October Community Update

Dear Community Members,

Return to School Plans and the 10/15 School Board Work Session

I'm beginning this update with the most recent information about the 10/15 public School Board Work Session, (running from 6pm until 1am), where the Superintendent and staff presented an update on Return to School plans (scroll down on link to access presentation). The Board had two objectives to provide input on: 1) the concurrent teaching model and 2) the proposed timeline. Because this was a Work Session, the Board didn't have formal votes, but rather, provides “consensus” to guide the Superintendent’s work. (FYI: The Board has been working in this way more frequently since the summer. It’s technically legitimate, but I do feel it’s not as transparent because “action items” are clearly marked on agendas for Regular Meetings, but not the Work Sessions. I continue to question this practice with the Chair and Clerk.)

1) I do not support concurrent learning – that is, assigning a single teacher to teach simultaneously in-person in the classroom and online. Since return to school plans first started being discussed, I have advocated against requiring teachers to do two jobs – teaching in person and teaching online. They are two different jobs. We have seen the additional effort needed for teachers to get up to speed with online instruction. They are still honing it. It’s reasonable to expect that teachers would need to similarly come up to speed on how to teach in yet this new way (of teaching two ways simultaneously). I also can’t fathom how teachers would continue teaching online while simultaneously participating in professional development and do the planning to shift to teach concurrently. As such, I did request for follow up information on how time would be carved out for this to happen so teachers can focus and prepare appropriately. But I think this will put teachers in a position to serve neither group of students well – in-person or online – and the following will suffer: quality of instruction for students, capacity and mental health of teachers, and emotional health of students who see peers in-person while they are online.

Finally, I disagree with the statement that “the concurrent model is the only way to maintain 4 days/week of teacher-led instruction for in-person students” (p. 34 on the presentation and reiterated by staff). Until 10/14, we understood that the plan being presented would flesh out the option proposed for the July 15 deadline that was proposed to families: 2 days in person synchronous and 2 days online *asynchronous*.The plan presented is for 4 days *synchronous* where it’s 2 days in person and 2 online with one teacher teaching both simultaneously.

2) About the proposed timeline – it was very difficult to figure out how to approve this because it seemed dependent on approving concurrent learning. It also suggested not bringing back the majority of students until the new year – with MS and HS beginning Feb 1. Again, I didn’t receive an analysis of why this was needed, but told that it would have to be these dates when concurrent learning is used. It seemed like sacrificing the MS and HS students for the sake of concurrent learning – and ultimately, I didn’t hear why such a sacrifice was merited.

Ultimately, this is what we gave consensus on, for the Superintendent to move forward with:

· Proceeding with a pilot for concurrent learning with as many as 13 schools, about which the Superintendent will bring an interim report to the Board on November 12 to inform future schedules for returning students to school. Anecdotal data will also be collected from the concurrent approach used in a limited number of classes happening for Groups 2, 3, and 4.

· Returning students in Group 5 on Nov 16, and Group 6 no later than Nov 30.

Group 5 is Early Head Start, PreK, Kindergarten, and students with special and additional needs (see slide 31 for full list).

Group 6 is GRADES 1-2 and specialized career centers-special education.

Furthermore, after trying to reach consensus about the proposed timeline by weighing in on three options near the end of the meeting, the Board ultimately supported having the Superintendent present to the Board on Nov 12, revised plans for returning students in Groups 7 and 8 – essentially, so students could possibly return sooner than the proposed Jan 4 and Feb 1 dates. Group 7 is Grades 3-6 and some additional day programs. Group 8 is MS and HS students.

The list of items on which the Board sought consensus and the opinions of Board Members in each is posted on BoardDocs (scroll to bottom and expand under "Motions & Voting"). 

Other points:

I recognize that the Board can and needs to be more efficient in its work. I have advocated strongly for this and continued to do so until the day of the meeting. I will give the Board grace, though, in saying that we need to be provided with clear, complete presentations and recommendations from the Superintendent in order to best do our jobs. We also need to not be blindsided with major information and changes to established plans. I think the Board was quite focused and succinct in the questions asked. That we had such difficulty at the end of the meeting finding consensus about the timeline is a testament to the incomplete plan we received.

I am very sad that a more complete version of this plan wasn’t presented to us much sooner. I understand that staff were working over the summer and early Fall on online learning, that we have certain knowledge now that wasn’t available then, and that the COVID level is different now than it was then.However, I feel that the work to plan for a safe return was not done in a timely manner, nor with the appropriate input from school-building staff.

The Superintendent and his Leadership Team believe that concurrent learning is the only approach, and only presented that one avenue. As such, we weren’t presented with any information about alternatives and what those pros and cons are. For instance, I wonder if we could return MS and HS students sooner if we used a different model.

I am very frustrated about the way the concurrent approach has been presented. Concurrent teaching was addressed in July, but dismissed as it wasn’t a viable option. I most recently heard about this potential use on Oct 3. I inquired immediately about how widespread it would be used, and had a 40 minute conversation with Leadership Team staff soon after. I was not under the impression that whole grade bands of students would be taught concurrently. When I viewed the 10/15 presentation, on 10/14, I was shocked to see it as a central strategy for returning to school. Unfortunately, I am seeing a pattern of the School Board receiving information in this manner.

I’m still processing and reflecting about how we ended up here. I remain committed to the work of the division being transparent, collaborative, and accountable. I look forward to more conversations and actions to improve the approaches being used.

Finally, I want to say that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. I advocate so strongly for teachers because research shows that of all resources offered by a school, the greatest impact on students’ learning experience and success is their teacher. Not the technology, the curriculum, the learning space, etc. School doesn’t happen without teachers. And teachers who are stressed, fearful, distracted, or working nonstop to plan and teach are providing an inferior instructional experience to students. FCPS is better than this.

I advocate for teachers because I’m advocating for students.

My greatest hope is that more of the public accept this as truth. If that can happen, we will all be better at accepting the reality regarding staffing and its effect on student learning, and the limitations of the options before the school division.

The only way is onward. I’ll keep working my best, and hope you will have the grace and consideration to respect my efforts as you grapple with the challenges you face. I am attending PTA meetings in the coming weeks to connect with parents. I’m eager to visit schools as they begin welcoming back students. If I can assist with a specific concern that can’t be addressed at the school level, please contact me using the form below.

Contacting Me

I find it very important to continue having conversations with community members about the issues facing them - and how I am able to best represent their voices. At this time, with an overflowing inbox, I am prioritizing responses to Hunter Mill constituents. If you are unsure of your county magisterial district, you can look that information up here.

To contact me, it is most helpful if you can please use the official contact form, found on this page in the blue graphic that says, “Contact The School Board”. This form prioritizes emails to me from constituents, and helps me track communication so I can be sure you receive a response.

Accessing Board Meetings 

View this link for a comprehensive list of upcoming meetings and associated information.

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.

Visiting Hunter Mill Schools

Classroom visits!

I made three “school visits” this month– something that School Board members do annually at the start of the year. I spent time in virtual classrooms of teachers at Madison HS, Vienna ES, and Aldrin ES, as arranged by an FPCS Executive Principal. Here’s who I visited with:


  • The “Teach for Tomorrow and Tutor for Today” class at Madison, where students shared their plans to create a new peer tutoring program. So much creativity around marketing, gathering student input, and using digital platforms to connect! Really exciting.
  • A kindergarten class at Vienna, where the teacher had students practice how to mute and unmute, and speak in appropriate ways. The teacher and instructional assistant created such a friendly environment and fostered classroom connections – students were really engaged.
  • A 5th grade class at Aldrin, during morning meeting where, among other things, I learned that it’s National Cookie Day, and so students shared personal connections with baking – including stories of spending time with family. The teacher used many interactive elements and polls. Connection-making and student engagement was central in this class. (I was also reminded by staff that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month).

When speaking with principals, here’s what I heard:

  • Virtual learning seems to be going as smoothly as it is possible to be. But it’s not what everyone wants, which is to be together in person and learning.
  • Teachers are on the verge of burning out. A new way of instructing students with virtual platforms and programs is a daunting, on-going endeavor. I heard that staff would like to get more settled into this new model before moving into transitioning to in-person learning in the COVID era – especially since so many details are still unknown.
  • Schools must have appropriate amounts of PPE – staff must be confident that this is always available.
  • School leaders need a balance of local flexibility and authority to make building-level decisions – like to meet students’ needs - but also need the school division to make macro-level plans - like human resources decisions about returning to work.

Hunter Mill Happenings

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering at Dogwood ES


I recently spent some time volunteering at Dogwood ES, helping with weekend food distributions to families. Further help is needed at some area schools for a number of different needs. 
Click here to sign up for a slot!


Many in our Hunter Mill community need help. Here are options (shared in a recent update from Supervisor Walter Acorn) for how you can support those in need. Please check them out, and share the info!

Coat Closet with Cornerstones

This year there is expected to be a greater need for coat donations for residents in our vulnerable communities. New or gently used, clean coats, as well as new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves may be donated through Nov. 6 at several Hunter Mill District locations. Learn more. Volunteers are needed for the coat distribution; contact Susan Alger at susan.alger@cornerstonesva.org or call 571-323-1383 to volunteer.


The annual VolunteerFest is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24 and Sunday, Oct. 25. VolunteerFest is a region-wide weekend of service that mobilizes hundreds of volunteers in a variety of volunteer events across Fairfax County. Residents of all ages are encouraged to participate. Due to the pandemic, Volunteer Fairfax has incorporated at-home (virtual) projects from which you can select. Opportunities include making holiday cards, cleaning up yards and assisting with food drives. Learn more.

This website is being updated regularly with a number of ways to help your fellow Hunter Mill District neighbors.  

Grant Award

Safeway Grant


Congratulations to Marshall Road Elementary School! Their PTA is a proud recipient of a $5,000 grant from Safeway to combat food insecurity. This funding can be used to supply their school food pantry, provide emergency meal distribution, and to distribute grocery gift cards to families.

Information and Resources

Technology Tips and Support

Courtesy of Fox Mill ES:

A crucial maintenance task that can keep your school laptop performing throughout the school year is regularly restarting it. This both installs updates and ends background processes. We would like to recommend shutting down at the end of the school day. On Tuesday nights, leave it on, but plugged in, and restart the device on Wednesday mornings. Microsoft uses Tuesdays to push out updates, and this will ensure that they are installed in a timely manner. It’s something that we encourage at school, but it’s awfully hard with nearly 600 computers that have been lent to families!

More help for troubleshooting other issues you may experience can be found on FCPS’s website: Tech Support for Families. It may behoove students to bookmark this site, as it will help solve most common problems. 

Dyslexia Awareness

Dyslexia Awareness


October is Dyslexia Awareness month. FCPS has these resources available for families to help students achieve success while managing this challenge. FCPS’ Dyslexia Handbook has further information, too. On October 28 from 10am-11am join an FCPS Dyslexia Specialist via webinar for families to hear about FCPS resources.

Plan to Vote by November 3

This year we vote for President and our Members in the House of Representatives. There will also be four bond referendums on the ballot, which you can learn more about here.

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@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Voter Choices


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