Community Update - Melanie Meren (Hunter Mill District)

Hello Community Members,

We’ve made it to August. Day by day, we are adopting a new way of life amidst a global pandemic. I hope you continue to be safe, and to adjust expectations for what can be accomplished and done each day, by any one of us.

I know that FCPS staff at all levels continue to work so hard to prepare for an unprecedented school year. Although there are fears and concerns, I also know that there are opportunities and new beginnings. As I consider that my own children will be among the first to begin a school year virtually, I try to point out that while there are traditions and experiences they won’t have, there will be positive first-time experiences yet-to-be identified. I’m eager to see what good can happen in this difficult situation. I hope you’ll join me in that mindset.

Information about the Fall

Please be sure to read in full here the update sent by Superintendent Brabrand on Tuesday, August 4. This is the most fulsome information available at this time.

Also, the Reopening Schools Plan was revised on July 31. You can view that here.

Finally, here is the new FCPS Student Health and Safety Guidance document  required by the governor and published August 5.

Please know that staff at the division and school levels are focused on finalizing master schedules and classes. Once this work is completed, then the focus will shift more towards instructional delivery – coinciding with teachers returning to work on August 14. As teachers prepare for the year, more will be known about items like assessments and testing, for example. Please be patient as these plans are prepared and implemented. Information will be shared with you as soon as possible.

Responding to questions I’m receiving

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions and advocacy I’m hearing.

Why are we keeping the September 8 start day?

Teachers only begin their contracted work on August 14. The extra time added that moved the first day of school from August 25 to September 8 allows for extra professional development to learn an entirely new way of teaching. I’ve not yet heard plans about possibly making up this instructional time, but I am advocating for this.

Middle School start times

I hear the advocacy, and agree that a later start time would be developmentally better for students. However, the division is continuing to use the previous bell schedule. I will continue to ask if this can be adjusted. Hopefully not having to get up to commute to school will at least provide a bit more time for sleep to our adolescent learners.

Pods, micro-schools, and hiring tutors

My social media feeds and personal conversations with friends are a-buzz with parent discussions about forming small groups of students to navigate FCPS online learning together – to support both students and parents. I, myself, am eager to have a family or two to partner and bubble with to allow time weekly where each parent has time to work, take care of household and family responsibilities, or simply practice self-care.

I’ve seen a range of creative ideas and solutions offered. It’s inspiring to see resilience and family-to-family support growing! However, something to understand is the extent to which teachers can or can’t provide instruction outside of their duties. FCPS Regulation 4705 explains that FCPS employees may tutor or provide private instruction to FCPS students but may not, under any circumstances, tutor or instruct their own students for private compensation. This limitation applies regardless of whether the tutoring or private instruction occurs on FCPS property or elsewhere. Individuals providing private tutoring or instruction for pay do so as independent contractors, not FCPS employees, and must notify parents of that fact. Additionally, instructors may only receive compensation for tutoring or private instruction that occurs outside of contract hours, regardless of where the tutoring occurs.

Other FCPS regulations also continue to apply, including: FCPS Regulation 4822 about teachers on Leave of Absence (LOA); Regulation 4421 about Work Hours, Noninstructional Time, Length of Work Year, and School Calendar; and Regulation 4427 about Non-school Employment. Teachers know these regulations, but informing the community will help ensure that all are on the same page.

Additional work I’m focusing on:

  • Planning and brainstorming how to approach important topics in our community, including examining the AAP program and its admissions to ensure opportunity and access to our diverse students.
  • Outlining tactical steps and work our Board can take to reduce racism systemically.
  • Engaging with local volunteers and national leaders to foster outdoor learning spaces as one tool for bringing students and staff safely back into collective learning spaces – I’m especially excited about work happening with the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative, which is run by a long-time colleague of mine in California.
  • Connecting with leaders and volunteers of the RestON (Opportunity Neighborhood) initiative to champion community priorities that relate to improving the lives of children, youth, and their families.

Upcoming School Board meetings

The School Board has added two Return to School work sessions to the August calendar:

Tuesday, August 18
1:00 - 7 p.m.

Thursday, August 27
3:00 - 5 p.m.

School Board Meetings and Work Sessions are broadcast on Channel 99 (Cox and Comcast), Channel 11 (Verizon) and live streamed online here. The sessions will also be posted on YouTube for later viewing.


Inspiration from South Lakes Pyramid

Listen to and view this beautiful message of hope, shared via choral performance of students throughout the South Lakes pyramid.

SLHS Choir

Please be well and take care, 


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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