End of 2020 Update

Dear Fairfax County Students, Families and Staff,

As we approach the winter break and the end of 2020, I hope you are staying safe and well. This has certainly been an incredibly difficult year for us all and, with the vaccine approved and beginning to be used, I have hope 2021 will be better. In the meantime, I remain focused on making this school year as good as it can be. 

I’ve heard from many of you about Return to School, TJ admissions policies, the use of Restraint and Seclusion, as well as schedules, mental health concerns, need for changes to our public comment procedures and more. I know this is a time of heightened concern for all of us. I am doing my best to respond to all your emails but with the sheer volume I cannot respond to each one individually. Please know that I do read them all and take the advocacy into account. 

As a board, in addition to the Return to School work, we have been working on the TJ admissions process, reviewing our program budget, our new policy on restraint and seclusion and meeting with staff to share concerns regarding student and staff overwhelm with virtual learning. I’ve enjoyed my visits to our in person pilots and classes as well as sitting in on virtual classes. As a member of the Audit Committee, I have been working to ensure accountability and oversight of our system. As the chair of the Public Engagement Committee, I have been working with my colleagues to revise our policy on public comment and engagement. I have heard frustration from many regarding access to the public comments slots during our regular business meetings and we are working to adjust our policy to expand access. 

After the winter break, we will dive straight into working on our Capital Improvement Plan, looking at issues of capacity and renovation, as well as the budget.

The Most Important Work for Me is Return to School 

We have been receiving monthly updates on our efforts to improve virtual learning as well as phase in students to in-person learning. We are focusing on monitoring the health metrics of our community and evaluating our schools’ use of mitigation measures, as careful compliance with mitigation strategies will be factored into decisions about when it is safe to return groups of students to school.  We have been analyzing staffing issues to support plans to return to school when conditions allow.  All timelines are tentative as we do not know when health conditions will allow a return, but if we do not plan, we will not be ready to return when it is possible. We have also been listening to our students who are explaining the stress they are experiencing from work load, virtual learning and isolation.  As a result, FCPS has announced grading policy changes that will take effect in January for the remainder of this school year that include the elimination of zeros, reduction of the minimum number of assignments per quarter, accepting late work on major assignments with minimal penalty, and capping the maximum weight of an assignment.  Many of these issues are further explained in this presentation and addendum from our November 12th Work Session and this presentation from our December 10th Work Session.

Our next Return to School Work Session will be January 5th at 11 am, starting with the CIP and program budget presentations and ending with RTS. We hope to have more information from our safety audit teams, details regarding the implementation of our mitigation measures, and an update on health metrics and the tentative timeline.

A Few Thoughts as We End 2020

My primary concern going into 2021 remains our plans for a safe return to in-person school while ensuring that virtual learning is adjusted to best meet the needs of our students and staff. To be honest, it is a nearly impossible balance to find. I’ve said from the beginning that what we are all trying to do this year is make lemonade out of some of the worst lemons I have ever seen. I do know that whatever lemonade we can manage to make will not taste good to most people. The best we can hope for this year is to make it palatable to enough people that we can tolerate the lemonade that is the year 2020. I do know we won’t have any lemonade if we can’t figure out how to make it together. Instead, we will be left holding our own sour lemons. 

I’ve always said I will center the students in my advocacy, especially those who have the greatest needs and those who are least likely to speak for themselves. That is what I will continue to do as long as I am privileged enough to be in this position. I also fully recognize that we need to take care of our teachers and staff in order to take care of our students. I honestly never thought those two concepts would be at war in the way they seem to be these days. But here we are. I don’t know the best way to find the balance but I do know I am committed to continuing to try to find a thoughtful, balanced approach to meeting everyone’s needs. And I will always keep the students at the forefront of my advocacy. 

Here is what I know. It has been a very difficult year for us all. My Facebook memories are filled today with past years' holiday parties and my son’s concerts. I miss the camaraderie and celebration of seasons past. I also worry my long workdays have taken away from doing for my son what he needs, the impact all this is having on him, and the many doors that are rapidly being shut for him as a student with fairly significant special needs. It's been the dilemma of my life. My career or the needs of my child with a disability. I've given up so much for him but also gotten so much in return, including my “why” for serving on this board. But the loss of what I love and planned to do in my life is real. And now I wonder if I've abandoned him at a time he really needs me. 

It's a situation many people have found themselves in during COVID. Their career or their child's education. This is the life I’ve been living since 2004, so I truly do understand this terrible dilemma. Even in-person learning with mitigation measures would not be the same as before, with its own inherent risks and limitations. Our administrators, leadership team, and teachers are in the same boat, on the front lines of the immense work of reimagining education during a pandemic while also trying to take care of themselves and their families. And, most importantly, our students who are trying their best in a world turned upside down. I hope that we can realize that we are all together struggling under similar burdens and we can come together to support each other.

And even with the vaccine, for many students, "waiting ‘til next year" will have irreversible consequences. They can't wait. Life doesn't stop that way. Especially for those who are at seminal points in their life. The social emotional and academic impact is real for everyone and the loss is real. I can see the impact of this in my own son’s eyes in the picture below. The mask doesn't hide it. We will have to deal with the impacts of COVID for a long time, with long term remediation and healing.  

I know the path ahead is difficult, but at least the vaccine means there is a glimmer of hope 2021 will be better than 2020. 

Even in the midst of this, even with beginning to realize what he may be losing, my son, also Class of 2021, continues to connect with his friends and teachers by writing them letters wishing them “sunshine and smiles.” He’s written over 500 letters and even painted his senior parking spot with “sunshine and smiles” for everyone to see.

I hope 2021 will bring a year working together to heal with sunshine and smiles. 

Please stay safe. And please wear your mask.

Happy Winter Break! And Happy New Year!




P.S. To the Class of 2021, I hope you have been able to partake in some of the activities schools are beginning to offer for our seniors. I know many of you have completed college applications and have started to make career or other postsecondary plans and I hope you are receiving happy news about where you may be next year and what you may be doing. I know how hard it must have been to make these plans in the midst of a pandemic and virtual school and I am very proud of you all for your perseverance, resilience and flexibility. I know that many of you have found new and unique ways to connect even while you are dealing with the loss of all you should rightfully have in your senior year. I promise I will keep advocating for you to have as many special moments as possible and ways to connect and be together and find closure before you start the next chapter in your life.


P.P.S Breaking news - Bell Schedules - Just a brief update - I know many of you have concerns regarding the bell schedule as we phase students in. I am pleased to announce that our Facilities staff have been working on revising plans and have been able to come up with new bell schedules. Your individual school should be letting you know the school specific schedule but I can tell you that the latest an elementary school day will end will be 4:15 and middle school will start at 7:30, not 7:15. Thank you for your patience as we work under the constraints of COVID-19 in return to school plans.


Below you will find information on:

  1. Winter Break, Dr. Brabrand’s Video Message, Grab and Go Meals, Inclement Weather Policy, and Winter Sports
  2. FCPS is Hiring Classroom Monitors and Substitute Teachers
  3. Return to School Information, including a Tentative Timeline for In-Person Activities
  4. Other School Board Work
  5. Resources 
  6. Covid-19 Vaccine and Case Dashboard info from Fairfax County Health Department and Virginia Health Department
  7. How to Help


Winter Is Here! 


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

As a reminder, this year winter break starts on December 21 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.

Dr. Brabrand’s Video Message 

Superintendent Brabrand shared a video message with the FCPS community as we begin Winter Break and welcome 2021. 

Grab and Go Meals for Winter Break 

Fairfax County Public Schools is providing all students access to meals during the FCPS Winter Break. This plan will be in place from Friday, December 18 through Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

2020-21 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 very different from the other, 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 inbox.    

More information is available online

FCPS Winter Sports

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 21 – First contest for basketball.
  • December 28 – First contest for all other winter sports.

Looking for a Job?

job search

New Employment Opportunities in Fairfax County Public Schools: Classroom Monitors and Substitute Teachers 


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.

Are you or somebody you know interested in substitute teaching with FCPS? Apply online.

More Return to School Information

girl at desk

Family Guide for Return to School


Fairfax County Public Schools is partnering with families to ensure we keep students and staff safe and healthy as we return to school buildings for learning. Working together, we will follow recommended health guidance that focuses on student and staff health, safety, and emotional well-being. 

The FCPS Family Guide for Return to School has a wealth of information on topics like concurrent instruction, lunch and recess, the mandatory mask policy, laptops, and health protocols.

Tentative Timeline for In-Person Student Activities

Many of you have asked me about activities, especially performing arts. I wanted to share with you the tentative timeline for additional in-person student activities has been established and is outlined below. 

As Early as January 4

  • VHSL Activities - use of indoor and outdoor facilities (Ex: Theater, Debate, Robotics, etc.) 

As Early as January 11

  • HS Co-curricular activities - use of indoor and outdoor facilities (Ex: Marching Band, DECA, FBLA, Student Government, etc.)
  • HS Performing Arts and Instrumental Program Curricular Activities

As Early as January 19

  • HS Extracurricular Clubs and Activities

As Early as January 25

  • MS Extracurricular Clubs and Activities

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 set forth 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.


Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19


Did you know that the Fairfax County Health department’s contact tracing efforts help slow the spread of COVID-19 by making individuals aware of those they’ve been in contact with who have tested positive for COVID-19?

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 also requires people to answer the health department’s call, stay home from work and school during their isolation period, and provide the information needed to protect others who may be at risk of becoming ill.

Learn more about how you can help in the fight against COVID-19 by downloading COVIDWISE, the free, voluntary smartphone app that is available to all Virginians. 

Other School Board 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.

TJHSST Admissions 

Our Board reviewed options for revising admissions to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) admissions process and voted to implement a holistic review admissions process.

  • On September 5, 2020 the Superintendent proposed a Merit Lottery process for admissions. 
  • After Board review and comment, the Superintendent revised this plan to present to the Board two different TJ admissions plans - a hybrid merit lottery admissions plan and a holistic review admissions plan. More details on these plans are in the links below:
  • After hearing from many community advocates and much Board discussion, on December 17th, the School Board voted to change the admissions policy for TJHSST to a holistic review as detailed in pages 10, 11, and 12 of the presentation linked above.
    • A holistic review will be done of students whose applications demonstrate enhanced merit, which includes being enrolled in Algebra I in 8th grade as well as demonstrating strong preparedness for TJ through enrollment in honors classes.
    • 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. 
  • 550 seats will available to the freshman class  
  • The top 1.5 percent of the eighth grade class at each public middle school who meet the standards will be eligible for admission. 
  • The remaining seats will be offered to the highest-evaluated students. There will not be regional pathways for admissions.
  • The Board also voted to make the process opt out versus opt in for all eligible students, asked for a community outreach plan to reach out to eligible students and their families to encourage applications and asked for the Superintendent to report on the diversity of the class, attrition rates and more in a public meeting.

New FCPS Policy on Restraint and Seclusion

On December 17th, the Fairfax County School Board approved a new policy on Restraint and Seclusion, effective immediately.  

  • The policy was created to address the use of physical restraint and seclusion to prevent a student from harming themself or others.  
  • The policy includes strategies that incorporate positive behavioral interventions and support consistent with the student's rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse, including alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion. 
  • Seclusion is prohibited in all Fairfax County public schools with the exception of Burke School, Key Center, and Kilmer Center. 
  • Seclusion will be prohibited in all Fairfax County Public Schools, including Burke, Key, and Kilmer Center, starting at the beginning of the school year 2022-2023. 
  • Only personnel who have completed advanced training will be permitted to engage in seclusion.

More Information Here 

Superintendent Brabrand’s Contract

The Fairfax County School Board has voted to extend the contract of Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand until June 30, 2022. His contract was scheduled to expire on July 10, 2021. 

“After extensive discussion, the Board has decided to offer Superintendent Brabrand an extension to his contract through the end of the 2021-22 school year,” said School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson. “This will support continuity of leadership as we emerge from the current pandemic.”

“I appreciate the opportunity to continue my tenure at FCPS with the support of the School Board,” said Brabrand. “During this period, I pledge to continue to put students first and to prioritize safety for all students, teachers, and staff members.”

More Information Here 

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 meeting 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 logo

 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. 


FCPS Resources 



Parent Resource Center 

The Parent Resource Center provides a wealth of resources and phone or email support to families, students, staff, and community members. They host many free webinars that are available to view on the FCPS Parent Resource Center YouTube Page .

Sign up for their email listserve to receive emails about upcoming webinars and events 

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

food bus

Grab and Go Meals Available to All Students

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.

  • The bus schedule is available online. Changes to bus routes are posted on the website by 5 p.m. each day. If there are bus delays while distributing meals, the information will be posted on the FCPS Bus Delay website
  • Breakfast and lunch meals are offered Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) at the same time daily at no-cost to any student who attends in-person instruction at any school. 
  • Meals for Saturday and Sunday are offered at sites and on bus routes every Friday.
  • Dinner and snacks are now offered at select locations. Please refer to the website for locations and times. 
  • Additionally, Fairfax Meal Kits are also available at certain sites, offering seven days of breakfast and lunch for pick up in bulk. 
  • The goal is to provide every FCPS student daily access to nutritious meals.  

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

Other Resources

Mental Health and Medical Care Resources

To Get Medical Care for your Family

  •  Partnership for Healthier Kids -  is designed to identify uninsured children and adults and connect them to an appropriate and affordable source of quality healthcare services through programs like Medicaid, CHIP and free or low-cost medical care coverage programs for children and adults.
  • Health Works for Northern Virginia  - HealthWorks provides excellent and affordable medical, dental and behavioral health care for patients from all backgrounds, of all ages and of all incomes.
  • Neighborhood Health - Neighborhood Health provides accessible, high quality, and patient-centered primary care to patients in Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County 

library books

Fairfax County Public Library Checkout Now Available to All Students 

  • All FCPS students (preK-12) are able to check out materials from the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL), even if they don’t have a traditional library card or a card has been blocked due to fines. 
  • Under the Library Equity Access Pass program (LEAP), a partnership with FCPS and FCPL, students need only their name, not a physical library card, to check out three items at a time for six weeks each (no renewals). LEAP accounts are never charged fines or fees.  
  • A student can have a LEAP account in addition to a standard library account. Standard accounts allow users to place holds on materials and access FCPL’s digital resources, such as eBooks and databases. 

Families can apply for a standard account online and in library branches.

Programs Offer Support for Parents, Students During COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fairfax County government’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is offering two programs to support parents, guardians, and students in distance learning.

  • Parent Connect provides in-person services for parents and guardians at NCS Community Centers and other community locations. Assistance includes support related to digital literacy and Internet access; support related to language barriers; and connection to county Health and Human Services resources, service navigation and referrals. These services are offered by appointment only Monday through Friday, 3-8 p.m., though times may vary by location.
  • NCS Connects: After School is a virtual platform providing programming for youth and teens Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. Virtual programs include academics (i.e., STEAM), family engagement, service learning, and youth leadership development.

More information is available online.

bus pass

Free Student Bus Pass Program


The Fairfax County School Board has joined the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors by passing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the Free Student Bus Pass Program that provides free bus passes to all Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) middle and high school students to ride local buses at no cost.

Interested students should contact their school for an application.


Fairfax County Department of Health and Virginia Department of Health Resources

Vaccines: Here is some information about the Covid-19 vaccine.

COVID-19: Here is some information about Covid testing and case data.

How to Help 


Project Cornucopia Helps FCPS Students in Need


Thanks to YOU!  Project Cornucopia has generated nearly $40,000 to support FCPS students in need with grocery gift cards for the winter.

Our generous community has stepped up to help students who are impacted the most during this pandemic. Thank you for your care and dedication for our students in need. The campaign will run through December 31 - Donate today through this link.

foundation for fcps


Donate to the Foundation's Programs


The Foundation for FCPS works in partnership with the entire FCPS system and our community to create pathways to long-term success for students. The pandemic has highlighted the gap needs that exist. Your end-of-year gift will help the Foundation fund these programs and more. With your help, we can keep our kids smiling well after the holidays. Donate Today!

Watch the Leaders & Learners Event!

Did you miss the Foundation's virtual event? Not to worry - you can watch the video replay! Click here to help us continue to celebrate our community's support for FCPS and its students during the pandemic.

National Care Letter Campaign to Honor Deployed Service Members and Veterans

November 24, 2020 marks the tenth year that America’s Adopt A Soldier ® will  reach out to America to ask for cards of thanks to share with our nation’s Service Members who are deployed and Veterans who are in State Veterans Homes and Hospitals. This year’s goal is to collect over 300,000 letters.

To participate in the 2020 National Care Letter Campaign, mail your personal written and designed letter or greeting card to America’s Adopt A Soldier, 5400 Shawnee Road, Suite #300, Alexandria, VA 22312.  For more information visit: www.americasadoptasoldier.org.

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