September Newsletter from Ricardy Anderson

Dear Mason District Community,

Preparing to welcome our students back into our schools in the fall has always been a significant highlight for families and staff. This year is challenging at best and the natural markers of a new school year are different. However, one constant is that our teachers, support staff and principals are excited to engage with our students and support them in their learning journey. Our children may be nervous about the start of school, but I am confident that our teachers will make every effort to connect with them and relieve those anxieties. 

As we approach the first day of school, I am cognizant of the increased efforts of our parents and families to ensure a productive learning environment for students. Parents are being asked to contribute more than ever before – from attending numerous town halls, to collecting supplies, laptops and MiFi pick-ups -- we are relying on you more than usual to support students. 

I want to take a moment to recognize our staff, from central office administrators to school personnel for their diligent preparations to welcome our students into another year of learning. Our teachers have been equipped with the necessary technical skills and curriculum supports to develop creative ways in which students can engage with one another virtually.

While this school year is beginning differently than ever before with unknown challenges on the horizon, I hope to find ways to celebrate the new year and children and focus on our blessings.


Bell Schedule

The bell schedule for virtual learning will closely resemble the start and end times of our schools’ 2019-20 bell schedules. The goal is to provide as much of a sense of normalcy in the daily schedule as possible in this most unusual of circumstances.

  • The virtual high school day will be from 8:10 a.m. - 2:55 p.m.
  • The middle school day will be from 7:30 a.m. - 2:15 p.m.
  • The bell schedule for elementary schools varies. Individual schools will share the specific start and end times of instruction for their elementary students.


Technology Support for Families

Parent Technology Help Desk

On Monday, August 24, FCPS launched a toll-free Parent Technology Help Desk to assist families with technology issues. The number is 1-833-921-3277 (833-921-FCPS). It will be answered 7 a.m.-11 p.m., seven days a week. Parents who need help in a language other than English should let help desk staff know, and an interpreter will join them on the line. (FCPS has Parent Information Phone Lines available in eight languages to assist with general questions about FCPS.)

FCPS has also created an online portal for older students and parents/guardians to request technology help.

Support Webpage

Access videos and resources to help your student in the virtual learning environment on the Technology Support for Families webpage. 

New videos have been posted on the virtual learning playlist. They include tips on signing in, locating assignments, and submitting assignments in Google Classroom, as well as how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU). 

Internet Access

Reliable internet access is critical to every student’s success during virtual learning. We are planning to replace MiFi devices with home internet access. FCPS is negotiating a partnership with Cox Communications to help qualifying families register for the Connect2Compete home internet program. FCPS will provide access at no cost to our families with free and reduced meal (FRM) status, and will begin transitioning in the fall. We’ll have more details about this exciting program soon. Parents in need of internet access should contact their schools.

Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council

The Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council’s mission was to elevate the school district’s technology applications to the forefront of innovation; and make sure teachers and students are equipped with the tools, connectivity, access, and security for an increasingly interconnected landscape. The Council’s final report included 67 recommendations. FCPS has responded to the 17 priority recommendations; eight have been completed. FCPS will provide an update on remaining recommendations before the end of the first semester.

Special Education Resources

The Special Education Return to School webpage has been updated and includes the latest information for families. Additional supports for our special education community can be accessed through these resources:

Food Resources

FCPS will continue to provide “grab-and-go” meals during the upcoming school year. Our goal is to provide every FCPS student daily access to a healthy breakfast and lunch during this pandemic. Visit our Food Resources for Families page for more information.

Free and reduced-price meal (FRM) applications will continue to be available at all meal distribution sites throughout the year. The application is also available online.

Metrics for Reopening and Closing Schools

During our July work session, the Board directed Superintendent Brabrand to develop metrics to guide school in-person learning opening and closures. 

At the School Board work session on Tuesday, August 18, our Superintendent provided the preliminary metrics FCPS will use to decide when to return to cohort, hybrid, or full in-person learning (metrics start on page 34 of the presentation). FCPS metrics include not only health metrics, but also operational and safety metrics.

Finalized metrics will be shared with the School Board at our work session on September 15, 2020.

In addition to the metrics, the Superintendent presented guidance for a return to virtual learning once in-person learning has begun as well as weekly monitoring and review of community transmission and trends, system operational metrics and school metrics. 


FCPS Names New Chief Information Officer

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand has named Gautam Sethi, who currently serves as chief technology officer for the Douglas County (Colorado) School District, as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) overseeing the Department of Information Technology, effective September 21, 2020.

“Mr. Sethi comes to FCPS with 18 years of experience in educational technology,” said Brabrand. “He has administrative and management skills in K-12 education—including experience supporting remote learning—that make him uniquely qualified to oversee our IT functions. For the first time in history we are beginning the school year in a virtual environment, and Mr. Sethi’s leadership will help move our district forward, ensuring that FCPS is at the forefront of innovation and fully supports our students, families, and employees.”

Learn more about Mr. Sethi in this news release.

African American History Education Commission Update

On August 24, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Thirty Nine establishing the Commission on African American History Education. The Governor charged the group with reviewing Virginia’s history standards, and the instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth; and with examining and making recommendations on the professional development supports needed to equip all teachers for culturally competent instruction.

The African American History Education Commission has been meeting monthly to discuss the charge as set by the Governor. On August 31, 2020 the Commission presented their final report to the Governor for improving the way African American history is taught in Virginia schools, including but not limited to:

  1. Making recommendations and technical edits for enriched standards related to African American history;
  2. Identifying how the standards can be organized and improved to ensure that African American history is a cohesive part of the teaching of all history;
  3. Revising of the full history and social studies standards review process to be more inclusive of diverse perspectives; and
  4. Recommending the addition of professional development and instructional supports to equip all educators to create and sustain culturally responsive pedagogy and gain appropriate foundational knowledge in African American history.

When implemented, the Commission’s recommendations will enable all Virginia students and educators to develop a comprehensive understanding of the African American voices that contribute to Virginia’s story.


1,500 Donated Books

A huge THANK YOU to Girl Scout Riley Kozal, who collected and donated approximately 1,500 books to Mason District schools. Riley organized a book drive to collect the books as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award Project. I had the pleasure of meeting Riley when she delivered the books to my home recently. Several Mason District schools benefited from this project, with principals and other excited staff members "shopping" the selection in my garage for books they think their students will enjoy. I also had a great time personally delivering many books to schools.


Congratulations to Westlawn ES

In May of this year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Westlawn a four year grant through the work of Dr. Jennifer Suh, Professor of Mathematics Education, George Mason University. The project, Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching through Elementary Mathematical Modeling, is a four-year project that builds on the school’s work with instructional practices using mathematical modeling. Mathematical modeling makes numeracy topics real and relevant to students. The project will help teachers continue to build key mathematics skills, gain greater knowledge on equity practices and share their experiences with educators within VA and across the US.

Westlawn’s primary grade teachers initiated the mathematical modeling teaching practices and research efforts in 2017. The teachers and principal are continuing their work for which they were recognized nationally with a book chapter from the Annual Yearbook of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Rehumanizing Mathematics for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx Students. The yearbook sought to inform educators of successful equity mathematical practices for children of color.

All in-person components of the grant implementation are currently on hold due to COVID school closures, but Dr. Suh is excited to continue the work with Westlawn and FCPS at-large in the future.

Congratulations to Westlawn on this wonderful accomplishment that will benefit students for years to come.


Braddock ES Chosen by CodeVA

Braddock Elementary School is one of 19 Virginia schools to be part of the Computer Science-Ready School pilot program. The program was made possible by Amazon Future Engineer's $3.9M donation to CodeVA to support their long-term plan to offer computer science education and training to every high needs school across Virginia – more than 700 schools.

Read more about the CodeVA and Amazon Future Engineer Partnership.

150th Anniversary


Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was established on July 11, 1870, with the passage of the Virginia Public Free Schools Act. The Act was passed when Virginia was readmitted to the Union, after the Civil War. This significant milestone serves as a great opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come and the important work we must continue to do in order to create an inclusive and compassionate environment where all students and staff are seen, heard, and valued. 

See more photos and learn more about the history of FCPS.

Seeking Applicants

I am currently seeking applicants interested in serving a one-year term on the Challenged Materials Interdepartmental Review Committee.

The purpose of this committee is to review challenges of instructional or library materials, according to Regulation 3009.

The Challenged Materials Interdepartmental Review Committee is activated if a Fairfax County or City resident, without a student enrolled in a school, submits a formal request to remove a book or other media from Fairfax County Public Schools. If no requests are submitted, the committee will not meet. Should a request be received, the appointees would:

  • Act as the parent or citizen representatives of a greater stakeholder committee that reviews the request for removal of materials
  • Read or view the material identified
  • Evaluate and discuss the request as a committee before submitting an individual vote to uphold or deny removal of the material from Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Meet no more than twice a year to address requests received in the fall or spring

If you are interested in serving, please send a statement of interest to my assistant at, no later than September 18, 2020 for consideration.

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