Return to School and Calendar

Hello Fairfax County students, families, and staff,

I hope you are doing well and staying warm! I wanted to update you about the School Board’s February 2 Work Session. We discussed two important topics: Return to School and the 2021-2022 Calendar.  I wanted to share information and a few thoughts from me.


Return to School 

The School Board heard and discussed Dr. Brabrand’s Return to School plan

  • The presentation shared a decision making matrix that is guided by CDC and VDOE advice that focuses on a combination of community health metrics and mitigation strategies to make decisions about the status of in-person school.  
  • The presentation also shared information about staffing, including status of ADA requests and hiring of classroom monitors. 
  • Dr. Brabrand explained his process of working with teacher groups, principals, staff and School Board members to inform and gain feedback on this plan.  

School Board members discussed a variety of issues relating to the plan including, among others, safety audits, vaccinations, availability of personal protective equipment, transportation, student reengagement, support for in-person and virtual learning, support for teachers and students new to the concurrent model, and how FCPS will react to any cases or outbreaks that may arise.

At the end of this Work Session, the School Board unanimously gave consensus support for this plan. 

The current timetable for return to in-person school for those students who choose it is:

January 26        Already back in school VHSL Activities & HS Co-Curriculars

February 16     Group 1-4 (8,000 students): Select CTE and Special Ed.

                         New bell schedule starts for all virtual and in-person students

February 23      Group 5 (7,000 students): PreK - K and Special Ed.

March 2            Group 8 (24,500 students): Grades 8, 9, 12 

                          Poe, Glasgow, Holmes - Grade 8 

March 9             Group 6 (13,500 students) -- Grades 1-2 

                          Group 8 (24,500 students): Grades 7, 10, 11

                          Poe, Glasgow, Holmes - Grade 6-7

March 16          Group 7 (27,500 students): Grades 3-6

FCPS will implement a new bell schedule on February 16th in preparation for return to in-person learning.  You should receive information about your new bell schedule from your school soon. 

Here is more information about the Return to School portion of the meeting.

2021-2022 School Calendar 

The School Board heard a presentation about three calendar options for the 2021-2022 school year. All calendar options start school on August 23 and preserve two weeks off for winter break. Calendar A/B end a week later in June than Calendar C. 

Below is my initial analysis of these options:

  • Options A/B: The first two calendar options (A & B) were the result of hard work and advocacy by community members and FCPS staff and included information from a family survey. All of this was done prior to the pandemic. 
    • A key priority in these versions was the introduction of four new holidays -- Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Diwali, and Eid al Fitr -- to better reflect our diverse community and allow for students and staff of these faiths to not have to choose between attending school and their religious observations. Many other school systems already have days off for some of these days.
    • Calendar Options A & B have no more than three full weeks of school in a row.
    • In Options A and B, approximately half of all the weeks in the school year (between August 23-June 17th) are full weeks, while the rest of the weeks have at least one day off for students . 
  • Option C: The third option (C) was created in response to the changed conditions after the pandemic. 
    • Option C does not include any of the above religious holidays and sets spring break during a set time in March rather having spring break in line with Easter. 
    • Calendar Option C has seven full weeks in a row in one stretch and four full weeks in a row in another.
    • In Option C, approximately two-thirds of all the weeks between August 23-June 10th are full weeks.  
    • Option C has a focus on consistency of education by limiting the number of partial weeks of instruction and having a longer summer break to allow for more robust remediation efforts that can target learning loss that might have resulted from the pandemic. FCPS can use federal funding for COVID relief and remediation through September 2023 to help pay for this extra remediation.
    • Option C also allows for more consistency of monthly pay for hourly workers such as bus drivers, food and nutrition staff, and others.

Where do we go from here? The School Board will vote on one of these calendar options at our regular business meeting on March 18th. In the meantime, I welcome your feedback or questions on these calendar options.


FCPS is Hiring Classroom Monitors!

FCPS is hiring classroom monitors and substitute teachers to help support in-person learning. Monitors provide in-person classroom assistance to students when a staff member remains virtual.

Are you interested? Please join us at FCPS' Virtual Job Fair for Classroom Monitors on Friday, February 12. School administrators will conduct virtual interviews with candidates during two sessions–one for middle and high schools, and one for elementary schools. Attend one session or both: 

A Few Final Thoughts from Me

I simply wanted to acknowledge I know it has been a long, difficult, and frustrating year, especially with all the starts and stops regarding in-person learning. There is still a long road ahead of us. I thank you all for your advocacy, your patience, and your flexibility. I do read all the emails and messages and do my best to respond to as many as I can. For those of you who have written with kindness even while expressing concerns or frustrations, I thank you. We can’t control COVID-19 but we can control how we treat others through this. I think it will be easier to get through this if we can find ways to support each other rather than tear each other down, even when we disagree.

I recognize also there is still much trepidation and fear of in-person learning and immense worry about the physical, emotional, and academic toll of virtual learning. I do not take any of these risks and concerns lightly and take to heart my responsibility to provide a safe and effective education. That is why I am glad FCPS is committed to a measured approach to returning students who chose in-person to make sure our mitigation measures are implemented with fidelity. We are starting with those students who have more difficulty with virtual learning and adding from there. Bringing in one group of students at a time will give us time to teach them the mitigation measures and tweak any issues before expanding the number of students in the building. We need to ensure we are executing our safety plans well. My understanding is this is why there are two weeks between the return of kindergarteners and first and second graders, and then an additional week until 3-6 graders are phased in.  It is important to ensure good implementation of our mitigation measures to prevent in school transmission as much as possible - the goal is to open schools for in person learning AND keep them open. I know many, including me, wanted a faster phase in, especially for 3-6 graders, but I also respect our school leaders’ desire for a slow phase in to maximize chances for successful implementation of mitigation strategies.

I am also grateful for the hard work of our leadership and the partnership with the Board of Supervisors and our Health Department to prioritize vaccinations for teachers and staff to help them feel more comfortable returning to school buildings. 

The Fall: Many have asked what school will look like in the fall. We are budgeting and planning for five days a week in person in the fall, but it will depend on the state of the pandemic and the guidance from public health experts regarding COVID, the vaccine, the effect of the new variants, and any needed mitigation measures, in particular the need for social distancing. We have not received updated guidance from CDC or VDH regarding the fall yet. My goal and fervent desire is 5 days a week in person in the fall, with a virtual option. 


And for the Class of 2021:  there is a group working on creating special opportunities to celebrate you and provide you chances to connect, and have some of those special memories and moments you deserve as you approach graduation and your future. Please know there are many who are committed to celebrating you and plans are in the works, even though I know it can’t make up for all you have lost. 

I can promise I will work to ensure FCPS complies with strict mitigation measures, follows the guidance of our public health experts, supports our teachers and staff, and helps our students engage and reconnect. I also know many of our students will remain virtual and I am committed to ensuring their needs will not be overlooked and that we work to keep our virtual students engaged. I promise to continue to center the students first in my advocacy, while recognizing we also need to care for our teachers, staff, and families in order to take care of our students. I am doing my best to balance everyone’s needs. 

I also appreciate all the incredible hard work of our teachers, principals, families, caregivers, and staff in supporting our students in this crazy year. Most importantly, I thank the students for their efforts and flexibility and I am excited to see them back in our buildings, as well as online.

On a personal note, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched my son draw a smiley face on his calendar around the day he gets to go back into his high school building for the rest of his senior year. 

Please stay safe.


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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