all the Return to School Plans or questions, I tried to address some of the more frequent concerns. Please review the websites above for more detailed information.

I know there are many other questions than what I have covered here and hopefully many of those will be answered as FCPS updates its FAQs linked above. I will continue to update you as best I can.

Why must parents choose by July 10th for the entire year? I know many are concerned about having to choose by July 10th. I know that is difficult, especially without full information. We need families to choose by July 10th so our principals can have the time to do the needed scheduling. This is a huge task that normally begins in February. We are asking our principals to do the nearly impossible to figure out the scheduling in less than two months. We just can’t ask them to do that in any shorter amount of time.

The one consistent thing I heard through the days of public testimony and in hundreds of your emails is that parents and teachers want to be able to choose. That is what we aimed to provide - choice. But to do so, something had to give. I know how hard it is to have to choose by July 10th when all the details are still being developed.  FCPS aims to have as much information developed for families before they must decide, but the reality is that we may have to make that decision without all the information.

And I know many of you do not want to choose for a year. I and several of my colleagues have asked for flexibility in that requirement but the reality is that adjusting staffing and scheduling mid-year is incredibly challenging.  

Health and safety protocols. Many of you have asked specific questions about health and safety protocols. While FCPS continues to work with the Fairfax County health department in building these protocols, see this link for the current plans regarding social distancing, protective equipment and other health protocols for in person learning.  

FCPS has budgeted funds to purchase protective equipment and provide enhanced cleaning materials and staff. We are aware that there will be a need to build time into the schedules for hand washing, cleaning, and more, and the details of those plans are being worked out.

Metrics/Plans for Closing Schools

Many of you have also asked about metrics for closing schools. The reality is that we are not doctors and are taking our guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department. FCPS will regularly communicate and monitor developments with local health department authorities regarding cases, exposures, hospitalizations, and any other relevant metrics that may require a change in school operations. FCPS will monitor employee absences and have flexible leave policies and practices. We are hoping to develop more detailed plans in conjunction with health department guidance.

Grading, attendance, and standardized testing:

In all plans, attendance will be taken, new material will be presented, and assignments will be graded.

Right now, guidance from VDOE is that Virginia’s standardized testing will happen in the upcoming school year.

New material will be taught, but our staff are working this summer to determine the essential standards and content for each subject area, as well as plans for social and emotional learning and remediation to help students get caught up.

Childcare and Subs:  We know many teachers have said they will not return to teach in person. We know many parents have been at work or are going back to work and cannot be at home with their children. We know a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual schooling creates childcare and other concerns but is better in line with the social distancing guidelines from the Governor, VDOE, and the CDC. These are all challenges for which there are no easy solutions, however, we are trying to find the best answers.

SACC is run by Fairfax County, not FCPS, but we recognize that COVID is a community problem and needs community solutions. FCPS cannot solve this issue alone but we are working with the Board of Supervisors to find answers to the childcare issues.

We hope together, with the Board of Supervisors, we can find some solutions. Stay tuned for more. 

Technology: I know many of you have technology concerns given some of the issues last spring. The Superintendent’s technology council, which consists of many local tech leaders, has been consulting with the team working on Return to School.  We are using a cloud-based version of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra that is much more capable of handling the load needed for a more robust distance learning. FCPS will be piloting Schoology this fall and hopes to roll it out systemwide in the fall of 2021 and is exploring other options as well.

Sports/Music/Extracurriculars: Many of you have asked for sports, for band, music, arts, electives, extracurriculars, and more. Conditioning for sports has already begun, and we are waiting for guidance from VHSL regarding fall sports. I do not yet know about marching band or other arts after school activities. As a theater and music parent myself, I completely understand the importance of sports and music, etc. for our students’ mental health, wellbeing, connection to the schools, and sense of community and belonging.  I know the hope is to offer these programs in ways that ensure they are conducted safely, with guidance from the state, VHSL, and our health departments. Again, there are no easy solutions here, and what these all looked like last year may not be what they look like this upcoming year. 

Why can’t we have two days of in person learning with two days synchronous learning?

The in-person option has students in the building two days a week, but teachers in the building four days a week. Teachers will be teaching half the students on two days and the other half of the students on the other two days. This means they are not available to do both in person teaching AND virtual face to face teaching on Tuesday-Friday. We do not have the funding to hire double, so we have teachers available to teach face-to-face virtually while others teach in person. This would mean double the number of teachers. (Monday is an intervention day and time for teacher planning.)

FCPS staff are working to develop asynchronous materials, training, and other supports for teachers. I have also asked for supports for parents and students for the asynchronous days, including guides, instructional videos, office hours and “morning meetings.”

Budget: Moreover, we have budget constraints. We have not yet recovered from the budget cuts of the 2000s.  We have millions less, even with the CARES Act funding, than we anticipated having in February due to decreased revenue forecast, increased cleaning and safety expenses, and other additional costs.  We are doing our best to implement parallel schools; however, I can’t promise it will be perfect or as robust as we would want, or that there won’t be issues in figuring out how to make that all work. We cannot ask our teachers to do double duty teaching in the classroom and online at the same time, yet we do not have the budget to hire double the staff. We must figure that out. 

If I opt into virtual learning, will my child stay with their base school teachers?

 While FCPS is going to make every effort to keep students matched with teachers from their base school, the realities of giving as much choice as we have creates logistical challenges. 

At the elementary and middle school, teaching will be provided by dedicated online FCPS teachers in a cohort model with other students from their school, their region, or the division. 

High school students would be served through a combination of Online Campus courses, Virtual Virginia courses, and specialized course instruction from dedicated online FCPS staff. 


Upcoming School Board Meetings

July 9 – Regular Meeting

July 13 – Work Session

July 21 – Work Session

July 22 – Work Session and Lee High School Public Hearing

July 23 - Regular Meeting

How to Watch School Board Meetings/Find Meeting Handouts

  • Livestream: Meetings are live streamed here -
  • Recordings of Meetings: Meetings will be recorded and available to view on the FCPS YouTube page here
  • Agenda/Handouts: For school board meeting agenda, handouts and more click here
    • To find handouts for the meetings:
      • Click on the meeting date.
      • Scroll down until you see the phrase “View the Agenda”
      • Click on “View the Agenda”
      • One the left-hand side, you will see the agenda details
      • Any agenda items with accompanying documents have a “paper” icon next to the item name
      • Click on any topic you find interesting (i.e. AAP report).
      • Scroll down to see all attachments – these are usually presentations and accompanying reports or other data.
      • You can also search by topic documents
  • Public Testimony: For information on how to submit testimony at a public meeting, click here

In Other News

Parent Feedback Wanted on the FCPS 2021-22 School Year Calendar

Want to weigh in on the development of the FCPS 2021-22 School Year Calendar? If so, you will have a chance beginning today, Monday, June 29. You will receive an email from with a link to the FCPS Calendar Survey. The survey will also be available in other languages later this week.

We encourage you to keep an eye out for the survey and complete it at your earliest convenience. Employees will be invited to take a similar survey as well. The survey results will be used to inform and support FCPS staff as well as FCPS’ School Board as they work to adopt the 2021-22 calendar. All responses are confidential. If you have any questions, please email

More information on the 2021-22 school year calendar is available online

Lee HS

Fairfax County School Board Votes to Change the Name of Robert E. Lee High School


The Fairfax County School Board has voted to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School and will gather community input prior to voting on the new name on July 23. The new name will go into effect with the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand submitted his recommendations for a new name for the school. A one-month public comment period is underway.

  • Brabrand’ s recommendations include the following: John Lewis (U.S. Congressman), Barack Obama, Mildred Loving, Cesar Chavez, Legacy, and Central Springfield.
  • A community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, for community members to provide feedback on the recommended names for the school. Additional details about the community meeting will be announced in the near future.
  • Citizens are also welcome to submit their feedback (as well as name suggestions) to  
  • The School Board will hold a public hearing on the name change on Wednesday, July 22, at 4 p.m.  
  • The School Board will vote on the new name during its meeting on July 23
  • Information on citizen participation is available online.

More information is available online.


Happy Pride Month!

In an important step towards creating an inclusive school culture where all are valued, respected, and welcomed, the Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution in support of LGBTQ+ individuals and Pride Month at its business meeting on June 25. I was proud to support this resolution and all our LGBTQ+ students and staff. All are welcome in Fairfax County Public Schools. After all, we are all equally valuable, equally human, and equally belong. Read more here

Summer Resources

Summer Success: Safer at Home Edition—A Webinar for Families

If you are interested in maximizing the summertime for your student while maintaining your sanity with so many places closed, the Parent Resource Center is holding a webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., filled with summer tips and resources.

Some highlights include:

  • Strategies to stay organized and on top of summer days.
  • Tools to help prevent and address common summer challenges including closures and physical distancing.
  • Home activity tips.
  • Safe local adventure suggestions.

The webinar is presented by Erika Deem and Valrie Eisele, FCPS Parent Resource Center liaisons. Registration is required.

Register for Setting the Stage for Summer Success: Safer at Home Edition

Registration Open for #NCSconnects Virtual Summer Camp

Registration is now open for #NCSconnects Virtual Summer Camp–a free program for students in grades 1-6 and 7-12 provided by the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. This new four-week program is being offered as an alternative to the RECQuest and Teens in Action programs, which were cancelled due to COVID-19.

The virtual program will run July 6-31, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon for youth in grades 1-6 and from 1 to 4 p.m. for youth in grades 7-12. More information is available online

Summer Food

Summer Food Distribution

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Education have approved meal service at all existing food distribution sites (including bus routes) over the summer months. The Department of Food and Nutrition Services will continue to monitor data and community feedback to adjust grab and go delivery points as needed. 

Meal distribution information is kept current on the FCPS website. 

See food distribution locations.

A Safe Space to Dig Deep: Mental Health and Wellness in the Black Community

Fairfax County Government is holding a mental health webinar on Tuesday, June 30, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the first in a series of community discussions about mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health within the Black community. The June 30 session will provide a historical and contemporary overview of how racial trauma and stigma impact the mental health and wellness of the Black community. All are invited to attend. To register, go to

Rachna and family

A Few Thoughts from Me

Many of you have expressed very fair concerns and thoughts about returning to school. Many of your concerns mirror my own concerns and thoughts as I am wrestling with what I will choose for my son this fall. I’ll be honest – I struggled with what to say here. But I as a person who tends to be very direct, I just decided I am just going to be direct with you all.

I know the importance of a quality education for our students, of that in-person connection, and also the need to keep our students and staff safe. I know our families and teachers rely on school for childcare, that virtual learning has many challenges, and that there are real mental health and physical health dangers inherent in children isolated at home. I also know many are also understandably afraid of going back to school in person until there is a vaccine or treatment, which could be months or years away. I appreciate all the family members who have told me how much their children need to be back in school full time for their education and their mental health. As a parent myself, I completely understand that. I also appreciate all the parents who have expressed safety concerns about having their children back in school either full or part time. Again, as a parent myself, I completely understand that also.  I want our students to be back in school, but I want to make sure it is done as safely as possible. And the last thing we want is to open schools, and then need to close them again soon after opening because of infections. I also know we need to have a robust online learning ready to go in case we do need to close schools again.

I appreciate all the teachers and staff who took the time to write lengthy emails sharing their valid concerns, detailing their day, and describing the many logistical and other hurdles to socially distancing while educating our students. I appreciate the staff who have shared with me worries for their health or their families’ health with in-person learning. Frankly, there is no good option of how to provide education in the context of COVID. Many of you talk about how different in person learning will look with social distancing and protective measures, or how difficult it will be to keep the environment safe. Those are all fair concerns. We must make it as good and safe as possible. And if it is not possible for it to be safe enough, we must accept that and pivot. While many of you want to remain in virtual learning until there is a vaccine or treatment, there are many risks to that. These risks include increased child abuse, malnourished children, higher unemployment (leading to potential food and housing insecurity for families), mental health concerns, increased learning gaps that may be irreparable, children who are home alone, isolated, at risk for depression and suicide, and more.

So, we have to find the best of the bad and be as flexible as possible in an era of limited budgets, reduced revenues, teacher shortages, extremely high stakes, incomplete and imperfect information, and no good solution. There are some students who are getting left behind more than others, for many reasons. We know we need to figure out how to remediate. This is not a short-term issue because the impact of COVID will be long term for our students, our families, our world.

Here is the thing. COVID is not going away any time soon. As I see it, we have a few choices on how we want to live with it: 

  1. We can mitigate as best we can through social distancing, masks, and other measures as we wait for treatments or a vaccine.  This requires adaptation to how we live our lives, giving up things we don’t want to give up, and is hard to do.
  2. We can go full steam ahead, living as we did before until we reach herd immunity or a vaccine/treatment, meaning it is likely people will die who may have lived.
  3. Those of us who are able can completely isolate, and the rest will go about their lives, either through choice or by necessity, until we find a treatment or vaccine.  Some may do so trying to protect themselves or others as best as possible, while others will choose to do what they wish, meaning some will die just because they don’t have the luxury of choice in this matter. This is also a very hard way to live.

That’s the reality of this situation as I see it. It’s a terrible reality, and all those choices have risks and benefits. 

I believe how we did things in the past is just not how we are going to be able to do things in the future.  Our world has been irrevocably changed by COVID, and we need to adapt. And that is hard. It is hard for me - I miss my pre-COVID life terribly. But the only thing I can control right now is how I choose to accept and make the best of my new life.

Changing how we educate students is one of those things we are going to accept and try to make the best of, at least for right now. There can be opportunity for growth and improvement with the lessons we have learned. There can be opportunity to reimagine education to make it better, to make it more relevant to the 21st century. I hope we can eventually take advantage of those opportunities and something good will come of all this. 

But right now, providing education during a respiratory illness pandemic with no treatment or vaccine, means there is no good solution or option. We are trying to find the best solution in a sea of inadequate options and imperfect, ever changing, information. We are committed to educating our students as best and as equitably as we can.  We know how important our children’s education is, but we also know how important it is to keep our students, families and staff safe.  We are trying our best to find the right balance of those two. 

I hope when we get to the other side of this we find a world that is better, that holds connections more dear, that values those who serve us, sometimes at peril to their lives, that doesn’t take for granted the mundane pleasures of life, that is more flexible and adaptable, that better understands the need for child care, for elder care, the value of our teachers and of education. I hope post-COVID we will have time and space to pause, reflect, and take steps to become a more caring and inclusive society. 

Until then, please know we are all doing the best we can. Nothing we do will please everyone because there just is no good solution right now. Still I promise we are working to find the best imperfect solution we can.

I want to end by thanking you all for taking the time to reach out to me to share your thoughts and concerns. I truly appreciate your time and advocacy. I am listening, sharing, and trying to respond and keep you informed as best I can.

In health,


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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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