Springfield District December Newsletter

2020 has certainly not turned out how any of us thought or hoped it might. I remain encouraged by the news that a vaccine is headed our way and hope that we will be back to “normal” in a few months. Until then, we will continue to work to make the best decisions possible as we move forward with returning our students to our buildings. As always, I remain beyond grateful for our incredible educators and wonderful families here in the Springfield District.

This week, I’m sending Happy Hanukkah wishes from our family to all who celebrate.  May we all find light and hope when times seem terribly dark. 

For those of you celebrating Kwanza, Christmas, or even Festivus ;), I wish you all peace, warmth, and meaning in however you are able to connect with those you love. I know this will be a tough season for many of us, especially those who have lost a loved one this year. As many of you know, I lost my Dad earlier this year. We are truly missing his smiling face and seemingly bottomless ability to sneak all the holiday sweets. 

Happy holidays and may this year be better than the last.

Warmest regards-

Laura Jane 

Picture of school board members

Upcoming Important Public and School Board Meetings 

  • Thursday, December 10 at 6 p.m. -  Work Session. Return to School Update from the Superintendent. No action planned – this presentation will include an updated timeline from the Superintendent.
  • Friday, December 11 at 6 p.m. - Public Hearing on the forthcoming Restraint and Seclusion Policy.  No action by Board will be taken – this is an opportunity for the Board to hear from the community on this topic, only.  The draft policy can be viewed here. The School Board will vote to approve a policy at its Thursday, December 17 public Regular Meeting. Following are details about participating in or viewing this Public Hearing, which is limited to 75 speakers:
    • All speakers are allowed three (3) minutes. Individuals may sign up in advance to speak at public hearings.
    • To reserve a space on the speaker list you can sign up online or call the School Board Office at 571-423-1075 during normal business hours [8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.]
  • Tuesday, December 15 at 11 a.m. - Work Session.  Mid-Year Budget Review for approval on December 17; and preparing the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for on-going work until approval February 4. The CIP is the playbook for all things related to facilities. It’s written with a 5-year span, but again, updated annually. Note that there will be a Public Hearing for the CIP on January 7 – sign-ups will be accepted in the new year.
  • Thursday, December 17 at 7 p.m. - Regular Meeting.  To date, here are the items that the School Board will act on – additional changes may occur:
    • Policy for Restraint and Seclusion
    • Superintendent’s contract
    • Mid-Year Budget
    • TJHSST admissions
    • The Board will also hear a presentation about the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) development.

Accessing Board Meetings

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

Click here for meeting logistics, agendas, and handouts. 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.

Recordings of Meetings: available here.

Updates Regarding Recent and Upcoming Work

Advanced Academic Programs Screening (AAP) 

On December 3, the Board approved FCPS piloting the use of local norms at schools that currently have either a Center or Local Level IV program to identify second-grade students for eligibility screening. Local norms are an emerging practice to increase equity in advanced academic programs, comparing peers using a local, relevant data sample rather than from national data that may or may not be relative to the local setting. This practice is supported by the researchers who completed the external review in Spring 2020.  Recognizing the use of local norms would increase equity while not denying a pathway for any family who wanted to have their child screened via the referral process.

State Policy Work 

On November 23 the School Board met with elected officials representing Fairfax County in the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. This annual convening is timed particularly to inform state policymakers before their session in Richmond begins in January (this year, a combination of virtual and in-person meetings are planned during the state’s session).

Review the FCPS legislative advocacy information, which the School Board approved on November 16.

Fairfax County Budget Information

The School Board and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors met for its annual joint budget planning meeting on Tuesday, November 24 from 1:30-3 p.m. Collaborative planning is crucial in the budgeting process because the Board of Supervisors sets the real estate tax rate, from which amount the bulk of FCPS funding comes – the County “transfers” these funds to FCPS for each approved annual budget. At this time the County is not proposing a change in the real estate tax rate. View the presentation slides with info about both the County and FCPS fiscal context and forecast. 

Providing Learning Devices for Our Youngest Students 

Plans are underway to determine providing the youngest students in FCPS - those in PreK through 2nd grade - with age-appropriate electronic learning devices. Determining the age-appropriate devices needed is part of a cohesive roadmap for the FCPSOn program that has already provided laptops to all FCPS students. 

School-based staff, central office teams, and families would help shape any program expansion to obtain devices that can more easily allow our youngest learners to have high levels of content engagement. 

This effort will bring 49,000 new devices into the hands of these young students. As part of the increased technology support that will be needed for instruction, schools with student enrollment above 600 would require an additional technology support staff position.

FCPSOn graphic

The School Board will consider budget implications for this investment in the months ahead. If funded, FCPS projects to have devices for Fall 2021 learning.

FCPS Winter Sports Start this Week

Based on the data and experiences with student-athletes who have been conditioning successfully since summer, FCPS is progressing with the return of participation in the Virginia High School League (VHSL) athletic season. To be specific, students have been engaging in workouts and sports-related activities since July 2020 with less than .2 percent of students having been exposed to COVID-19. Of those cases, none were transmissions from school-related workouts. Offering tryouts and practices for our student-athletes are the next steps in starting winter sports.

FCPS continues to work closely with VHSL at the state level to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes and coaches comply with federal, state, and local health guidelines. Schools have been provided with detailed protocols to adhere to from VHSL’s guidelines for returning to play. FCPS is following both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines for health mitigation and masks. The current guidelines for masks from the VHSL is that athletes will wear masks while participating in practice, except for when they are engaged in high physical exertion activities and direct competition. FCPS will continue to monitor health metrics daily and will adapt to any new CDC or VHSL guidelines as required.

All FCPS facility spaces used for indoor sports–including gyms, wrestling rooms, and pools–meet or exceed current heating, ventilation, and air conditioning airflow guidelines. These spaces will be regularly monitored to ensure proper operation for all practices and competitions that take place during evenings, weekends, holidays, and winter and spring break. 

The schedule for return to sports is as follows:

  • December 7 – Basketball practice began.
  • December 14 – All other winter sports practice starts (swim and dive, track and field, wrestling, gymnastics).
  • December 21 – First contest for basketball.
  • December 28 – First contest for all other winter sports.


Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) Admissions Process

Our Board reviewed options for revising admissions to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) admissions process in September and October 2020.

On September 5, 2020, the Superintendent proposed a Merit Lottery process for admissions. On October 6 and 8, 2020, our Board reviewed this proposal, which incorporated a holistic review into the Merit Lottery.

Here is the link to the work session held on Monday, December 7th. A final vote in this matter will take place on December 17

FCPS Continues to Monitor Health Data for COVID-19

FCPS is monitoring COVID-19 health data every day to make decisions on when students and staff can return for in-person learning. The school division posts the regional health data collected by the Virginia Department of Health on the COVID-19 Health Metrics webpage and monitors three core indicators related to coronavirus infections: the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19, and the ability of our schools and centers to implement health and safety measures to stem the spread of the virus, even when health conditions associated with the first two metrics remain elevated.  The first two indicators are increasing in Northern Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set thresholds to help school communities understand the risk of introduction and transmission of COVID-19 in schools. View thresholds for Groups 1-6.

COVID safety measures graphic

Safety Teams Deployed to Monitor COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies at FCPS Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools has implemented new Safety Teams to help the school district monitor each schools’ adherence to five mitigation strategies for COVID-19. These teams, consisting of FCPS staff members and retirees, will conduct random onsite spot checks, deliver education and resources, and report data back to administrators. 

The five mitigation strategies are outlined in the Centers for Disease Control’s Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-making guide, and include proper use of masks or face coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing in collaboration with the health department.

More information on FCPS Safety Teams is available online.

Five Things You Need to Know About COVID-19 

Even though COVID-19 cases are still climbing, cold weather and holiday celebrations will bring more people indoors for family gatherings and events. That’s why we must fight “intervention fatigue” and keep doing what has been proven to work – mask-wearing, social distancing, and staying home whenever possible – to keep COVID-19 cases from overwhelming our healthcare systems. See five things to know about COVID-19.

FCPS meal delivery bus drivers

Grab and Go Meal Delivery Times and Some Bus Stop Locations Have Changed

Fairfax County Public Schools is offering no-cost nutritious meals to ALL students through June 30, 2021. Meals are available at school sites and along bus routes.

Grab and go bus delivery times and some bus stop locations have recently changed. The updated bus schedule is available online. Bus delivery times were changed to accommodate the need for more buses to transport students returning to school buildings for in-person learning.

Breakfast and lunch meals are offered Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). Breakfast and lunch are served at the same time. Breakfast and lunch are also offered at no cost to any student who attends in-person instruction at a school Monday-Friday. Meals for Saturday and Sunday are offered at sites and on bus routes every Friday.

More information is available online, or by calling the Office of Food and Nutrition Services at 703-813-4800.

Child Care

I know our extended time dealing with COVID-19 has put many hardships on our families. With schools still not completely open, I know many of you are struggling with child care needs. Here is information on some county resources for child care. 

The Office for Children - A Childcare Resource

The Office for Children (OFC) provides information about childcare programs serving children from birth through school-age and supports families in choosing quality care in Fairfax County. Their online resource allows you to search by zip code, elementary school, and languages spoken in the center. For information on school-aged childcare call 703-449-8989 or OFCSACCInfo@fairfaxcounty.gov. They are available to answer your questions at 703-324-8000 or officeforchildren@fairfaxcounty.gov in English and Spanish.

Foundation for FCPS Leaders and Learners logo

Foundation for FCPS Leaders and Learners Virtual Event

The Foundation for FCPS held a virtual event on November 30 to celebrate how the Fairfax County community has come together during the pandemic to support our neediest students. Hear from Dr. Brabrand, teachers, and business leaders about the importance of helping students. Watch the video

Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools' Project Cornucopia

The Foundation for FCPS is working to ensure that the neediest students in FCPS can enjoy a special meal for the holidays. Donations to Project Cornucopia will be used to purchase gift cards that can be redeemed for grocery items so that families can enjoy their favorite flavorful traditions–or create new ones. Donations can be made online

Support Homeless Students for the Holidays

The Foundation for FCPS’ Kids in Need initiative is partnering with FCPS for our annual gift card drive to benefit homeless students. FCPS typically identifies up to 3,000 children per year as homeless. Many of them are unaccompanied, living without a parent or legal guardian. Securing essential needs such as clothing, medicine, emergency food, and hygiene supplies is even more of a struggle since the pandemic began. 

If you can help, please make a donation that will be used to purchase gift cards and empower students to make purchases for their personal needs. If you would like to donate a physical gift card(s), please mail it to:

Patti Parisi

Gatehouse Administrative Center

8115 Gatehouse Road

Falls Church, VA  22042

Please contact Patti Parisi with questions at poparisi@fcps.edu. Thank you!

Tips graphic

Tip Sheet for Parents: The Benefits of Volunteering This Holiday Season

Teen volunteers provide more than 2.4 billion hours of service each year. And these teens are not just making their communities better — they’re also doing something for themselves. Studies show that teens who volunteer just two hours a week are 50 percent less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs. In addition, teens who volunteer tend to earn better grades and develop leadership skills that will help them throughout life.

Families who volunteer together also see real benefits. By spending time together and working towards the same goals, family members can see each other in new ways. 

Pandemic precautions have made it more challenging to find safe volunteer opportunities for teens and families, but there is no shortage of need.  Volunteer Fairfax has up-to-date volunteer opportunities for all ages, groups, and individuals. 

Here are some tips on how to make it work:

  • Take an inventory. Where do family members volunteer now? Would other family members like to join in?
  • Brainstorm. What other causes do family members care about? What organizations work on those issues? If organized volunteer projects are scarce, what needs in your community could your family help meet on your own? Could you organize others to help you?
  • Start small. Choose a one-time activity. If you like it, make plans to do more.

Copyright 2020, the Parent Institute. Get more tips for parents and other family engagement resources.

Special Education Parent Newsletter

The Department of Special Services (DSS) publishes a regular electronic newsletter for parents of special education students to provide updated DSS information, and tips and ideas to support you and your family during distance learning. The latest issue is available online

Virtual Workshop on December 9: Postsecondary Education Options for Students with Disabilities

Join FCPS Career and Transition Services for a parent workshop to learn about postsecondary concerns for students transitioning to college. The virtual session will be held Wednesday, December 9 from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is available online.

Healthy Minds logo

Healthy Minds Podcast: How to Experience Joy Through Giving this “Different” Holiday season

In this week's Healthy Minds podcast, Maria Genova, an FCPS psychology supervisor, shares unique ways we can all give through “connections” this holiday season and reap the results of added joy in our lives. She addresses how we can learn to flex our “happiness” muscles and how we can look for the micro-moments to feel and demonstrate and cultivate optimism.

From the Healthy Minds Blog: Free Resources to Deal with Stress from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused upheaval and unexpected stress in the lives of so many people. To support Virginians, the VA C.O.P.E.S.  (Compassionate, Optimistic, Person-Centered, Empowering Support) warmline is available to offer support. The mental health tip line started in May 2020 and, thanks to new funding, the service will be extended through May 2021.

In addition, George Mason University's Center for Psychological Services is offering a COVID-19 Essential Workers Emotional Support Line. Essential workers, including those individuals working in healthcare, schools, sanitation, transportation, hospitality, the postal service, and the military, can call to speak confidentially with a trained provider about stress, anxiety, depression, or grief for free. Additional virtual therapy services are also available.

More information on COVID-19 resources is available online.

Parent Resource Center graphic

Parent Resource Center Webinars

The FCPS Parent Resource Center offers several free parent and educator webinars to provide the latest information to help your child succeed. Some upcoming webinars include: 

Coping Strategies for Anxious Kids

Join Dr. Erin D. Berman, a clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for an important session helping children cope with anxiety.

Webinar highlights:

  • How to identify an anxious child.
  • How to change anxious thinking.
  • The science and biological roots of anxiety in children.
  • How computer technology is transforming the understanding of anxiety.
  • Current treatment options. 

Friday, December 11 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Register for Coping Strategies for Anxious Kids.

All Behavior Happens for a Reason: Behavior as Communication

  • Overview of the reasons why behaviors may occur.
  • Overview of reinforcing positive behavior.
  • General tips for encouraging replacement behaviors.

Thursday, December 17 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Register for All Behavior Happens for a Reason: Behavior as Communication.

More information about Parent Resource Center webinars is available online.

Safe Community Coalition Rolls Out 'Managing the Moments' Video Series

The Safe Community Coalition (SCC) has launched a series of short videos for the community featuring the psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers of the SCC’s mental health committee. All videos and any accompanying tip sheets are free and available on the SCC website.

The short segments, approximately 10 minutes each, touch on a wide variety of topics designed to help parents and students in dealing with a range of issues, from younger children’s challenges staying focused while distance learning to effective communication strategies when families feel the strain of too much togetherness.

The first six videos include:

  • Deescalating Conflict
  • Effective Communication
  • How to Talk to Your Parents
  • Brain Breaks During Distance Learning
  • Self-Care and Calming Techniques
  • How Are You?

Pictures of Dr. Sloan Presidio and Dr. Lisa Williams

FCPS Names New Chief Academic Officer and Chief Equity Officer

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand has named Sloan Presidio (left), who most recently served as assistant superintendent for instructional services, as the district’s new Chief Academic Officer. Get more information about Sloan Presidio

In addition, Dr. Brabrand has named Lisa Williams (right), who currently serves as executive director of the Department of Equity and Cultural Proficiency in Baltimore County (Md.) Public Schools, as the district’s new Chief Equity Officer, effective December 30. Get more information about Lisa Williams.

Picture of Dr. Pamela Simpkins

Welcome to Our Newest Principal at Silverbrook Elementary

Pamela Simpkins, who currently serves as assistant principal at Halley Elementary, has been named the new principal of Silverbrook Elementary, effective December 14. Simpkins began her career with FCPS as a special education teacher at Rolling Valley Elementary. She served as assistant principal from 2007-13 at Hybla Valley Elementary where she implemented an afterschool program that helped close achievement gaps. Simpkins later served as principal at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary. She is an active member of the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Simpkins holds three degrees from George Mason University: a bachelor of arts in psychology, a master of education degree in special education, and a doctor of philosophy in education.

New Employment Opportunities in Fairfax County Public Schools: Classroom Monitors

FCPS schools and centers are hiring classroom monitors to provide in-person classroom assistance for students when some staff members continue to work virtually. If you would like more information about the position, review the job description online, and apply if interested. Please share information about this opportunity with anyone else you think may be interested.

FCPS Is Seeking Individuals to Serve as Substitute Teachers

Are you or somebody you know interested in substitute teaching with FCPS? Apply online or attend one of our Friday information sessions to learn more. To sign up for a session, visit the FCPS substitute teacher information page.

FCPS Back2Fairfax picture

Back2Fairfax Virtual Event on December 15 for FCPS Graduates and Students Who Want to Teach in FCPS

Do you know an FCPS graduate or student who is interested in being a teacher in FCPS? FCPS graduates and current FCPS juniors or seniors are invited to join us for a virtual event on Tuesday, December 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. for the third annual Back2Fairfax Teacher Seminar. Learn how to navigate the hiring process, employee resources, and tips to being a successful educator.

Join us for an evening filled with networking opportunities, breakout sessions, and FCPS employment information. We invite current students and FCPS graduates to Say Yes to FCPS!

Registration for the event is available online

Picture of mask and Christmas holiday items

Winter Holidays and COVID-19: Tips for Family Celebrations, Shopping, and Entertainment

The safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is with people in your household. Fairfax County Emergency Information recommends making the holidays more leisurely this year: Stay home, stay cozy, and keep it small and simple. All of us have to do our part!  Learn more.

I encourage you to follow the Virginia Department of Health travel guidance around any travel quarantine requirements for people arriving in the Commonwealth of Virginia from other U.S. or international locations. The CDC has also put out these guidelines to celebrate the upcoming winter holidays.

Did You Know…Sandra M. Chafouleas, Ph.D. from Psychology Today writes “As a very unfamiliar holiday season approaches, we can still find ways to bring familiarity and predictability — and the sense of comfort that goes with that — with some adaptations to our family traditions.” Here is the full article that includes ways to adapt to this holiday season.

Quick Links:

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