September Community Update

Dear Community Members, 

This week we continue increasing our familiarity with a new way of learning, hoping that it is a short-term experience as the school division prepares its update to the School Board on September 22 about Return to School plans. This month has Back-to-School-Nights happening across the county, in live and recorded sessions. I’m attending these sessions to hear parent questions and observe how staff are adjusting to a new instructional model. So far, I’ve seen impressive innovations and positive attitudes, amidst challenges faced.

Back to School Updates

Back to School Video with Spanish captions

Click here to watch my Back to School video with Spanish captions!


Returning to In-Person Learning

The school division continues work from the summer on plans to phase-in small groups, or “cohorts”, of students with the greatest needs into school for in-person instruction. This includes select special education programs, English Language Learners and newcomers, and select career and technical education courses that need access to specialized equipment. I have advocated strongly for bringing our youngest learners back as soon as possible – those in PreK through 2nd grade. An update will be provided to the School Board at the public September 22 Work Session. 

Health Metrics to Inform School Openings and Closings

The School Board on July 21 directed the Superintendent to develop metrics to guide the opening and closing of schools related to incidences of COVID in our community. This was in response to not having such metrics and guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) at that time. On August 18, the Superintendent delivered draft metrics to the School Board (see the meeting agenda, and download the work session presentation slides at the bottom of the page). By then, VDH had developed 8 pandemic metrics that will be utilized to evaluate both disease burden and disease trends and to assess the extent of viral transmission in our region.

These metrics include COVID-19 case incidence rate; PCR test percent positivity for COVID-19; rate of COVID-19 outbreaks; percent of COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers; rate of emergency department visits for coronavirus-like illness; rate of confirmed COVID-19 intensive care unit hospitalizations; percent of hospital beds currently occupied; and number of hospitals reporting trouble acquiring personal protective equipment.

VDH has established criteria levels (e.g., vital, major, minor) for each metric and a seven day moving average is calculated. The metrics are evaluated to determine composite scores and based on the combination of those scores, a level of transmission is assigned at the regional level. The VDH categorizes the extent of community transmission as none, low, approaching moderate, moderate, approaching substantial, and substantial. This data is made available to local health departments through the VDH Dashboard. The Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) has been reviewing these metrics with FCPS weekly.

During the school division’s last collaborative review of this information with FCHD on September 11, Northern Virginia is currently experiencing low disease burden and a fluctuating trend. The overall calculated COVID-19 community transmission extent is low.

Staffing, child care, and master scheduling may still be barriers for phase-in planning. Additionally, FCPS is working with FCHD on the availability of public health nurses and student health aides. Currently these positions are supporting contact tracing and there may be a shortage of staff available for FCPS health rooms.

Status of Enrollment Choices from July

At this time, FCPS does not plan to resurvey parents about student enrollment preferences (virtual or hybrid), and will honor the choices made by July 15 as we are able to return to schools.

Outdoor Spaces for Learning

FCPS Get2Green

Get2Green and the FCPS Design & Construction office revised the specifications for outdoor learning spaces this summer, and are adding outdoor classrooms as options to be designed. This is an important first step. However, I continue to advocate for more intentional planning and creation of outdoor learning spaces as alternatives to over-capacity classrooms during COVID, as well as the professional development needed for teachers and staff to effectively provide instruction safely outside.

Connecting with Constituents

I am conducting outreach to all schools’ Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs/ PTSOs) to offer my availability to attend meetings at the start of the school year. Then, I want to continue regular engagements with PTAs in the months ahead as one method to remain connected to constituents so I can hear concerns and ideas, and share information with the community. I’m eager to attend meetings with other formal and informal groups of parents, families, and community members – please let me know you’d like to connect, by using this form found under "Submit a Question". 


Updates on School Board Work

Your School Board has been working throughout the Summer to make sure your voice is heard and your taxpayer investment is spent efficiently. I have made every effort to gather your feedback through public meetings and constituent communications. Some of the greatest focus areas of School Board work have been:

  • Ensuring that FCPS is prepared for a virtual start. By participating in the Return to School Task Force, joining the Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council, advocating for equity in access to technology, and reviewing the many steps taken to improve the virtual learning, the School Board has helped FCPS deliver the best possible education during this time of alternate learning during COVID. 
  • Advocating for a phased return to in-person learning. Believing that in-person instruction must resume as soon as it is possible to do so safely, we directed the Superintendent to develop clear metrics to guide a phased reopening of school buildings – in absence of such state-level guidance as late as July.
  • Dealing with significant state revenue shortfall. Falling state tax revenues from COVID-induced shutdowns means millions less in funding for schools, and we are having to readdress the current Fiscal Year 21 operating budget and the impact of state revenue changes and federal CARES Act monies.
  • Fulfilling our regular responsibilities. We significantly revised our Students Rights and Responsibilities policy, heard a long forthcoming report about access to Advanced Academic Programs (AAP), named John R. Lewis High School, approved hiring key Leadership Team positions such as a Chief Technology Officer and an Assistant Superintendent of Special Services, and much more. 
  • Looking to the future. We are looking forward to receiving the summary of the legal review of the rollout of online learning this past spring as well as the Superintendent’s plan for addressing shortcomings, building the budget for FY 22 (for which I’m the Budget Committee Chair) to finalize in the spring, and overseeing a return to in-person learning as soon as possible.

Child Abuse Reporting Policy Updated

The School Board approved an updated Policy 2115.4 on September 3, for how FCPS staff are to report suspicions or instances of child abuse. I was pleased to work on this important, needed policy update as part of the Board’s Governance Committee earlier this year, helping clarify exactly how staff can expediently make such reports to protect children as quickly as possible.  

Upcoming Public School Board Meetings

        - Includes a Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Development update 

  • All Day Work Session - September  22nd, 4 p.m. (Virtual) Return to School Update. See the agenda here 
  • Audit Committee Meeting - September 23rd - 5:30 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Advisory Committee Reports: 

        - September 22: Foundation for Applied Technical Education (FATE),

                                   Community Technical Advisory Committee (CTAC)

        - September 29: Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee 


                                   Adult and Community Advisory Committee (ACE),

                                   Facilities Planning Advisory Committee (FPAC)                

Click here for meeting logistics, agendas and handouts (to view the slides and materials, scroll down to the bottom of the page). Meetings are live-streamed on the FCPS website and televised on FCPS Cable Channel 99. For more information about signing up to speak at a regular meeting, click here.

About Board Meeting Agendas

Setting agendas for public School Board Meetings (including for Forums, Work Sessions, and Regular Meetings), includes advance planning on expected work from staff, legal and other obligations the Board must perform regularly, and pressing needs that emerge in a given week. The School Board juggles multiple priorities constantly, and as such, it is common for meeting agendas to be adjusted in advance. However, the goal is to post the final agenda and meeting materials by two days in advance of the public meeting. Thank you for understanding the dynamic nature of our work.

Advocating for State Based Support of our Schools

Virginia’s General Assembly has been in a special session since mid-August. I have advocated directly to leaders in both the House of Delegates and State Senate to seek financial support of our schools, amidst a perilous state financial outlook.View my letter to those elected officials here.

Click here to view the latest summary of the continuing 2020 Special Session, prepared by FCPS Government Relations staff. 

Some topics of the newly introduced legislative bills include:

  • Impact of distance learning
  • Student meals
  • Privacy training for teachers
  • School Resource Officer (SRO) duties
  • VA retirement system
  • Health insurance (prohibiting prior authorizations for the use of COVID-19 related prescription treatments)

Information on Numerous Topics

Teaching Virtually from Classrooms

Guidance has been provided to principals allowing teachers to return to their classrooms to provide virtual instruction, if that was their request. 

Substitute Teachers

In light of the ongoing national teacher shortage, it is not surprising that there is also a shortage of substitute teachers. Nonetheless, FCPS Human Resources (HR) continues to aggressively recruit and hire new substitute teachers for the upcoming school year.COVID-19 likely is impacting recruitment and retention efforts. For instance, this data show a comparison of the number of active substitutes:  

-- Active Teacher Substitutes as of August 2020: 3,949

-- Active Teacher Substitutes as of December 2019: 4,704

Additionally, the Office of Talent Acquisition and Management (TAM) conducted a survey of substitutes around their 2020-2021 school year work preferences. Thirty-three percent of substitutes responded to the survey. As the school year begins, it is estimated that approximately 2,400 substitutes are interested in engaging in distance learning assignments.  

HR is partnering with other departments to ensure our substitutes receive the necessary training to successfully navigate the virtual teaching environment. Substitutes will be required to complete training prior to accepting virtual substitute assignments. Training will include: navigating current virtual platforms (Google Meet, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Schoology), online classroom management, safety training for return to work and PPE training. Substitutes will be compensated for completing the training. 

Students Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) Videos

Students are viewing the new SR&R videos in class during these first days of school. The videos are located on the SR&R resources page. For more information, see the SR&R main page here.  

Middle School Start Times

After hearing from the community about the desire for later middle school start times, I did advocate to the Superintendent and my colleagues about this request. I agree that we need to support biologically respectful lifestyles for our students’ developing bodies and minds. However, as you know, the middle school bell schedule has remained unchanged. Here are several reasons for that decision: The bell schedules reflect as much of a sense of normalcy as possible to pre-COVID timing. Changing the schedule during virtual learning then changing it back for in-person instruction when we do return would be too disruptive for our families and staff. Furthermore, many families had already planned their day around the bell schedule as previously announced over the summer. Finally, many itinerant teachers (music, language, speech pathologists, and others) who support more than one school would be unable to provide online instruction for all their scheduled classes if the start time was changed. However, I continue to monitor if any adjustments can be made in the near future.  

 Two New FCPS Leadership Team Members Starting in September

Zoom Call with New CIO Mr. Guatam Sethi
  • New Chief Information Officer (CIO), Guatam Sethi (pronounced, “GawThum Say-thee”). Particularly, I’m eager for him to apply his knowledge and experience with cloud technology and expand FCPS’ work here. Read more here!
Michelle Boyd


Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Level IV Screening Updates

Due to the ongoing pandemic, there are some adjustments to the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) Level IV screening processes for the 2020-21 school year. Find important notes for parents here. 

Antibias Curriculum Work and New Antiracism Policy

On September 15, the School Board heard a comprehensive update of work in the Instructional Services Department to systemically identify curriculum that is deemed harmful to students because of racist or biased content – the Social Studies department found that one third of its library of curriculum resources accessible by teachers was harmful. Staff have removed these resources from circulation, is writing new content, and continues providing professional development to educators on using new materials. This effort is necessary to help all students meet the goals of Portrait of a Graduate, particularly to be an Ethnical and Global Citizen.

Furthermore, at staff’s recommendation, the School Board approved the request to begin the work to craft a new policy about antiracism – a critical step to furthering the dismantling of racism in our schools, and thus community. As such, community engagement will be critical. Stay tuned for more information soon.

Updates to Admission Process for TJHSST

On September 15, the School Board heard a proposal from the Superintendent to adjust the admissions process for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). This is one of Virginia’s Governor’s Schools, and as such, the School Board must annually review aspects of implementation per state requirements. The focus of the proposal is on increasing opportunities and accessibility to TJ’s world class programming. I support increasing such access while maintaining the high quality for which TJ is known, because it will even further improve the student experience and preparation for the workforce. The presentation can be viewed here, and an update will be shared with the School Board at a public Regular Meeting on October 8.


Plan to Vote by November 3

This year we vote for President and our Members in the House of Representatives. There will also be two important bond issues on the ballot as well: to support our public libraries and to support our parks and park facilities. You have three options for voting.

Learn more about your options and make sure you check locations, dates and hours before you head out to vote!

If you have questions or concerns, do not delay in contacting the Fairfax County Office of Elections at

Voting Informatin


Student Registration


Student Voter Registration

Students who will turn 18 years old this school year, but after the November 3, 2020 deadline, may register to vote in 2021 beginning November 4, 2020 (they can register as 17 year olds).  There are two main pathways for students to register to vote:

  1. Students with a valid Virginia DMV license or state ID card can register online.  
  2. Students without a DMV license or state ID card are asked to download a voter registration form.  This link provides mailing instructions and information in multiple languages as well as absentee ballot requests.

Take good 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.

© 2020 Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County, Virginia