Meren Newsletter July 21, 2020

Hello Community Members,

This week the School Board continues working to clarify details about Return to School efforts for our families, students, and staff. Additionally, there is critical work happening that is central to the Board’s and school division’s on-going work in other priority areas.

Three Days of School Board Meetings This Week

All public meetings are virtual and will be live streamed here.

Here’s info about the kinds of public meetings the School Board has:

  • A “work session” is when FCPS staff or guests present information to the School Board, and the Board responds with questions and deliberations. Votes are usually not scheduled for these meetings and there is no scheduled public comment time.
  • A “regular meeting” is when the School Board takes actions (votes) on matters – which must all have been announced at a previous regular meeting as “New Business”, which basically gives a heads up that a vote is forthcoming sometime in the future. There is public comment time allotted.
  • At a “public hearing”, the School Board hears public comments, with each speaker receiving up to 3 minutes. The Board does not comment on speaker comments, but rather, listens only.
  • A “Forum” is the School Board’s way of bringing new work to the School Board and division. Members introduce topics and seek support from the Board.

This week, we have all these types of public meetings!

Tuesday, July 21:

  • Work Session. 2-6pm. Return to School planning. Participating is the County Health Director, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu. The School Board hosted Dr. Addo-Ayensu on June 23; however, many of my and the Board’s specific questions remain unanswered about how the Fairfax County Health Department will work / is working side-by-side with FCPS to implement public health and safety protocols for safe learning and working environments. The Superintendent sent a letter to the County Executive on July 6, detailing the division’s outstanding questions and ultimately, again, requesting clear guidance on using public health data to inform school openings and closings. To date, FCPS has not received a complete response from the County.

Wednesday, July 22:

  • Work Session. 12:30-3:30pm. Audit risk assessment and annual plan; Fiscal Year 2020 Final Budget review, including CARES-act related funds.
  • Public Hearing on renaming Lee High School. 4-7pm. The public provides input about the new name. 

Thursday, July 23:

  • Forum. 3-3:30pm. See Board Docs (below) for topics.
  • Regular Meeting. 3:30-5:30pm. Action Items: recommendation for Lee HS renaming; my motion to change the name and observance of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day; School Board liaison and committee assignments; risk assessment and audit plan; Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R) regulation updating; FY20 final budget review; School Board advisory committee charges of work. See here for information about School Board meetings (including signing up to share public comments, and to view recordings of past meetings), and go here for agendas and materials on Board Docs (be sure to scroll down on a meeting in Board Docs to see if items are posted for download).
    • A note about the SR&R update: The SR&R is the regulation stating students’ rights and expected behavior, and discipline tools and processes for FCPS’ use. The SR&R must be reviewed and updated annually before the start of school, so that it can be provided to all families at the start of the year. Staff has incorporated Board comments from the April 27 work session onward.

Best Way to Contact Me, and About Emails to the School Board

I continue to receive hundreds of emails daily, and outreach on social media. This input helps me hear your ideas and questions – thank you. I do prioritize responding to Hunter Mill district constituents, and staff who work in schools in Hunter Mill. To verify if you live or work in the Hunter Mill magisterial district of Fairfax County, and to see all of your elected representatives at every level of government, please enter your address here for your personalized list.

Also, so that you’re aware, emails that are sent to all School Board Members, where senders don’t indicate their address and as such we cannot know which of the nine Fairfax County magisterial districts they live in, are by default sent to the Chair for response. This is why it’s most helpful to use this form to communicate with the Board, where you can input your address and select your district representative: You can also choose to include one, two, or all three of our At-Large Members, since they serve the entire county.  

School Board Meetings In Person

I’ve received questions and critiques about the School Board meeting virtually, rather than in person. Please consider my response:

The School Board tends to follow the lead of the County Board of Supervisors in administrative matters like meetings. The County Board began meeting in person only on July 13. Our School Board usually only has summer meetings scheduled in July, before breaking for an August recess to provide all staff as much time as possible to prepare for the start of school, rather than adding the workload of Board meeting prep.

This year, since our staff are working nonstop on efforts for safe returns to school and work, the Board would be asking staff to use their finite energy and resources to reconfigure our usual meeting place of Luther Jackson MS auditorium for our meetings. I don’t believe this is the best use of resources.

We are planning to resume in-person meetings after September 8.

Finally, I’ll share this: being a School Board member in the 21st century – and during a pandemic – requires as much flexibility as can be afforded to us. Like other jobs that rely on constant meetings, having the ability to telework has been essential for me to be able to prepare for and participate in Board meetings, and engage with constituents. The Governor’s State of Emergency declared for COVID has granted us this unprecedented virtual meeting capability.

To make this available in non-emergency times, the Board recently acted on a motion to allow us to meet virtually even if not under a state of emergency. However, School Boards in Virginia are strapped by an arcane rule that allows each Member to only participate virtually twice a year for “personal reasons”. We have dozens, if not hundreds, of meetings a year. I proposed a motion, carried by my colleagues, to seek legislative action from the Virginia General Assembly to allow local School Boards to set our own calendar and meeting norms. This should have been adjusted years ago, but I’m helping lead the charge to make our School Board more efficient to better serve the public.

The irony certainly isn’t lost on me that we have to seek state permission to meet virtually, but are tasked by the Governor to make all decisions regarding when to close and open schools during a pandemic.

Return to School Questions

Now that the July 15 enrollment and preference selection for the Fall has passed, staff at schools and in Central Office are working harder than ever to determine the master schedule for the Fall. This is no easy task. Earlier this year, I saw South Lakes HS efforts to lay it out before COVID changed everything – and even then, it was a remarkably complex process.

Meren at SLHS


The two best places to seek answers to your questions at this time are:

  1. The Return to School FAQ page for families and for staff; and
  2. Communications from the school division, and your principal. Also, you can send questions and input to, where staff is synthesizing this content to inform the School Board, FCPS Leadership, and staff.

Important Immunization Requirement for Rising 7th Grade Students

A Tdap booster (for tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) is required for all students entering seventh grade. Parents or guardians should ask their private healthcare provider, or the health department, to review their student's immunization record to ensure that their student has received the Tdap booster. Students who have received a Tdap booster at age seven or older will meet the school immunization requirement for Tdap and will not need another dose prior to entering seventh grade. Seventh grade students cannot begin school in September without documentation of the Tdap booster.

More information on the Tdap booster is available online.

Summer Fun

My rising 5th grader loved the FCPS Fine Arts Summer Learning Program’s online activity to create paper mache donuts! (She was convinced she could fool the local donut shop into selling them!) Access this and other projects on the link above after *first* logging into student’s Google account.

Meren's kid paintingMeren's fake donuts


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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