Community Update; & Athletics Town Hall Tonight, 10/28, 7pm

Dear Community Members,

I am sending you this reminder of tonight's town hall, as well as my thoughts on return to school plans, and a few community updates.

Virtual Town Hall on the Status of FCPS Athletics

[Tonight] Wednesday, October 28


Please join me for a virtual town hall that will feature Director of the FCPS Office of Student Activities and Athletic Programs, Bill Curran, to learn the latest news about returning our FCPS athletes to play safely in this time of COVID. We'll also be hearing input from FCPS Directors of Student Activities.

The town hall will include:

  • An update about what the Virginia High School League (VHSL) has worked on, whose regulations govern the FCPS athletics program
  • What families can do to support the proposed VHSL season impacting FCPS athletics
  • Time for your questions and ideas


Click this link to join!


Things to know to participate:

A recording will be available soon afterwards.

Return to School Update and School Board Work

Following here is information and what I’m observing as I navigate our situation under COVID. It’s important to me that you are aware of this because I want to be transparent about what I am advocating for and doing – based on community input and the realities of our public education system.

I support honoring families’ choices to return their students to school. I believe that the school division should make all reasonable efforts to open learning spaces so that students who are able can attend school if that is their family’s choice.

Through collecting input from constituents, I’ve heard that students are generally having one of three experiences:

  • Surviving virtual learning alright – it’s of course not ideal, but they are getting by.
  • Thriving in virtual – even doing better than they were prior to COVID.
  • Really suffering academically and socially/emotionally. It is this group of students for which having the in-person option is particularly critical.

FCPS began returning students to the classroom in small groups on October 5. In November, FCPS will welcome its first full grade band of students, our Kindergarteners, and it’s expected that 1st and 2nd graders will return that same month, per family choice. You can view the timeline for returning to in-person instruction on FCPS' Return to School page.

The School Board will hear the Superintendent’s timeline for grades 3-12, and other smaller populations of students, at the November 12 public work session. At the October 15 public work session, I gave approval for moving this timeline up so we might return additional grades faster. I did not agree with the timeline as proposed that, for example, had middle and high school students returning in the new calendar year. However, what was agreed upon was to hear the update on November 12.

I understand that this is not as ambitious a timeline as some in the community would like. I respect the counsel of school leaders about the time and planning needed to prepare and implement safe environments and instructionally-sound practices.                                                                                                                 

However, I am concerned about these challenges:

  • Concurrent instruction not being as high of a quality as families expect it to be, for all students – virtual or in-person - due to teachers’ having their attention split
  • Teacher workload to implement concurrent learning and the timeline for starting

Another large point I want to share: I am disappointed with the planning and roll out of the return to school plans. Staff, families, and students have shared many aspects of how planning could have been stronger. As a parent of elementary school students, I see this firsthand, too. Many of our schools are now rushing to prepare for returning students while managing unprecedent requests for altered staff assignments. However, this is necessary to meet families’ expectations. I’ve tried to look with hindsight at what could have been done better, and while there are some indications, it’s difficult to know for sure given that none of us has lived and worked through a pandemic in the U.S. before. Surely some grace needs to be given to those trying to make education happen in this time – myself included. However, this isn’t an excuse for lacking strategic planning and implementation.

In addition to the physical safety factors that impact return-to-school planning, a major component of continuing to return students to school is the availability of staff. No matter the thoughts that are had about teachers’ and staff members’ aversion to risk, the fact is that each individual is entitled to what they can bear. And if we do not have enough teachers and staff, it will be difficult to instruct students.

This shortage of instructional staff is not new to public education. There has been a national teacher shortage for years – indeed, FCPS has begun recent school years with dozens of vacant positions. This is a fact that we must accept and plan around – there is no quick and easy fix.

I’m looking to local health data as much as possible. Yet, I am an education policy professional – not a health professional. I am trying to follow current data about COVID rates, and working with school division staff and the County Health Department to advocate for as accurate data as possible to inform plans to return to school and be responsive to COVID incidences.

Just released are two dashboards about COVID cases that will help inform our work:

The simple truth is that our local government systems are not designed to navigate through a crisis of this size. That is what state and federal institutions are for. Without that leadership – in policy, services, and funding – our local efforts are working with very blunt tools to address very intricate problems.  

Finally, please know that I continue to advocate strongly and repeatedly for better planning and communications from the school division, and am working with my School Board colleagues to prioritize this on our meeting agendas and in our work. The School Board will begin having select in-person public meetings, starting on November 5.

Myself, the School Board, and the school division are truly in a no-win situation for our community as a whole, and I hope you will presume positive intent as we try to weigh options of physical, mental, emotional and social health of our students and our staff in decisions related to returning to schools.

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.

Other Community Happenings

GrandInvolve Volunteer Update

Courtesy of GrandInvolve, view their latest enewsletter here. 

To find out more and to get involved, email Volunteer Coordinator Patty Stevens at

Surplus Desk Distribution in Hunter Mill!

Surplus Desk Distribution

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of parents in Hunter Mill with FCPS staff, FCPS is now able to provide desks to families by leveraging our partnerships with Neighborhood and Community Services and non-profit organizations. These surplus desks were in the FCPS warehouse and would typically be sold to the community. Schools are not impacted by this initiative and no additional work load was added.

Surplus Desk Distribution

This positive effort to support to our families through partner organizations is being well received and many are elated for this opportunity. Currently, we have 12 organizations participating and are in the process of delivering over 400 desks to recreation and community centers in our neediest areas for distribution.



A big thank you to parents in the South Lakes HS Pyramid in particular for their grassroots work to make this happen!  

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. Please know that I hear you. I understand the immense frustration of this time. Too often during COVID, I am forced to make decisions from among a list of “least worst” options dealt to our community, state, and nation during this pandemic. As passionately as you are sharing your thoughts with me, I have other constituents sharing the same passion for the opposite of what you seek. 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 School Board contact form. This form prioritizes emails to me from constituents, and helps me track communication so I can be sure you receive a response.


Please take good care, 



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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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