Town Hall Tonight and Latest on Return to School

Hello Fairfax County Students, Families and Staff,

I hope you are staying safe and healthy! I know many of you have made your incredibly difficult decision regarding return to school for yourself or your child. As a parent myself, I do understand how agonizing this choice is. I haven’t even submitted the form for my own child yet – this is not at all how I want his senior year to be. So please know that I - and my colleagues – sympathize with you all and get just how hard this is.

For those of you who haven’t made up your minds, you have until July 15th to do so. The default for those who don’t make a selection is the in-person option. You also have until July 15th to change your mind if you feel differently given the changing landscape and information.

I wish I had some good advice. COVID’s ever changing information and many unknowns coupled with the fact that it takes time to work out all logistics means we have to make our best choice with incomplete information, as hard as that is. On top of that, the realities of COVID has led to bad options because, frankly, there are no good options given what we know to date about this disease. I encourage you all to pick the best of the bad options, with your family’s needs and comfort levels in mind.

COVID has made what used to be the mundane of life – grocery shopping, hanging out with friends, movies, work - difficult and potentially dangerous. We can mitigate the danger by wearing masks, keeping our distance, and staying at home as much as possible. I hope we will all do our part to control COVID because we truly are responsible for each other’s safety.

But we also need to talk about the fact that COVID has made many of us scared, angry, and frustrated. I totally get it. It’s a global trauma we are all suffering from. So much of our world is negative right now and it’s hard to see anything positive.

I want to encourage us all to have a little grace, a little patience and a little understanding with each other. We are all in this together and we can choose to do that by tearing each other apart or lifting each other up.

We can also choose to live IN the negative or we can choose to live WITH the negative. Living IN the negative is letting anger and frustration dictate how we interact with the others in our world. Living WITH the negative is acknowledging the anger and frustration without letting it ruin our lives.

I am trying very hard to live WITH the negative. I hope you will join me.

Stay safe. And please wear your mask.



Please see below for information on:

  1. Tonight’s Town Hall - Monday June 29th 7:30-8:30 pm Virtual Town Hall with Karl Frisch, Providence District School Board Member
  2. My Summary from the July 14th Return to School Work Session
  3. Return to School Resources and Links
  4. Options for Return to School
  5. My Answers to Some Other Common Questions I’ve Received
  6. Upcoming School Board Meetings, how to watch meetings and find materials
  7. Other News

VIRTUAL TOWNHALL TONIGHT – 7:30-8:30 pm Tuesday July 14th (tonight) with Karl Frisch, Providence District School Board Member

Join me for a virtual town hall with Karl Frisch tonight. I know the final day to make your decision regarding virtual or in person schooling is tomorrow, July 15th, so we hope we can answer as many last-minute questions as possible.

Remember even if you have already made your choice, you can still change by tomorrow (July 15th)

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: (limited to 500)

Facebook LIVE:

My next town hall will be in August – stay tuned!

Update from July 13th Return to School Town Hall

Work Session Information:

Here is the PowerPoint Presentation from the Work Session.

Return to School Roundtable Presentation Link

In this presentation you will find information on:

  • Health and Safety
  • Face coverings
  • Cleaning
  • Plexiglass Shield locations
  • Air Quality
  • Confirmed Cases and School Closings
  • Social Distancing
  • Bell Schedules - A/B Block Scheduling
  • Course Offerings
  • In-Person and On-line Comparison
  • Sports and Activities

Missed it? It is available on FCPS YouTube page

My quick summary of the July 13th Return to School Work Session

  • Masks will be required for anyone over two (outside of medical or disability related need in which case I asked for face shields to be explored as an option).
  • If kids come to school without a mask, they will be given one
  • Block scheduling in-person and online for MS/HS to allow for fewer transitions (4 per day versus 8, more instructional time because less time washing hands, transitioning, wiping desks etc., better ability to run some classes such as academies and science. I know this means students only see their teachers 1X a week per class, and I'm asking for virtual office hours to supplement this)
  • Bell schedules not changing from what was proposed on 6/15
  • Will offer most electives in both settings (dependent on enrollment)
  • AAP will be offered in MS (and ES)
  • A-K go T/Th, L-Z go W/F - Monday is intervention and teacher planning. Families with different last names follow schedule of oldest child.
  • A few academy classes will not be offered online
  • Possible 4 days a week in person for some Special Ed
  • No chorus in ES at least for the fall (will be general music instead)
  • If a child is quarantined for two weeks (in-person), they need to work with their teacher regarding making up work and keep up with school in the same way they would in previous years
  • Working with Board of Supervisors regarding SACC and other childcare options (the county runs SACC)
  • Per health department guidelines - closing schools for possible exposure is really a case by case basis depending on exposure levels. The process will be triggered with a probable or positive case and based on CDC contact tracing guidelines.
  • Any teacher/staff who wants a face shield can get one
  • Asked about HEPA filters (they are looking into it)
  • Asked regarding budgetary needs for more PPE/cleaning and sanitizers, thermometers.
  • The school board may have a longer discussion about an all virtual start but that is not the plan right now
  • We need to be ready to pivot (as a system) if conditions change
  • We cannot allow parents to change halfway because of the logistical challenges of staffing, transportation, scheduling etc.
  • If a school must close, it will pivot to distance learning in the same format as the all virtual option
  • Enrollment form due July 15, default will be in-person, and if you have already submitted your form, you can change by July 15th
  • Class sizes will be potentially larger virtually (no bigger than state standards)
  • Unique situations - work with your principal
  • Bell Schedules:
    • Middle Schools (virtual and in-person) - 7:15 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    • High Schools (virtual and in-person) - 8:10 a.m. – 2:55 p.m.
    • Secondary Schools (virtual and in-person) - 8:10 a.m. – 2:55 p.m.
    • Elementary Schools (virtual and in-person) - 9:10 a.m. – 3:55 p.m. OR 10:05 a.m. – 4:50 p.m.

I recognize that these schedules and changes have major impacts on childcare needs for working families, and there are many health concerns. While FCPS is working very hard to provide expanded leave options and creative childcare solutions for our teachers and staff and working with the health department on screening and testing, we can only do so much. We are having to reimagine education and cannot reimagine childcare, paid sick leave, and childcare for the entire community. COVID is a community problem and needs community solutions. We must all come together at all levels – local, state, and federal – with community partners, to find solutions to these problems.


Return to School Resources and Links:

FCPS Videos on Return to School:

The first video explains step by step how to complete the enrollment form.

The second video provides a brief overview of what school will look like when in-person and virtual classes resume.

Here are links to Town Halls held by Dr. Brabrand the week of July 6th:

Information from FCPS: 

There is additional information on the two return to school options available to families on our website: 

Please check the FCPS FAQs for the latest updates:

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. 

Full Details: Here are full details on the Return to School Plans Full Details on Fall Return to School Plan - 

Parent Information Phone Lines

  • FCPS language lines are available in eight different languages to assist parents who do not speak English as their first language. A school system employee will respond to your call in your preferred language within 24 hours, Monday through Friday. The caller will provide you with the requested information, arrange for you to speak with the appropriate school employee, or connect you with the resource that you are looking to find.
  • Parent Information Phone Lines listed in various languages.

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
  1. 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 with block scheduling (one day a week per class for in person students or two days per week per class for virtual students)
    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 and with block scheduling (one day a week per class for in person students or two days per week per class for virtual students. 

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.


My Answers to Some Other Common Questions I’ve Received:

While I cannot summarize all the Return to School Plans or questions, I tried to address some of the more frequent concerns here.

Here are my answers to the frequently asked questions I have received in the emails:

About health protocols and protocols for potential outbreaks:

  • 6 feet distancing is the norm - rare instances we may deviate but the goal is 6 ft. or in rare cases as close to 6 ft. as possible (buses are 3 feet - one student per seat)
  • Masks will be provided to teachers and students who don't have them. Any teacher who asks for a face shield will get one
  • Teachers will be given hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer stations will be around.
  • Schools will be cleaned each evening
  • Schedules will build in handwashing - and I am pressing for more answers here
  • The health department will help FCPS determine closures depending on contact tracing etc. We are working with the health department regarding metrics for school closures, outbreaks, screening protocols and more. They are the doctors, and we need to rely on their guidance. 
  • I am asking staff about air filtration issues and outdoor class spaces
  • Schools will shift to online (same schedule as the virtual option) if need to close a school or quarantine. I am pressing for more details as to exactly how this will work
  • Temperature checks will not be done on a routine daily basis (asking for more about this from health department)
  • If a student needs to be quarantined for two weeks, please work with your school regarding missing school
  • If a teacher needs to be quarantined, the school will work to provide subs or other solutions.
  • We are working with the health department on what happens with a positive or probable result - they will do the contact tracing to see who the child/teacher came in contact with, the nature of the contact (i.e. time etc.) and then determine the course of action they recommend and who to contact. We are not doctors and need the health department's guidance here
  • I get the issues with the self-reporting health screening form. Pushing for more protocols with help from the health department
  • There will be isolation rooms for students or staff who exhibit symptoms at school. I am asking for more specifics regarding how these will work
  • We are watching the data and working with the health department and will be ready to pivot if needed

Special Education

  • Staff should be doing IEP addendums in August after they return to adjust IEPs to the new school options. I understand the concerns from staff regarding how to get these done and am asking for support
  • I am aware of the issue regarding the backlog of eligibility and local screenings and we are going to try to get those done as quickly as possible. Again, I do understand the staffing issues here.
  •  I know we need many more Special Ed answers. Pushing for as many as I can get.

Staff Leave and Childcare


  • Kids can be expected to wear masks if we do our part this summer, as parents, to help them practice and talk about masks positively. Kids are adaptable
  • Masks are mandatory for over the age of 2, except for medical or disability related restrictions.  I'm asking for use of shields for those who may be able to use shields but not masks. 
  • If a student shows up without a mask, his/her temperature will be taken, and he/she will be given a mask to wear
  • Masks will be required, and teachers will be supported in enforcing this

Class offerings:

  • I don't know how arts and music will be yet, but we are planning to offer as many electives and academy classes as we can
  • The plan is to also provide IB and AP (and immersion) in both options but it depends on enrollment. I know that isn't a great answer but that’s the reality under COVID and setting up two parallel schools
  • The plan is to also offer AAP in both options but how this will work is being worked out
  • I am aware of the concern regarding three asynchronous days for those who chose in-person. I am asking staff to look for creative solutions for virtual office hours on at least one of the asynchronous days for those who chose in person option

About why we can’t open school 5 days a week

FCPS plans were developed in alignment with the CDC and VDOE guidelines. Regardless of whether we move into Phase 3 or beyond, FCPS needs to ensure we balance a quality education with the need to keep students and staff safe. Right now, that balance means in-person classes with physical distancing of 6 feet as much as possible, limited movement, and protective measures. We simply do not have the facility space to have all the students in the school buildings 5 days a week. 

Are Children Safer from COVID?

I have read many of the articles you have shared about whether children are susceptible to COVID (and I have read many others). I know of the prevalence of outbreaks in Europe and Asia as well as the 1300 outbreaks traced to childcare centers in Texas and other outbreaks traced to camps in Missouri. 

Here is what I know. 

  1. We don’t know enough about this virus to take chances
  2. Children get sick and die, although seemingly in less numbers than adults
  3. It is unclear whether children transmit the virus, although it also seems it might be different for younger versus older kids
  4. Most of the places where school has opened without outbreaks were in places that also had robust community controls such as regular mask wearing, quarantining, contact tracing, and very different numbers in terms of community spread, AND opened with many of the same safety protocols (6 feet distance, masks etc.) that we are proposing. So, it is hard to compare
  5. There are adults in the buildings with the children

This leads me to believe we must be cautious and follow health and safety guidelines in opening schools

About why we can’t have 2 days in person and 2 days synchronous learning as an option

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 all four days - 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 the teachers, so we have teachers available to teach face to face virtually while others teach in person. For FCPS to provide 2 days in-person AND 2 days synchronous learning for the non in-person days would mean double the number of teachers. (Monday is an intervention day and time for teacher planning.)

Also, some of you have asked about livestreaming classes so students at home and in-person can participate together. I’ve asked about this and been told there are bandwidth issues and many teachers felt it would be difficult to manage students both in-person and online students at the same time.

About why the number of hours in-person is different than online:

While I know it is tempting to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the number of minutes of synchronous or face to face learning both in-person and online, the reality is that you really can’t compare the two in that way. They are just different learning experiences. Online has larger classes for example, which could require more synchronous time. In-person will require masks and built in time for handwashing. I encourage you all to pick the learning experience you think best suits your child as opposed to picking based on minutes of face to face instruction.

About class size

As you can see on the In-school learning webpage, depending on the size of the classroom, anywhere from 12-15 students could be accommodated in a classroom with six feet of separation. For in-person learning, approximately 50% of the student population would attend school on any given day to allow for physical distancing.

About the middle and high school schedule

The In-school learning plan was presented would have high school students attending class in the buildings two days a week.  It would be Tuesdays and Thursdays (A-K) or Wednesdays and Fridays (L-Z) with block scheduling to reduce contact. Mondays would be set aside for teacher planning and intervention time for those students who need extra support. The other two days would consist of asynchronous learning, with materials and resources made available by the teacher(s). 

Block scheduling will be in place for in-person and online. I know some are concerned regarding the 1 class a week per teacher for the in-person option. I recognize that is an issue. However, with the growing and changing information, we felt it best to limit the number of transitions and mixing of students in any given day. I know it is difficult to have this changed but the information about COVID is changing, sometimes on a daily basis, and we need to do what we can given the best information we know at that moment.

The plan is to offer core classes and electives, depending on enrollment, in both options. See the PowerPoint presentation from the July 13 work session (linked above) for more details.

About why the year-long commitment is needed:

To help staff plan, parents and caregivers need to commit to one of these options (below) for the entire 2020-21 school year for each child. The logistics of staffing and scheduling take months to figure out. It would be very difficult to adjust staffing and scheduling mid-year for our principals

If health conditions improve that would allow FCPS to resume in-person instruction for all students, we would reassess FCPS’s operating status at that time. 

About grading, attendance, and standardized testing:

Virginia’s standardized testing will happen in the upcoming school year. Also, attendance will be taken, and grading will occur for students. New learning will occur, and new material will be taught.

About why families and staff must choose by July 15th

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. We need families to choose by July 15th so our principals can have the time to do the scheduling needed. This is a huge task that normally begins in February. We are asking our principals to do the nearly impossible to figure the scheduling out in less than two months. We just can’t ask them to do that in any shorter amount of time. I know how hard it is to have to choose by July 15th when all the details are still being developed, and 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.

About childcare

The FCPS Superintendent and Fairfax County Executive are working with the county’s Office for Children to ensure providers are aware of current rules for providing care, and to identify any additional childcare capacity available. Perhaps these providers can be an option for your family to get the amount of childcare you need.

The reality is COVID is a community problem that needs community solutions. FCPS is having to reimagine education. We cannot reimagine childcare and paid sick leave and health protocols. We need help from our community, from the county, state and other leaders. Let’s all work together.

About why we changed the start date to September 8th

The logistical challenges - staffing, instructional changes, transportation, scheduling - of setting up two parallels in two months - is a herculean task. Our administrators normally start planning for the next year in February. We need to give them the time they need to do the planning and our teachers time to get the professional development they need to have a successful start to the school year.

While I am trying to do the best I can, to share your concerns and address your questions and will continue to do so, please keep in mind:

  1. The School Board is a policy, oversight, and governance board. The Superintendent and his team run day-to-day operations, so many of the details are being worked out by his team. He is very collaborative with the Board but please keep in mind we just don’t make many of these decisions or determine many of these details. Our roles are similar to a Board of Directors versus a CEO of a corporation.
  2. This is a part time job (and I have a second job). We have received hundreds of emails, and we don’t have any staff outside of one very hard-working administrative assistant shared with my colleague Laura Jane Cohen. I am trying to get through them as much as I can, but I do apologize if you don’t receive a personal response from me.  Rest assured I am reading all of them.


Upcoming School Board Meetings

Wednesday, July 15 at 4:00 pm

Special Electronic Lee High School Renaming Community Meeting

The community meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 4:00 pm. It will be held virtually via Blackboard Collaborate. If you wish to participate in the community meeting, please register to have a link sent to you. Register for Community Meeting. Registration for this community meeting will be limited to Lee District residents; however, there will be a public hearing for any other interested participants, see below.

Tuesday July 21st Work Session 2-5 pm

Return to School Update

Wednesday July 22nd Work Session - 12:30-3:30

Audit Plan and Final Budget Review

Wednesday, July 22nd at 4 pm

Special Electronic Public Hearing - Renaming Lee High School

Thursday, July 23rd at 3 pm

Special Electronic Forum Topic

Thursday, July 23rd at 3:30 pm

Special Electronic Regular School Board Meeting

The School Board will take action on the new name of Lee High School on Thursday, July 23 during its regular meeting at 3:30 pm. The new name of the school will go into effect at the start of the 2020-21 school year. 


How to Watch Meetings/Find Meeting Handouts

  • Livestream: Meetings are livestreamed 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:

Congratulations to our New Board Chair and Vice Chair

I'm thrilled to congratulate my colleagues Dr. Ricardy Anderson as our new Chair, and Stella Pekarsky as our new Vice Chair! The Board annually elects new leadership to these positions in July. I’m so excited for their grace and strong leadership.

Thank you to outgoing Chair Karen Corbett Sanders and Vice Chair Tammy Derenak Kaufax for their incredible hard work in welcoming eight new board members and their leadership during these times.

Rickie and Stella

Welcome Nate, our new student representative!!


We also welcomed new Student Representative, Nathan Onibudo! Nathan is a junior at South County High School and was elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the School Board, beginning July 1st. He will participate in School Board meetings as a nonvoting member, filling the position previously held by Kimberly Boateng, a rising Senior at the high school currently known as Lee. Nathan is the 50th student representative to the Board! Thank you, also, to Kimberly, for being a dedicated representative of her peers! 

Other Board Work

In addition to Return to School planning, the School Board is addressing other critical work that has been introduced at previous meetings, and will be acted upon (voted on) at the July 23 public meeting:

The Board does not have scheduled meetings in August.

Also, you can always see what the Board is working on by reviewing our agendas in Board Docs . Agendas and related materials are posted at least two days prior to meetings; however, sometimes agendas change, and items are added or removed last minute. That’s the nature of responding to the school system’s needs! Go to the “Meetings” tab on Board Docs to see all upcoming meetings and be sure to scroll down on a page to see if there are files to open. Meetings are live streamed at:, and most have recordings posted at that link afterwards.

FCPS and Cultural Responsiveness

We are all hearing about the need for culturally inclusive teaching at TJ High School for Science and Technology. The recent admissions data showing that just a tiny fraction of admitted students are of color has prompted advocacy. We are taking this seriously, listening to our students and staff and working to eradicate racism in the school.

On a positive note, our Social Studies Department was just highlighted for its work – including over the summer – to bring a more culturally-inclusive curriculum to our schools. I’m eager to continue supporting and expanding upon these efforts! Thank you to FCPS educators and staff who participated in these summer months to contribute to FCPS’ goal of having a “caring culture” while simultaneously improving academic quality!

Data About the Role of School Resource Officers

FCPS and Fairfax County Police Department simultaneously posted the 2018-19 School Resource Officer (SRO) MOU and scorecard here. The report indicates that arrests decreased by 48 percent during 2018-19 while referral numbers remained consistent. FCPD report links are here.

I am eager for the School Board to focus on the role of SROs, during a planned work session in the Fall.

For agenda, handouts and virtual meeting access, click here.

Members of the public are welcome to attend virtually at

Family Resources Update

Total Meals Served Since March 14: 1,725,336 (through July 8)

USDA and VDOE have approved meal service at all existing food distribution sites (including bus routes) over the summer months. 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.

College Board and ACT Testing

FCPS is working closely with the College Board and ACT on all options to support our students. Because of this unique and unprecedented national emergency, school divisions across the nation are facing the same challenges with these important test administrations, and colleges are well aware of the situation. We will continue to collaborate with College Board and ACT to explore any possible options once school buildings are available for hosting. College Board and ACT have been posting updates related to the cancellations due to Coronavirus on the following pages: and

FCPS Cares–Going the Distance 

Since schools and offices physically closed in March, countless FCPS staff members have put in a herculean effort to support students, parents, and their FCPS colleagues during this challenging time. Please join us in applauding employees who have been recognized for going the distance! Also, thanks to the parents who nominated an employee(s) for FCPS Cares. Staff members listed on the FCPS Cares–Going the Distance page are chosen from among FCPS Cares submissions.

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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