December Newsletter

Happy Winter Break!

Dear Dranesville Families-

Please enjoy your hard earned break.  We have all endured a year like we could have never imagined.  Thank you again and again for your hard work and endurance to help our students in their learning.  To close out this year, here are a few updates on key topics, but mostly, I want to take some time to highlight some of the incredible positive service work and learning going on around the district.

Please have a wonderful break and I hope you enjoy your time with family.  Stay safe and healthy.  


Calendar Reminder: Winter Break Is December 21 to January 1, 2021

As a reminder, this year winter break starts today and ends on January 1, 2021. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Monday, January 4, 2021, is an asynchronous (independent) day.

See the complete 2020-21 school year calendar

Return to School Updates

Dr. Brabrand presented the latest information and timelines for in-person return at the 12/10/20 Work Session. You can watch the meeting here.  The next Return to School Update will be at the January 5th Work Session. The current DRAFT dates for return of in-person students are listed here. Please go here to see the FCPS COVID data and Fairfax County health metrics.

Safety Teams Monitor COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies

FCPS has implemented new Safety Teams to help monitor each school's adherence to five mitigation strategies for COVID-19. Read the news release. These teams, which consist of FCPS staff members and retirees, will conduct random on-site spot checks, deliver education and resources, and report data back to administrators. Watch this video to learn more. The five mitigation strategies are set forth in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 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.
  • Contact tracing, in collaboration with the health department.

Grab and Go meals Updates

Grab and Go meals during the Winter Break

FCPS is committed to providing all students access to meals during the FCPS Winter Break. Changes will be in place from Friday, December 18, 2020 through Wednesday, January 6, 2021. See the details on the distribution sites and dates here.

McLean HS/Langley HS Boundary Update

On 12/7, a virtual McLean High School and Langley High School boundary study meeting was held. Please go to the website to see the 12/7 presentation, the 4 options presented, and to read the community comments from this meeting and from email.

If you have any comments or questions, please send them to A FAQ document will be posted on the website soon and will be updated as more questions come in. A timeline of the next steps including the staff recommendation presentation (this recommendation will be based on the community input), public hearing, and the vote on the final decision will be out soon.  We expect to resume this work in January.  

Thank you to all of you who have sent in comments. I know the December 7 meeting was short. There was not much discussion in many of the breakout sessions so it is very important that you submit your questions, concerns, and comments to the email address above. This ensures all necessary information will be included in the FAQ document. 

A Day in the Life of a Middle School Student...

One of my biggest December highlights was spending virtual time with Herndon MS and Cooper MS classes and clubs.  At Cooper, I visited a civics class where I found the students engaged and talking freely during breakout sessions discussing the powers of national, local, and state governments. I was later left behind by our students as we played a Kahoot game to review the concepts.  At least, I am ready for my next visit with the Kahoot app on my phone! I visited the Modeling Club and was amazed at the WWII airplanes the students were meticulously building. Mostly my heart was warmed to see the wonderful, caring relationship the students and their club leader enjoy as they discuss model building techniques and share an interest in history.  

HMS Day in the life

Principal Lisa Barrow looks in on the Cooper Friday afternoon Modeling Club. 

The members said they’d rather build models than play video games--now that is an endorsement!!!  I am happy to say our middle school afterschool clubs are reporting record attendance this year. With the use of virtual tools, some clubs are being run across schools and the students are really enjoying the interaction with students in other schools. 

I followed a complete student schedule at Herndon MS so I was up bright and early learning about slopes in pre-algebra 8.  The Chat function was a flurry of activity with answers to the teacher’s questions and a few side conversations the teacher had to redirect like in any class. I visited Hawk Time (homeroom) next and was happy to see the connections the teachers had with the students as they worked to further build community. They made sure each student knew how to access any academic assistance they needed. The students were excited to tell me how valuable they found their time in this group.  I applaud HMS for the new tutor request forms they are implementing.  After lunch, I was on to civics and used a fun online interactive game to learn about the Bill of Rights--I did not want to log off!  In PE and Health, I was in a lesson on bullying and was very impressed by the caring and insightful comments of the students.  The incredible creativity of our teachers and their use of multiple tools and techniques to engage students over the full class period was evident.  I was happy to see well spaced screen break times and to hear the voices of students as they interacted with their teachers and each other in the virtual environment.  I was happy to see that attendance was excellent in every class I visited.

Dranesville School Updates

McLean HS- McLean’s yearbook and The Highlander  honors

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association announced their list of yearbook Crown finalists. The Caledonia yearbook staff is one of 41 high school yearbooks chosen. I am especially proud of our 2020 journalists and most especially, the three editors in chief: Mary Scalia, Lan-Anh Dang-Vu and Julia Raymond, because they had to finish the yearbook during COVID. McLean is one of just 5 schools nationwide to have BOTH their yearbook and news publications represented on the Crown list!

The Highlander newsmagazine is one of just 24 high school newspapers/ newsmagazines in the nation to be honored with the Pacemaker distinction this year. Additionally, individual staff members from The Highlander were awarded several individual awards. McLean is the only school in FCPS to earn awards in any of the individual contest categories- earning five awards! For more information on both Pacemaker and Individual Awards here .

Herndon HS- NJROTC Cadets Donate to Help Food for Neighbors During Thanksgiving


In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the growing need for food in our area, the Herndon High School NJROTC donated eleven family meals for Thanksgiving and pledged another ten meals for Christmas, for a total of 21 in honor of the Class of 2021.  Because of the restrictions this year, the Cadets wanted to find a way to help our neighbors and decided to give a cash donation to Food for Neighbors. This organization’s sole purpose is to support students dealing with hunger through their red bag program. Food for Neighbors is based in Herndon, VA, and has expanded into other areas of Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Despite the pandemic, they continue to help families. If you would like to help local teens struggling with hunger, you can visit the Food For Neighbors website to learn more about donating or volunteering.

Langley HS and Cooper MS- SHARE Food Drive

This week Cooper and Langley held a joint food drive for McLean SHARE and donated over 6500 non-perishable items. Over 40 student volunteers safely helped at food drive. The Senior class won the class competition.   We are thrilled to share it was an overwhelming success. We continue to be amazed by the generosity displayed by our school community and pyramid at large.

Cooper drive


Cooper Middle School - Gift Drive

Also, Cooper held its annual gift donation drive for our sister school, Pine Springs Elementary. Cooper families and staff members donated above what was requested in gifts and new coats of all sizes so that the school can ensure that students in need have a warm coat and a holiday gift. In the past, their gift from Cooper has been the first new gift they have ever received. 

HMS virtual learning walk

Herndon Middle School- Virtual Learning Walk

At Herndon Middle School, the Office of School Support team joined the HMS team of teachers, counselors, and coaches to conduct our first ever Virtual Learning Walk.  We had 8 teams of three and we visited 24 classrooms.  We learned about all the amazing things our teachers are doing to engage students and encourage them during virtual instruction. This will help all teachers at HMS!


Longfellow Middle School- Clothing and Food Drive

This week, the Longfellow Middle School Student Council Association conducted a winter hat, glove, and sock drive as well as a food drive to collect items for local homeless shelters and the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Students have worked so hard to spread the word and it is amazing to see how many items have been donated to help someone in need this holiday season!

Herndon Elementary School- Storm Watch 7 Visit

Meteorologist Alex Liggitt at Storm Watch 7 visited Herndon Elementary virtually on Friday, December 4th. He explained to our 4th grade students a little about what it's like to be a meteorologist, how we come up with our forecasts, and what it is like to broadcast from home!  Watch the video!

HES weather

Churchill Road Elementary School- November and December Events

The 2020-21 school year has taken on a different look than in previous years, and the Churchill Road school community hasn’t missed a beat going all virtual.  In November, our community connected online for the first ever Trivia Night and fun was had by all.  The annual 6th grade National Portrait Gallery field trip went virtual to learn about Voices of Social Justice through art.  Jamestown came to our 4th graders via a virtual tour by the settlement historian Mark Summers. And, as 2020 comes to an end, the entire student body had a virtual visit by children’s author Jarret Krocoszka.  What a great way to end the last week before winter break!

CRS Jamestown

Dranesville PTA Leaders Connect

This month I held two meetings for the Dranesville PTA/PTSA/PTO leaders with Elizabeth Hale and members of the Safe Community Coalition. The goal of this meeting was to learn more about the SCC’s video series(see below) and the resources available through the FCPS Parent Resource Center (see below). The meetings connected 17 PTA/PTSA/PTO leaders and will occur quarterly.

Five New Managing the Moments Videos Just in Time for the Holidays from the Safe Community Coalition

The Safe Community Coalition has launched a series of short videos for the community featuring the psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers of the SCC’s mental health committee.

These short videos are produced by the psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers of the SCC’s mental health committee. Topics selected reflect what they are seeing both in their private practices and on the home front.

The new videos include:

  • Coping With the Holidays – how to make the most of an unprecedented holiday season
  • Creating Coping Capacity – body awareness and mindfulness techniques to feel more calm and relaxed
  • Connecting Through Play – strategies for minimizing frustration of younger children
  • Anxiety in School – an honest look at teenage anxiety straight from a teen being interviewed by his mother
  • Your Daily Prescription to Cope with Covid – focusing on ways to nurture yourself

These new videos join the original six videos: Deescalating Conflict, Effective Communication, How to Talk to Your Parents, Brain Breaks During Distance Learning, Self-Care and Calming Techniques, and How Are You?

All videos and accompanying tip sheets are free and available on the SCC website, Make sure to bookmark the page and watch any time!

Parent Resource Center

The FCPS Parent Resource Center provides access to information and resources to support the success of all students.  They host a variety of free seminars and have a wealth of free resources, including for those with learning challenges, special needs, and disabilities.  In addition, they are available via phone or email for consults. 

  • Webinars are from 10:00 -11:30 am or 6:30 – 8:00 unless otherwise noted. All Webinars will be recorded and can be accessed at the Parent Resource Center YouTube Channel. Register online here.  Registration will be open approximately one month before the workshop date. 
  • Tutor Lists and Free Resource Guides Contact us via phone or email to get the list of available tutors.  Additionally, we have free resources on topics such as: Executive Functioning, Parenting & Basic Needs, Adults with Disabilities, Mind in the Making, Mental Health, Fairfax County Government Resources, Military Connected Resources, Kindergarten Readiness, Adapted Sports and Recreation, and many more.
  • Contact them at  or  703-204-3941.

2020-2021 Inclement Weather Day Procedures

This year, FCPS will provide additional approaches for observing “snow days” during the inclement weather season that may include synchronous instruction (teacher-led) and asynchronous instruction (independent). If conditions are warranted, we do anticipate that there will be “typical” snow days as we have had in past years. As with any inclement weather event, each one is different, and they can present unique challenges for our students, staff, and community. 

FCPS will continue to evaluate how weather conditions impact our operations and will notify you as we have in the past through the FCPS website, Twitter, Facebook, email, text messages, and the local media. Please be aware, due to the large volume of emails sent there will likely be a lag between social media postings and receipt of an email in your inboxMore information is available online

TJHSST  Admissions Update

The Fairfax County School Board has voted to change the admissions policy for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) to a holistic review to improve diversity at the school. The new process will be used to select the class of 2025 at TJHSST. Students will be evaluated on their grade point average (GPA); a portrait sheet where they will be asked to demonstrate Portrait of a Graduate attributes and 21st century skills; a problem-solving essay; and experience factors, including students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, special education students, or students who are currently attending underrepresented middle schools. Read more information here.

Restraint and Seclusion Policy Approved

The Fairfax County School Board has approved a new policy on Restraint and Seclusion, effective immediately.  The policy was developed using Virginia regulation 8VAC20-750, Regulations Governing the Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Virginia, as a baseline, and was created to address the use of physical restraint and seclusion to prevent a student from harming themself or others.  Read more information here.

Employment Opportunities in Fairfax County Public Schools

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 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.

Upcoming School Board Meetings:

  • 1/5/21 Work Session- Return to School, CIP
  • 1/7/21 Regular Meeting
  • 1/12/21 Work Session- FY22 Budget 
  • 1/19/21 Work Session- Program Budget Review
  • 1/21/21 Regular Meeting

How to Watch Meetings

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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