Last Week of Summer Update, Town Halls, and More

Hello Fairfax County students, families, and staff

As we look to start this most unusual school year, I want to send a few updates and thoughts. I know fall and the return to school is not what any of us would want it to be. Every year on the first day of school, I lovingly follow my kids down our street telling them at the top of my lungs how much I love them and will miss them while recording all of it for posterity. While they outwardly groan over my obnoxiousness, each year they still ask me if I am going to record them on their first day of school. This year would have been my last year to do so, with my youngest a rising senior. It is one very small loss in a sea of many larger losses. 

I recognize that many of you are also mourning these very real losses big and small this year. I’ve heard your concerns about surviving COVID, of losing jobs, how to support your students while also working, of the need for childcare, of the fear of academic loss, and the emotional toll. I know our students are missing their friends, the activities and casual connections, the ability to be a kid without the weight of a global pandemic, and very real isolation or fear they may have staying at home.

In addition, I know many of you are also concerned about how well your students will be able to access virtual learning, what grading and attendance will look like, about how to support students learning at home while having to work, how our youngest kids, some of our special education students, and others can truly access virtual learning, about the effect of isolation, and much more. Many of our students also have similar concerns and more. Hopefully, you have been able to attend virtual orientations provided by your school and have gotten many answers to your questions. In this newsletter, I have tried to provide answers and resources for support as we embark on this new journey together. And to hear your concerns and answer any additional questions, I am hosting a town hall Wednesday night with FCPS leadership.

Town Hall September 2nd, 8-9 p.m.  Answering your Back to School Questions with FCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Frances Ivey, FCPS Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith, and Regional Superintendent for Region 5, Becky Baenig: Held via Zoom and Facebook Live. If you can't get into the Zoom meeting, you can follow along on Facebook Live. We will answer questions posed on the chat/comments on both Facebook and Zoom.

Link to Zoom Meeting Here (limit 100)

Link to Facebook Live Session Here

Here is what I know. Our teachers, staff, and administrators have been working around the clock to make our virtual start fun, supportive, interactive - in short - the best it can be. They are coming up with creative ways to engage and build community, reaching out to individual families and students, and are ready to meet your student where they are and be flexible this year. We are asking them to focus on your student’s well being even as they prepare to provide them an excellent education. Right now, we need to let our principals and teachers focus on the all virtual start. We are asking them to do something unprecedented, and we want it to be amazing. 

I know many of you have been frustrated by this process and the changes. I understand. It feels like what we know about COVID, the conditions, what it means to be safe, how to reassure our staff we will keep them as safe as possible, how our students adapt or not, and how to prioritize within the constraints of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, changes daily. I wish I could say there won’t be more changes and curve balls as we all try to figure this out, as new information seemingly contradicts what we read just the previous day or week, especially around children and COVID. I know it's frustrating that Supporting Return to School (SRS) is opening in person but FCPS is not yet. The small cohort model being used by SRS is what we are modeling our cohort return to school plan (more information below.)

The goal is not to wait for a vaccine but to find a way to safely live with this.  At the end of the day we need to do what’s best for our kids in as safe a way as we can. We are watching what is happening as childcare, schools, and society opens, especially in our local area. We are learning about the importance of air quality, of safety in “bubbles” and of much more. It’s become clear we need to be careful, measured, and deliberate in bringing in students. It means instead of trying to do too much, we need to focus on doing things well, prioritizing those students who most need in-person learning and building from there. It means making sure those who are at the center of the work of educating our students - our teachers and staff - feel safe and valued so they can do their job to the best of their ability. While I am very worried about our students learning at home, I also don't believe it does them any good to come back to in-person school just to send them home a scant few weeks later. The goal must be when we open in-person learning, we have the plans, supplies, and metrics to stay open. After all, our students need consistency. 

I am advocating for bringing our students slowly back in in September. While we are preparing for a strong virtual start, FCPS is already making plans to slowly and safely phase in small cohorts of students, starting with those students who most need to be in person. The plan is to start in September if the metrics hold. We will have an update from our Superintendent at our School Board work session on September 15th. 

Until then, the question really is how to make the best of the bad choices with which COVID has left us? That is something I’ve been thinking about all summer. How do we find a way to live with COVID, recognizing the many challenges without those challenges paralyzing us from moving forward? 

Here is what I know. Assuming this week goes well, my son, the special education student with fairly significant communication challenges, will have accidentally earned nine college credits this summer. As he did last summer, this summer he was supposed to spend 2.5 glorious weeks singing, playing bass and guitar while living at Berklee College of Music, hanging out with students in the dorms, attending classes and jam sessions with aspiring musicians from all over the world. 

Instead, Berklee went virtual, converting their summits into 12-week classes. So now, he’s been in master classes with some of the greats, like Victor Wooten. Even more, he’s learned to manage a complex schedule, discussion boards, submitting videos, writing bass and guitar lines, improvising to backing tracks, working with recording equipment, making choices when classes conflict, knowing where and when to log on, and participating appropriately online, and more

And he learned to do most of that by himself since I have been working 14 hours a day most days.

I never thought that would have been possible. 

His growth in independence has mirrored the growth in music.

And at the end, if he successfully finishes this week. He will have earned 9 college credits.

Not bad for an accidental college student.

Not bad for a special ed kid who wasn’t supposed to ever get to college.

If it wasn’t for COVID, he and I wouldn’t know just how much he is capable of.

Is it AS good? I don’t know.

What I know is it was different. 

Was it good?  


I hope next week you all find something that can help your children grow as much as my son’s accidental college experience has helped him grow. I hope you can find something good, even if it is not *as* good.

I know it feels like we are tapped out, that we just want normal back. I know I do. But the best way to find normal is to figure out how to find happiness in the new normal, rather than reach for the old happiness in the old normal. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know I am going to try to find it. 

I wish you and your family a new happiness on the first day of this new normal school. 

I know I will still be obnoxiously recording my son as he starts his first day.

Stay Safe. And please wear your mask.

Warm Regards


P.S. To the Class of 2021 - I see you. I know you haven’t been in your school building since March of your junior year, you are worried about SATs and college applications and post-secondary planning, you are sad and frustrated at starting your senior year this way, worried about missing those opportunities you’ve worked four years for, and missing those “lasts” in your final year in FCPS. I see you, I feel you, I (and others) have been advocating for you, our counselors are here for you, and I promise you we will do our best to do right by you in your last year in high school. We want you to find those special moments and memories and we are working to figure out how to make that happen even in this upside-down world. More coming soon from Dr. Brabrand and Nathan Onibudo, our student representative to the School Board and a member of the Class of 2021. Please know we cherish our Class of 2021.

P.P.S. For those who want links to the latest on the Return to School Plans, see below:

Reopening of Schools Work Session

Response to FCPS Technology Advisory Council

Updated FCPS Reopening Schools Plan

FY 2021 Approved Budget

FY 2021 CARES/COVID Funding

In this email you will find:

  • My Upcoming Town Halls - Sept 2nd with FCPS Leadership, Sept 16 Spec Ed Focused
  • Dr. Brabrand’s Upcoming Town Hall - Sept 2nd 
  • Links to Recordings of Previous Town Halls
  • Planning for In-Person Return to School
  • Status of Metrics to Guide School Openings and Closings
  • Facilities and Budget Update 
  • Cohort In-Person Learning Plan 
  • Other Virginia Schools Fall Learning Approaches
  • Upcoming School Board Meetings, How to Watch, How to Find Handouts for Meetings
  • Technology Updates and Supports (Help Desk, Tech Tips, new CIO, Help videos, Schoology and more)
  • Parent/Student Supports Update (Links, Parent Resource Center, Attendance, Homework, PSAT/SAT, Mental Health Resources and Healthy Minds Podcast, Special Education, Library Resources, COVIDWISE app)

Town Hall Sign

My Upcoming Town Halls 

Sept 2nd: Answering Back to School Questions with FCPS Leadership

Sept 16th: Special Education Town Hall with FCPS Leadership

September 2nd 8-9 p.m.  Answering your Back to School Questions with FCPS Leadership

  • FCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Frances Ivey
  • FCPS Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith
  • Regional Superintendent for Region 5, Becky Baenig

Held via Zoom and Facebook Live.  

September 16th 7:30-8:30 p.m. Special Education Town Hall with FCPS Leadership

  • FCPS Acting Assistant Superintendent Mike Bloom 
  • Director of the Office of Procedural Support Jane Strong 

Held via Zoom and Facebook Live.  

Dr. Brabrand and Staff

Dr. Brabrand, FCPS Superintendent’s Town Halls and Back to School Message

Town Halls: Superintendent Brabrand has two upcoming town hall meetings where he will share information to help students, parents, and staff prepare for the start of the school year.

  • September 1 - Focus on Return to School in Spanish 6:30-7:30 p.m.
  • September 2 - Focus on Resources for Parents 6:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Watch the town hall meetings live here:
  • Send your questions in advance to or call into the town hall live at 1-800-231-6359. 

Back to School Message:  Watch Dr. Brabrand's Back to School Message

Recordings of Previous Town Halls

  • Dr. Brabrand Town halls:  In case you missed it - here are the links to go back and watch previous town hall meetings held earlier this month.
    • August 26 - Watch Video. Wednesday's town hall included a spotlight on FCPS' special education staff. Staff members explained what they do to support students with disabilities in Fairfax County and talked about student engagement in the virtual environment, family partnerships, student support, and specialized instruction. They also shared how they engage and will continue to engage students successfully. 
    • August 19 - Watch Video. Two staff members from FCPS' social work and clinical teams talked about the emotions many families are experiencing during the pandemic. Learn how to cope and how to recognize potential issues of concern.
    • August 12 - Watch Video. Learn from two amazing school-based technology specialists who provided tips to prepare families for the virtual start to the school year on September 8.

My Town Halls: Videos from all my previous Town Halls are available on my School Board Facebook page under the videos tab here.

In-Person School Picture

Planning for In-Person Return to School

Many of you have asked about when we will be returning to in-person learning. While we are focused on a strong virtual start for all our students, plans have been underway to slowly start phasing in in-person opportunities, starting with those students who most need in-person learning. We have already started with limited in person opportunities, such as in-person evaluations and eligibility meetings and SAT tests. Starting in September, we hope to bring in students for targeted intervention on the half day Mondays, followed by cohorts of small groups of students who stay together. These are based on the multifaceted metrics being developed by Superintendent Brabrand and his team.

More information is here on the plan and metrics:

Reopening of Schools Work Session

Updated FCPS Reopening Schools Plan

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Return to School Plan

What is the Status of the Metrics to Guide School Openings and Closings?

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 (more information below), hybrid, or full in-person learning. FCPS metrics include not only health metrics, but also operational and safety metrics.

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

In addition to the metrics, the Superintendent presented clear 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. 

The Superintendent will be updating the board on a regular basis on the status of the metrics.

  • Health Metrics

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Metrics has developed a formula that differently weights the metrics listed below to help local health departments determine whether the risk of in-person school is “low”, “medium”, or “high.” VDH did not make public the *thresholds* for each of these metrics, which is why these thresholds were not presented to the School Board. 

Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) will advise our Superintendent regarding the health metrics and whether in-person school is a low, medium or high risk. 

These thresholds still presume safety measures previously discussed such as 6 feet of distancing as much as possible and mandatory masks.

VDH Health Metrics are:

  • The number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population.
  • The percentage of tests that are positive (PCR test percent positivity).
  • Rate of Covid-19 outbreaks.
  • Percent of Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers.
  • Rate of emergency department visits for coronavirus-like illnesses.
  • Rate of confirmed Covid-19 intensive care unit hospitalizations.
  • Percent of hospital beds currently occupied.
  • Number of hospitals reporting trouble acquiring personal protective equipment.
  1. Operational Metrics

 FCPS is in the process of finalizing these thresholds that must be met to begin cohort, hybrid, or fully in-person school:

  • Ability to staff the health room with a public health nurse or student health aide.
  • Classroom teachers available for in-person learning.
  • Available staff on-call to monitor in-person learning (including substitutes).
  • Administrative staff available for in-person learning.
  • Transportation staff available.
  • Food and nutrition managers available.
  • Custodial staff available.
  1. Safety Metrics 
  • At least 2 months of PPE and sanitizing supplies on hand

Facilities and Budget Update

Facilities Updates

  • The Department of Facilities is in the process of completing air flow assessments in nearly all schools and centers and will report back to the School Board upon completion of this effort. 
  • Schools are designed to ventilate outdoor air throughout the day to reduce the buildup of pollutants and odors.  
  • Maintenance staff conduct routine and preventative maintenance on all mechanical, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems – including replacing air filters.  
  • In areas where an indoor air quality concern is identified we use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning.   
  • Additionally, FCPS participation in the ENERGY STAR program requires that buildings be tested for proper ventilation, certified as passing ventilation rate requirements by a Professional Engineer who both signs and stamps the application to indicate their testing, and then the data is reviewed and independently certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.  
  • We have been, and continue to be, a leader in the nation for the number of schools certified as Energy Star schools (operating within the top 25% energy efficient in their building class). 

Budget Update

On August 27, Superintendent Brabrand presented to the School Board an updated budget detailing safety and cleaning supplies needed for in-person learning and a strong virtual learning as well as an update on the COVID/CARES Act funding. Given revenue projection decreases at the state and local level, reductions and the enhanced requirements for cleaning, technology and more, even with FCPS CARES ACT funding of $20 million dollars, FCPS needs an additional $19.1 million dollars for FY 21. These additional funds are needed to purchase safety equipment such as plexiglass shields, enhanced PPE and technology supports such as cameras in classrooms. FCPS has asked our County’s Board of Supervisors to fund these unmet needs from the County’s CARES Act funding.

Details of the FY 2021 Approved Budget presentation from August 27th

Information on FCPS' FY 2021 CARES/COVID Funding

Cohort In-Person Learning Plan

More information: Reopening of Schools Work Session and Updated FCPS Reopening Schools Plan

Level 1: Currently Taking Place: As presented by the Superintendent, we have already begun slow and measured in-person opportunities. Currently, we have teachers accessing and working in classrooms and limited in-person individual evaluations taking place. The SAT was also held on August 29th at several FCPS schools.  

Level 2:  Cohort Learning Groups - Slow, measured phasing in of groups most in need of in-person learning, where students stay in their cohorts (no mixing throughout the day)

  • Half Day Monday Opportunities for cohorted groups of students to supplement virtual learning
  • Phasing in In-Person Learning, in cohorts, starting with those students that are most in need of returning to in-person learning. 
    1. Hope is to bring them back using a phased-in approach (one group every two weeks) beginning in September. They include:
  • Group 1: Preschool autism and preschool class-based students, English learners with limited or interrupted formal education, and limited Adult and Community Education classes including English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), workforce training, and behind-the-wheel driving classes.
  • Group 2: Key Center and Kilmer Center students, secondary and elementary students who access the adapted curriculum, elementary comprehensive services sites, new English learners and PreK and kindergarten students.
  • Group 3: First and second grade students and Burke School elementary school students. 

View the complete School Board Return to School work session: Part I | Part II

The Superintendent will provide an update to this plan at our September 15th work session.

What are other Virginia schools doing?

Map of VA Schools’ Operational Status

  • The Virginia Department of Education has created an interactive map that illustrates how the state’s 132 school divisions are reopening in August and September. The map is updated as VDOE learns of decisions by local school boards to revisit reopening plans approved earlier in the summer.
  • Below is a map which illustrates the operational status of each division. Please note that the operational status of divisions is subject to change as public health conditions evolve. As such, this map will be regularly updated. 
Virginia Fall 2020 Return to School Map Picture

Upcoming School Board Meetings

School Board Members
  • Public Engagement Committee Meeting - September 2nd, 12-1 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Governance Meeting - September 15th, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Virtual)
  • All Day Work Session - September 15th, 11 a.m. (Virtual) - Topic: Return to School Update
  • Regular Meeting - September 17th, 7 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Audit Committee Meeting - September 23rd - 5:30 p.m. (Virtual)

The School Board welcomes comments from Fairfax County residents and believes that strong community engagement and outreach are important components of a successful school system.

An individual may register to speak at a meeting beginning at 6 a.m. three business days prior to the meeting. A maximum of 10 speaker slots are available, first come, first served. The speakers list closes at 4:30 p.m. on the last business day prior to the meeting date.  Sign up to speak here.

Family in front of TV screen picture

How to Watch Meetings/Find Meeting Handouts

  • Livestream: Meetings are live streamed 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

Technology Updates and Support

Picture of boy with laptop

Laptop Prep:

To help prepare students for a successful virtual start to the school year, parents are asked to ensure children have the tools and connectivity that will be needed. 

If you currently have an FCPS issued laptop at home, please help your school’s technology team prepare devices to receive county updates by doing the following:

  • Plug the laptop into an outlet.
  • Turn the laptop on and let it boot up.
  • Login to ensure it connects to the internet at that location.
  • Launch Google Chrome and visit the FCPS website to ensure the internet is connected on the computer.
  • Leave the laptop on and connected to the internet for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, the laptop may be shut down.

Help desk picture

Parent Help Desk

o support families who are working with their children during distance learning, Fairfax County Public Schools has launched a new Parent Technology Help Desk. 

The number is 833-921-3277 (833-921-FCPS). It will be answered by staff 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. If the help desk is unable to solve the issue on the phone with the parent or guardian, they will enter a ticket on the parent’s behalf and the request for help will be transferred to the appropriate FCPS team. 

Parents or guardians 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 also has existing parent information phone lines, available in eight different languages that can assist with general questions about FCPS.

FCPS has also set up an online portal to allow older students and parents and guardians to request technology help directly. 

Get more information about the new Parent Technology Help Desk

Tech Tips picture

New Virtual Learning Tech Tips Videos

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). 

Go to the video learning playlist

Technology Advisory Council Update

Last spring, Superintendent Brabrand convened the Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council.

  •  Mission: Advise the Superintendent on 
  1. how to elevate the school district’s technology applications to the forefront of innovation; and 
  2. make sure teachers and students are equipped with the tools, connectivity, access, and security for an increasingly interconnected landscape. 
  • Final Report: The Superintendent's Technology Advisory Council has concluded its work. 
  1. The Council’s final report included 67 recommendations. FCPS has responded to the 17 priority recommendations; eight have been completed.
  2. View the Council's final report and FCPS' response to the Technology Advisory Council.
  3.  FCPS will provide an update on remaining recommendations before the end of the first semester.

Picture of Gautam Sethi

FCPS’ New Chief Information Officer

One of the Technology Advisory Council’s key recommendations was to hire a Chief Information Officer (CIO)

At our August 27th work session our Board welcomed our new CIO, Mr. Gautam Sethi

Welcome Mr. Sethi! 

  • Current position: Chief Technology Officer for the Douglas County (Colorado) School District
  • FCPS position: Chief Information Officer (CIO) overseeing the Department of Information Technology
  • Effective September 21, 2020
  • More information on Mr. Sethi can be found here:

Dr. Brabrand’s statement: “Mr. Sethi comes to FCPS with 18 years of experience in educational technology. 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.”

Schoology logo

Introducing Schoology

FCPS recently awarded a contract to Schoology to eventually replace Blackboard 24/7 as the FCPS learning management system. Schoology is being used by many other school divisions nationwide. It is being piloted in 17 schools this year and will be rolled out across the division in Fall of 2021.

Schoology’s learning management system is similar to Blackboard, Moodle, and Canvas with the added benefit of integrating Google Drive, which means it will work more seamlessly with our Google products such as Google Classroom and Google Meet.

The following timeline has been developed to allow stakeholders an opportunity to give critical input prior to full implementation of Schoology and to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Spring 2020 - Structured Focus Groups
  • Fall 2020 - Schoology Pilot in selected schools (Churchill Road ES, Cooper MS, Edison HS, Franconia ES, Hayfield ES, Hayfield SS, Irving MS, Kilmer MS, Langley HS, London Towne ES, Marshall HS, Rolling Valley ES, Stenwood ES, Stone MS, Twain MS, West Springfield HS, and Westfield HS)
  • Fall 2021 - Schoology launched division wide

Boy with laptop cartoon image

Parent/Student Updates and Support

Preparing for the New School Year - Useful Links:

Return to School Information

Sample Schedules

FAQs for Families

Parent Information Lines (support for families in 8 languages)

Parents, Please Update Your Contact Information

For parents to stay current on school news and plans, current contact information is essential. This is especially important because schools will need to regularly notify parents about program changes and opportunities, such as laptop distributions, school supply lists, and other essentials. Once school begins, your school team may need to reach parents about student absences and academic and other concerns. Parents may update their information through Parent View

Parent Resource Center

Upcoming Workshop on Virtual Learning by the Parent Resource Center

Are you worried about managing your child’s virtual schooling this year? Do you hate becoming the “school police” when your child won’t focus? Do you have to balance your child’s schooling with your own remote workload? We hear you, and we’re here to help. 

A free online webinar to provide support for adults will be offered on September 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and on September 11 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. 

Learn how to avoid parent-child conflict around academics with practical tips for:

  • Establishing routines and expectations that really work.
  • Creating ideal spaces for virtual learning.
  • Keeping kids focused while learning online.
  • Minimizing distractions from video games and other screens.
  • Getting your own work done at the same time (Yes, it’s possible!).

Don’t tackle this unusual year without a plan. Instead, join us and feel more prepared and confident for the year ahead, with a toolbox full of practical strategies that actually work. Register online or call 703-204-3941 for more information.

Virtual Orientations Underway

Parents and students should plan to attend a virtual orientation with their teachers and school staff prior to the first day of school, September 8. Each school will schedule the virtual orientations and communicate the dates and times to families. The goal is to make the student transition to virtual learning as smooth as possible and to reduce any anxiety leading up to and on the first day of school.

The virtual orientations will give families the opportunity to:

  • Build relationships with school staff and community.
  • Meet the teacher(s).
  • Participate in an overview of how virtual learning will work, such as basic expectations on logging into students’ FCPS Gmail accounts to access virtual classroom links, and how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Google Meet, and Schoology.
  • Get more information about how to prepare for the first day of school.

After school starts, each school will also have a virtual Back to School Night to further orient families to the virtual learning environment. Back to School Night will provide an overview of the curriculum and provide clear expectations related to attendance, grading, and student supports. 

Attendance Matters

Student Attendance for the 2020-21 School Year

I’ve gotten many questions regarding attendance and our virtual opening creates some interesting challenges. I hope this will help families understand the new attendance routines. 

Having talked to many principals, I know that they will be understanding of specific needs and concerns and varying abilities of students to attend to online learning. Please know our schools want to work with you to ensure your child is as successful as possible. 

In Virginia, public school students aged 5-18 are required to attend school regularly. That is true whether FCPS is offering distance learning or in-person instruction. Teachers will take attendance during learning sessions and ensure that all students are counted. Parents can assist with this process by doing the following:

  • Ensuring that their student(s) logs in to classes on time, and throughout the day.
  • Calling or emailing the school attendance line if their student(s) are unable to participate.
  • Communicating any concerns to the school, such as difficulty logging in or having access to FCPS classes.
  • Reporting any hardship, such as student illness or any issue that might prevent the student from participating regularly.
  • Returning phone calls or emails when notified that their student(s) did not participate that day.
  • Ensuring that your student(s) submit activity logs as directed.

If your child is unable to login to live, face-to-face online instruction with their teacher, the teacher will be recording the class and posting the video within Blackboard/Google Classroom so it can be viewed at a different time. The video can also be used to provide review for all students.

If a parent calls and indicates their student will not be there for a certain class period, they are excused for the class period. Accessing the material later will not change the status of the absence.

If there is no parent contact, and the student failed to log in, the student is unverified for that class period. FCPS bases attendance for secondary students on “present” one or more periods of the day, and reports which periods a student did not appear in class.

FCPS staff members will work with parents to ensure that the transition to virtual learning is as smooth as possible. Help us to help you set your students up for success.

More information about attendance is available online

Schoolwork Outside of Class Time

As we approach the first day of school, one question that has been on the minds of many is, “What will homework look like this fall?”


  • Some students will be participating in direct instruction with teachers.
  • All students will be expected to complete additional assigned tasks without teacher support, much like traditional homework. These tasks may include assignments such as practice activities, readings, projects, research papers, viewing videos, assessments, computer programs, etc. 

Tuesday through Friday 

  • The schedule prioritizes maximum time for teacher-student interaction.
  • Requires students to spend a significant part of the day online 
  • In consideration for student health and wellness, we will need to be mindful of the expectations for students to engage in additional work in the evenings. 
  • However, these days will not consist of just teachers lecturing at students, but a combination of teacher lecture and teacher supported direct instruction for students working independently and in groups and more. 

Guidelines for Schools for Homework

Schools have been provided the following weekly guidelines for work being completed outside of scheduled class time:  

Elementary Students

  • PreK-2: 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to be completed on Mondays.
  • Gr 3-6: 180 minutes (3 hours) to be completed on Mondays.
  • Time would be reduced for students participating in Monday intervention at the discretion of the teacher.
  • Homework will not be assigned Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. 

Secondary Students 

  • Standard/Honors: Total of 60 minutes per course per week. 
  • Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, and International Baccalaureate: total 75 minutes per course per week.
  • Completed on each Monday or other times on a limited basis.

Not all elementary and secondary students work at the same speed and therefore teachers will use these guidelines and their professional judgement to make reasonable assignments that prioritize the most essential learning for our students. 

If you are finding that your child is experiencing difficulties with completing assignments, please do not hesitate to contact the teacher or encourage your child to talk with the teacher. 

SAT Updates Image




SAT: Senior Day September 23rd

  • FCPS will cover the cost of the SAT for any twelfth-grade student who wishes to test on Wednesday, September 23.
  • We are continuing to prepare for hosting additional weekend testing options for SAT and ACT throughout the 2020-21 school year. 
  • Registration for these weekend tests is available directly through ACT and College Board. 
  • 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.

PSAT: October for juniors, spring for sophomores

  • FCPS will host the PSAT/NMSQT test for all juniors in October. 
  • FCPS will cover the cost for the PSAT/NMSQT for any interested eleventh grade student. 
  • Additional details about the specific test date and registration process will be shared by schools in September. 
  • We will also look ahead to the spring to offer our tenth-grade students the opportunity to take the PSAT, and we will share additional information as we get closer to that time.

Special Education Resources

Check out the FCPS web page for information on distance learning supports for students with disabilities. This page covers a wide range of topics, including information for parents of students in grades PreK-12, accessing instruction in school-based programs, as well as information around nontraditional school programs, public day and career center programs, homebound and home-based instruction, and multi-agency services.   

Additional supports for our special education community can be accessed through these resources:

Other Supports:

Assistant Ombudsman for Special Education - Dawn Clements, at, or the 

Parent Resource Center at or 703-204-3941.

Let's Talk Mental Health Image

Mental Health and Wellness

Healthy Minds Podcast: A Healthy Start to the School Year

From the Healthy Minds Blog: Supporting Your Children at Home During Virtual Learning

As we return to school on September 8 for the start of the 2020-21 school year, all students will participate in virtual learning. While teachers are working hard to improve lessons and delivery of instruction, here are some strategies that may help support your children at home during virtual learning.

New Healthy Minds Podcasts

Fairfax County Public Schools has launched a weekly Healthy Minds podcast. The goal is to hear about how we are all handling uncertainty; get new ideas to help your child, friends and families feel better; and learn to help yourself feel stronger and more energized.

A Healthy Start to a New Year Podcast (August 28, 2020) featured Bethany Koszelak, a mental health specialist for FCPS. Bethany talks to us about self-care and mental wellness practices families can use to cope with any stress they might be experiencing. As we countdown to the first day of virtual school, some families may be feeling anxious about this change to the normal routine. She also has some advice for parents about how to speak with their children about their feelings.

Finding Someone To Listen (August 21, 2020) featured a conversation with Laura Mayer, Director of PRS CrisisLink, an important FCPS community partner. PRS CrisisLink helps students improve coping and resiliency skills and connects them with school and community resources. Call 703-527-4077 or 1-800-273-TALK to be connected with a trained crisis worker. The textline is reached by texting the word NEEDHELP to 855-11.

Managing Feelings Around Uncertainty Around-Uncertainty (August 13, 2020)  featured McLean High School counselor Beth Werfel who talked about managing and coping during uncertain times.

Podcast Guests

The Healthy Minds podcast is an opportunity to learn from some of the top psychologists, social workers, school counselors, and leaders in the field of education.

Guests on the podcast work on the front lines in our school division of over 189,000 students. They support the well-being of children (and their families), helping equip them with the knowledge and skills to cope with everyday struggles and, sometimes, extraordinary adversity. And they often witness inspiring stories of bravery, courage and strength among our diverse students and staff.

Host Lucy Caldwell, an FCPS employee and parent of two FCPS graduates, guides the conversation.

Each week, you’ll hear interviews with our team and, hopefully, take away information that can help YOU be a better parent--or friend or neighbor. Or perhaps just feel a little bit better yourself. 

Mental Health Resources and 24-7 Emergency Numbers

If you are in a mental health crisis, text NEEDHELP to 85511, call 1-800-273-TALK, or dial 911; TTY dial 711.

CrisisLink Regional Hotline: 703-527-4077(CrisisLink is a hotline for individuals in crisis or family and friends seeking guidance for how to help a loved one.)

Dominion Hospital Assessment and Referral Line: 703-536-2000.

Inova Emergency Services: 703-289-7560.

Mobile Crisis Unit: 1-844-627-4747.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE.

Merrifield Center Emergency Services: 703-573-5679; TTY dial 711 (The Merrifield Center of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, offers a range of clinical programming. Emergency Services, staffed 24 hours per day, seven days per week, works with people in psychiatric crisis who need immediate attention.)

Plan D Nova: (A website for Northern Virginia teens who suffer from depression: #breakthestigma.)

Library Resources in FCPS

Library books picture

FCPS provides access to many print and digital products for all of our students, PreK-12 and their families, to support research, learning, and recreational reading. Browse our collection of online databases and eBooks by visiting Login information is available from your school library.

Other resources include:

  • eBook Highlight - MackinVIA: MackinVIA is the FCPS eBook and audiobook platform. Users can download the MackinVIA app from the iOS and android app stores to read or listen on their mobile devices, or log in to using their FCPS network username and password. Also, users on a school-issued computer can search for the MackinVIA app shortcut. In all cases, be sure to log in to the FCPS blue bar with your network credential, NOT the Follett prompt.
  • How to Navigate MackinVIA: Take a look at a four minute video demonstrating the features of MackinVIA.
  • Digital Book Licenses: Most FCPS purchases are limited to single-user licenses by publishers. That means that if a copy of a book is checked out, other users can make a request to place it on hold, but only one person may engage with the book at a time.



The Virginia Department of Health has released COVIDWISE, an iPhone and Android App to help protect our community while protecting your privacy. The app uses Bluetooth technology to notify you if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Click here to learn more and download the app on your mobile device or search “COVIDWISE” on the App Store or Google Play. The more widespread the use of the app, the more effective it will be. 

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