August 2020 Newsletter

Dear Mason District Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. As we continue to navigate this tumultuous time, I am encouraged by the progress that continues to actualize equity for our students. The naming of John R. Lewis High School, the continuing revisions of the SR&R, and the review of the advanced academic programs are indicative of this Board’s commitment to providing our students with safe places to learn, reflective of the values of Fairfax County Public Schools.

While the upcoming school year has built in significant challenges, I am encouraged by the fervor to succeed, the eagerness to serve and the experience that the Fairfax County Public Schools leadership team brings to ensure success for our students. Our teachers and staff are ready to respond to the call to focus on outreach, access, and opportunity as our students begin the school year virtually. They are dedicated to creating experiences for our students to be included, to feel connected, and to achieve, despite many obstacles facing us at this time.

I know there are still many unanswered questions. I assure you that our leadership team is working diligently on every detail to ensure a robust, equitable, and successful virtual education for all children.

Questions and answers continue to be updated on our website and Dr. Brabrand has scheduled four Return to School town halls over the next month. In addition, the School Board has scheduled additional Return to School work sessions in August.

FCPS will continue to make decisions based on scientific data and recommendations from the medical community. The goal is to return students and staff safely to our schools.


Lewis HS


The Fairfax County School Board voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School after the late U.S. Congressman John R. Lewis at our regular business meeting on July 23. The new name will be effective for the 2020-21 school year.

The Board heard from students, teachers and staff members, families, and the community about the old name. It was important for us to be mindful of these comments and to select a name that reflected the diversity and multiculturalism that currently exists at the school and in our community. Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero. We will also honor his life’s work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do.

Learn more about Congressman Lewis and the name change process in this News Release.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

The Fairfax County School Board voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the previously approved 2020-21 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) school year calendar as well as the yet-to-be approved 2021-22 school year calendar. The 2021-22 calendar is scheduled to be adopted in September.

This shift aligns with the work in progress by Instructional Services to revise the curriculum and provide professional development to teachers in a effort to address the overrepresentation of white and Eurocentric history and the lack of diverse perspectives in social studies courses.

Return to School Updates from Dr. Brabrand

Context and Rationale for the Virtual Decision

The primary factor in deciding to go 100% virtual is the continuing health risks associated with COVID-19. The seven day moving average for new cases in Virginia as of August 1 was 1,027— up from 527 on July 1. The same trend has occurred in Maryland. Although infection rates in Fairfax County are relatively stable, there were approximately 615 new COVID cases reported since last Monday in the Fairfax Health District, bringing the total to more than 16,000 since March. The safety of those entering our school buildings must be our prime consideration as we do everything we can to protect students and staff.

The pandemic has also created operational and staffing challenges that would impact the ability to offer high-quality, in-person instruction. These include decreases in substitute teacher availability, increases in staff leaves of absence, and more teachers requesting ADA accommodations because they are considered high risk for the COVID-19 virus. Courses that make our learning special such as language immersion, advanced academics, IB and AP courses and some electives, would not have been consistently available across our schools due to in-person staffing shortages.   

Should health conditions improve, FCPS would first bring back students for intervention supports on a limited basis. Following that, we would bring students back to school as soon as possible starting with elementary school students, select PreK-12 special education students and English learners.

All the decisions made due to the COVID-19 pandemic are difficult ones, with no obvious answers to address the many needs of our students, staff and families. As of this week, all major school divisions in the region are starting the year 100% online. As educators, there is nothing we want more than to have all students back in school. This school year will be a challenge for us all, but we are doing everything possible to ensure a high-quality education through virtual learning to start the year.

Developing Metrics for Reopening in Person

As directed by the School Board, FCPS staff is developing metrics to guide when schools may reopen or if a school needs to be closed once it reopens. Among the potential metrics are trends in COVID-19 cases, access to testing, and operational and staffing impacts. I will share more details on metrics by mid-August.

Our Goal: A Strong, Virtual Opening on September 8

Planning is in high gear to develop a strong academic, social, and emotional support structure for our students in a virtual setting when school resumes September 8th.

Bell Schedule Update: Returning to Pre-closure Schedules

The bell schedule for virtual learning will more closely resemble the start and end times our schools were using in 2019-20 before the school closure:   

  • That means the high school day will be from 8:10 a.m. – 2:55 p.m.
  • Secondary schools will follow the high school schedule.
  • Middle school day will be from 7:30 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. 
  • The bell schedule for elementary schools varies, and this week individual schools will share the specific start and end times of instruction for their elementary students. 

SAT/ACT Test Updates

We are aware that families of high school students, especially our rising seniors, are concerned about access to ACT and SAT testing in FCPS and surrounding areas. We will proceed with the scheduled August 29 SAT testing at several FCPS high schools. In addition, we will work with the College Board to offer FCPS seniors an opportunity to take the SAT at their schools on September 23, through the SAT School Day testing program. We will share registration information for the September 23 test date in mid-August.

Any additional changes for weekend testing sites for the ACT or SAT in FCPS throughout the 2020-21 school year will depend on health conditions along with health and safety guidelines. Changes will be communicated directly to registered students by ACT or by the College Board for the SAT.

Free online test preparation is available at the following links: Khan Academy Official SAT Practice and ACT Academy. We encourage our rising seniors to carefully review the admissions criterion for the colleges on their lists, as many colleges are adjusting requirements for ACT or SAT. School counselors and career center specialists will be available in mid-August to discuss postsecondary planning with students and their families.

Food Resources

Since schools were closed, our food services team has provided more than 2 million grab-and-go meals to families. FCPS will continue to provide grab-and-go meals through the remainder of the summer and once the school year begins. Food and Nutrition Services is currently researching how to best meet the needs of families this upcoming school year, while exploring meal service options. We will announce food distribution information as soon as possible.

Technology Access and Support

FCPS will provide all students laptops to use for online learning this school year. If a student does not already have an FCPS laptop, your school will send information on the laptop distribution process. Parents and caregivers will be able to pick up computers with minimal contact and without having to access FCPS buildings.

FCPS is also increasing technical support to families and students.
Support includes:

  • Providing technology access to students and families
  • Launching a help desk for parents
  • Developing a portal to allow students to request technology help directly
  • Developing methods for students to manage their Blackboard Collaborate/Google Meet class links in their Google Calendar

Return to School Town Halls

Superintendent Brabrand will host Return to School Town Halls for the FCPS community each Wednesday beginning August 12 through September 2. The events will be livestreamed on the FCPS website and available on FCPS Cable TV Channel 99. Please email questions to before the Town Halls, or call 1-800-231-6359 during the events to ask questions "on the air." Town halls will be held from 6-7 p.m. Recordings will be posted on the FCPS website.

School Board Leadership

It is my honor to have been elected to serve as chair of the School Board for a one-year term, effective July 9, 2020. Stella Pekarsky (Sully District) was elected to serve as vice-chair.


New FCPS Leadership

Assistant Superintendent for New Department of School Improvement and Supports

Superintendent Brabrand has named Mark Greenfelder, who currently serves as executive director of the Office of School Support, as the assistant superintendent for the new Department of School Improvement and Supports, effective July 24.

New Assistant Superintendent for Special Services

Superintendent Brabrand has named Michelle Boyd, who currently serves as executive director of the Piedmont Regional Education Program (PREP) in Charlottesville, as the assistant superintendent for the Department of Special Services, effective September 21. Dr. Boyd will replace Teresa Johnson who is retiring.


Welcome, Mrs. Fallen!

Mattie Fallen has been named the new principal of Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, effective July 13, 2020. Learn more about Mrs. Fallen in this news release.

What is the Office of Auditor General?

  • About OAG: Did you know the School Board Office of Auditor General (OAG) is an independent FCPS office which reports to the School Board Audit Committee? OAG promotes accountability and transparency through independent audits and reviews and also conducts outreach to FCPS employees. Learn more on the Office of Auditor General webpage.
  • Audit Plan: Did you know that each year FCPS Office of Auditor General independently develops an audit plan? Learn more about what OAG expects to accomplish over the next year by viewing the approved FY21 Audit Plan.
  • Latest Audit Buzz: Office of Auditor General just issued the July 2020 audit buzz. Click here to check out the latest issue.
  • Audit Buzz (Subscription): Stay up-to-date with Office of Auditor General (OAG) updates by subscribing to Audit Buzz via News You Choose.
  • Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline: Did you know that FCPS has a Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Hotline managed by the independent Office of Auditor General (OAG)? Learn more here.

Youth Sports

VYSA's Phase III Return to Play

Virginia Youth Soccer Association's Return to Play Guidelines outline mandatory requirements and suggestions beginning July 1, 2020.

Virginia High School Sports

The Virginia High School League's Executive Committee voted last week to implement a condensed schedule and delay all VHSL sports and activities until December 14. The plan could change depending on developments within Virginia, as the adopted plan was based on the state being in Phase 3.


Internet Assistance Programs

Cox Communications has announced new customers that qualify will receive Connect2Compete, the company's low-cost internet, for two months at no cost. The cost will be $9.95/month thereafter. New customers must sign up between July 21 and September 30 for free service, which also includes free technical support.

The Cox Connect2Compete program is available to families who:

  • Have at least one child that is a K-12 student at home
  • Participate in one of these government subsidies programs: The National School Lunch Program, SNAP, TANF, Head Start, WIC, LIHEAP, or Public Housing

Families can qualify for Connect2Compete easily from anywhere whether on their mobile device or desktop by visiting

Several other companies, including Comcast and Verizon, are helping families in need during this COVID-19 pandemic. Here you will find a Complete List.


School Supply Drive: Collect for Kids Online for 2020

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Foundation for FCPS are leading the Collect for Kids effort, a consortium of not-for-profit, for-profit, and government entities promoting, coordinating, and providing school supply drives to benefit FCPS students that otherwise might go without them. 

This year, to help keep staff, students, and volunteers safe, the Collect for Kids effort is moving exclusively to a virtual, online-only campaign. All donated funds will be used to purchase assembled grade-level appropriate kits for students in need.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 60,000—or a full one-third—of FCPS students lived at or below the poverty level and struggled to afford basic necessities.   

Contributions can be made online through the Foundation for FCPS. Donations will be used to purchase bulk school supply kits at discounted pricing.


2020 High School Leaders Program

Two Annandale High School students selected to the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership - Congratulations, Sophia Baraban and Brooke Fikru

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at UVA announced the participants of their 2020 High School Leaders Program (HSLP) last month. This class of 31 students from around the state will meet via Zoom for three weeks, navigating and studying the same challenges our current elected leaders are facing. The HSLP is designed to help students build the knowledge and skills they need to step forward as leaders in their communities.

SEPTA Fairfax County Awards

SEPTA Awards recognize the passionate and driven professionals, students and community members dedicated to ensuring students with disabilities develop their full potential as individuals and community members.


Ragan Wright, Instructional Assistant at Poe Middle School

Named 2019-2020 Outstanding Instructional Support Staff!

Congratulations to all of the additional Mason District nominees:

Outstanding SpEd Teacher, Elementary
Lorac Lawton, Camelot ES
Cheryl Zimmerman, Sleepy Hollow ES

Outstanding SpEd Teacher, Secondary
Carrie Casoni, Poe MS
Keely Norris, Glasgow MS

Outstanding Staff
Treasa Williams-Harris, Poe MS

Outstanding Administrator, Secondary
Jennifer Kruzynski, Poe MS

Outstanding Co-teaching Team
Lisa Cay, Sleepy Hollow ES
Karina Handy, Sleepy Hollow ES

Outstanding Instructional Support Staff
Ashley Stead, Sleepy Hollow ES

Do You Have A Rising 7th Grade Student?

If yes, your student may need a booster dose of Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis).

A Tdap booster 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

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.

© 2020 Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County, Virginia