March Community Update

Dear Community,

As our community continues to live amidst the stress of a pandemic, we are impacted by the anxiety of this lifestyle and by events stemming from misunderstanding and hurt.

Closest to home, I want to address an incident that occurred between football players at Marshall High School and Wakefield High School of Arlington, on March 5. The incident has raised intense concerns from some parents, students, and teachers around their personal experiences with Marshall HS. The incident was widely covered initially on social media and then in the earned media, although FCPS did not have input into the earned media coverage that has caused hurt for many students, families, and staff. I have been engaged with FCPS staff as conversations and action steps have been put into place to repair the harm done. Several communications have been sent to the Marshall community, including a latest letter on March 22 from Interim Principal Augie Frattali, and a joint letter from the Superintendents of FCPS and Arlington Public Schools on March 19. This week, FCPS will be organizing a series of meetings with our football players, our parents from the football team and our student leaders from Marshall High School, and planning a Town Hall Meeting after Spring Break to ensure the community’s voices are heard.

Further from us in Northern Virginia, the murderous spree in Atlanta that targeted Asian-Americans is despicable and heart breaking. The School Board issued a resolution at its public meeting on March 18, specifically denouncing bigotry of the Asian-American community.

We’ve endured a difficult year. Let’s re-up our commitment to respecting one another and supporting each other to work towards solutions. We all value safety, health, and success – let’s build from there.

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.

Recent and Upcoming Work

Virtual Student Town Hall - Tonight, March 24

On Wednesday, March 24 from 6:30-7:30pm I am hosting a FCPS Student Town Hall!

While this virtual event is geared toward Hunter Mill District students, all are welcome! What are *your* questions as a student, and what can FCPS do to help you during these times? 

Please email my Staff Aide, Emma Heisey at, if you would like to register today, the day of the event, to ensure you receive the link to join.

March 24 Student Town Hall flier

Return to School Update - New CDC Guidance 

FCPS returns more than 109,000 students

The updated CDC guidance shifting from 6 ft to 3ft of social distancing is encouraging news! The school division is meeting with local Fairfax County Health officials and stakeholders to determine next steps.

I hear the advocacy of Hunter Mill families asking for a full return, or a 4-day return. As a public official, it has been tremendously difficult up to this point to consider declining guidance from federal (CDC), state (Virginia Dept of Health), and local (Fairfax County Dept of Health) guidance - three government health agencies - when it comes to this aspect when planning for students to be in school. I'm an education policy professional - not a health professional. I am considering data about the percent of students learning in-person in schools and online at home for Hunter Mill constituents.

I'm eager for discussions and plans on what the new guidance can mean for our students, though I continue to consider the operational challenges of changing plans in our large and complex school system. 

School Board Approves New School Year 2021-22 Calendar 

The School Board approved a new calendar for School Year 2021-22 on March 18. I voted against the adopted calendar, known as "Option D". The vote was 7-5. You can view my comments from the March 18 meeting here.

I had been advocating for weeks to accept the recommendations of the Calendar Committee that convened in early 2020, which I served on, which recommended adding a select number of holidays celebrated by people of diverse faiths - primarily Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu. The process was not perfect, which is why I made a motion, which passed unanimously, directing the Superintendent to develop a much improved process for the future. All votes, along with more information, can be viewed on BoardDocs.

This has been a brutal process for many in our community, and I am saddened by that. I am sorry for the hurt many feel. I heard overwhelmingly from Hunter Mill constituents in favor of a calendar that includes recognition of holidays of diverse faiths. Looking forward, because I have seen so many individuals and faith-leaders unite, and have seen some of my own Board colleagues understand this situation from the lens of those not in the majority, I am hopeful that we will find better solutions in coming years.

Advocating for Staff Compensation Increases 

The School Board is advocating for state support to offer compensation increases to staff - a necessary economic investment to remain a competitive employer among area school divisions. This letter to Governor Northam explains how FCPS is disadvantaged through state funding formulas, and offers suggestions that can help us.

Visiting Wolftrap Elementary

Meren at Wolftrap ES with Principal and Assistant Principal

I toured Wolftrap Elementary School to see how the school is prepared for students returning to classrooms. I learned that having a small number of students return first, as the Kindergarteners did, allowed staff opportunities to adjust operational aspects - like putting pieces of tape 6 feet apart along every hallway wall to better help students see what 6 feet's distance meant.

There were 40 students in at the time, and 160 were welcomed during the following week. I saw how recess is playing out (ha!), within 9 designated zones in the whole schoolyard that classes will rotate through weekly. I learned that the hallways here are exactly 6 feet apart, which is good input as the School Board is presented in the coming weeks with information about how moving from 6 feet to 3 feet could work in the future, if at all.

Pre-COVID, the school scheduled 1 custodian for the day time shift and 2.5 for after-school hours. That has been flipped to have high-touch areas cleaned hourly.

Students looked glad to be there. Teachers looked busy but in control. The amount of operations and tactical planning that has gone into making this happen is beyond immense. Plus, the instructional components, of course. As more students return there will be much more for staff to observe, experience, and adjust to instruct and care for our students, and this will help with Fall planning.

Temporary Policy Change

The School Board has voted to support an exception to Policy 2202, Section III. I. that allows families who are permanently relocating within Virginia or to states contiguous with Virginia to request their child  remain enrolled in their current FCPS school (either virtually or in-person) for the remainder of SY 2020-2021, with immediate effect.

The temporary exception, which does not change the policy long-term, is to support students and families who may be relocating during the COVID-19 emergency, for the remainder of SY 2020-2021.

  • Families who are permanently relocating within Virginia or to states contiguous with Virginia before April 13, 2021 can request for their child to remain enrolled in their current school of enrollment within FCPS with immediate effect.
  • Families who are looking to relocate within the 60-day window permitted under the policy (starting April 13, 2021) can still request for their child to remain enrolled in their current school within FCPS no matter where they move within the United States.

Prior to the Board vote, Policy 2202, Section III. I. allowed for families becoming residents in another jurisdiction within 60 calendar days of the end of the school year to request to continue attending his or her previously assigned school on a non-tuition basis until the completion of the school year. The policy did not allow for longer than 60 days.

The policy language was not amended. This is a temporary exception. Per Policy 2202, students would no longer be eligible for enrollment after the end of SY 2020-2021 and will be required to transition to their new district school of residence in SY 2021-2022.

School Board Ready to Sign Contracts for Solar Program

solar panels

As part of an ongoing joint initiative with Fairfax County, the School Board voted unanimously on Thursday, March 4 to move forward with a solar program that will allow FCPS to purchase renewable energy with little or no upfront or operational costs!

Review and Revision of History and Social Studies Standards of Learning

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has established a timeline for the review and revision of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning, scheduled to be completed before November 2022. As discussed at the September 15, 2020, School Board work session, FCPS Social Studies has identified significant concerns in the current Standards, catalyzed reform efforts across Virginia, and proceeded with local curriculum revision for historical integrity and cultural responsiveness.

An important part of the review process for the History and Social Science Standards of Learning is the solicitation of comments from teachers, administrators, students, families, and community stakeholders who have an interest in curriculum reform or expertise with the content of the current Standards. Below are multiple opportunities for the FCPS community to engage in the process:

The public can submit written comments this spring to inform the work of the Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee to a dropbox or provide live comments during upcoming scheduled meetings (May 18, July 15) if they register in advance. Commissioned by the General Assembly, this Advisory Committee is tasked with creating recommendations for the revisions of the HSS Standards as well as broader recommendations for professional development.

The VDOE is establishing several additional Advisory Committees, including a Regional Student Advisory Committee (details TBA).

As stated on the projected timeline, the VDOE will conduct public hearings across the Commonwealth to gain public input on the proposed revisions.

The VDOE staff will continue to accept public comments throughout the review and revision period (Staff Contact:

FCPS Social Studies is welcoming the public to share their comments not only with VDOE but also via a designated email account ( to inform the social studies team’s efforts locally and at the state level.

As discussed at the January 27th work session, additional community engagement focused on anti-racism and anti-bias education in and beyond social studies will take place between March and June to be used in the development of related FCPS policies. Additional details on the schedule for community engagement are forthcoming.

VDOE Virginia is for Learners

Information of Interest

FCPS Playgrounds Reopen

FCPS playground

FCPS is now permitting the use of playground equipment during recess. Students will adhere to mitigation strategies before and after use, but this is a welcome step for returning to school safely as playing outside is important for students’ social-emotional well-being and a healthy outlet for stress. For detailed information on playground reopening and other student health and safety guidance click here.

COVID-19 Response in Youth Athletic Programs

Fairfax County seal

Supporting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) prioritizes the return of students to in-person learning, which may require changes to activities, such as youth athletics, to improve the opportunity for students to safely return to schools.

Having completed the Fall and Winter seasons, in addition to new guidance being provided, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) has scheduled an Zoom Information session on Monday, March 29 at 6:00 with the Health Department. You may review the updated COVID-19 Response in Youth Athletic Programs provided by FCHD in preparation for the session. There will be an opportunity to discuss the policy and answer any questions and concerns.  Questions may be submitted in advance at

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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 provides information on topics such as concurrent instruction, lunch and recess, the mandatory mask policy, laptops, and health protocols.

In-Person Status of School Districts

Return to Learn Tracker graphic

The Return to Learn Tracker is a tool developed by the American Enterprise Institute's Education Policy Studies department, in partnership with The College Crisis Initiative of Davidson College, that captures how US public school districts' instructional models change during the coronavirus pandemic. The tracker conducts data examining which schools are offering fully in-person, hybrid, and fully remote instruction. 

As of March 15, 2021, their data indicates that 37% of school districts are offering an option for full-time in person instruction at this time.

FCPS Planning 2021 End-of-Year Ceremonies

FCPS grad holding diploma

FCPS is planning to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021. While our traditional venues (Eagle Bank Arena at George Mason University and DAR – Constitution Hall) will most likely not be available in June, FCPS is actively exploring other venue options to include the use of our high school stadiums and/or other outside entertainment sites.

With the statewide decline in COVID-19 cases, Governor Northam announced on March 17 that K-12 schools will be able to host outdoor graduation and indoor graduation ceremonies with caps on attendees.  Outdoor ceremonies are limited to 5,000 people or 30 percent of the capacity of the venue, whichever is less; and indoor ceremonies are limited to 500 people or 30 percent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less. Attendees will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing at the ceremonies.

FCPS Virtual Special Education Conference Set for April 17

Put this on your calendar graphic

FCPS will hold its 16th annual Special Education Conference virtually on Saturday, April 17.  A student strand will be held for youth ages 14-22. FCPS educators, administrators, and pre-service teachers can earn recertification points for attending the conference. Exhibit Hall and Inclusive Schools resources will be shared.

Visit the Special Education Conference webpage for more information.

2021 FCPS Summer Academic Opportunities

Many students annually participate in summer learning opportunities to advance academically, sharpen their skills, or learn something new.

In response to disruptions to learning during this epic year of the COVID pandemic, the school division plans to offer ten times as many summer learning opportunities. More information will be forthcoming about that.

However, as has been offered in the past, this summer, FCPS will again offer the popular Self-Directed Economics and Personal Finance course for students currently in grades 8 – 12. Information regarding additional opportunities will be announced on the FCPS Summer Learning webpage as they become available.

Self-Directed Economics and Personal Finance: Current grades 8-12

Session 1: Monday, April 19-Friday, June 18

Session 2: Monday, June 28-Friday, July 30

This online course is for current FCPS students only and is pass/fail only. Self-Directed Economics and Personal Finance requires students to complete work without direct teacher support. Students will access content for this course through an FCPS Canvas online environment. The course was updated in September 2020. The new course features include updated curriculum, interactive modules, and exit tickets. Students will read through 14 modules, complete 140 exit tickets, 14 module tests, and a final exam. This course does not meet face-to-face.

Registration closes: 

Session 1: April 9

Session 2: June 11

FCPS summer learning banner

Fall 2021 School Registration is Open!

Student registration graphic

If you have a rising kindergartener or a student who will be new to FCPS this fall, please begin the school registration process now! The sooner that principals know how many students will attend each school year, the sooner they can appropriately staff classes and obtain resources. Otherwise, class sizes can be bigger and teachers may be unavailable in the fall. Information is here.

Applications Wanted for Student Representative to the School Board for 2021-22 School Year, Deadline April 7

Each year, FCPS students can apply for the position of the student representative to the School Board. The student representative is not a member of the School Board but serves in a nonvoting, advisory capacity, representing the interests of the students of Fairfax County Public Schools.

Students who are currently in grades 9, 10, and 11 are eligible to apply, and they do not need to be current members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SAC). Applications are due by April 7.

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshop Series

NOVA Outside graphic

NoVA Outside is offering free outdoor and environmental education workshops for both formal and informal educators. The workshops offer an opportunity to learn from professional outdoor educators, apply theory to personal practice, and share ideas with peers. Sessions will include concepts such as cultivating inquiry, integrating learning, and fostering sustainability.

Two sessions are left in Module #1 that will take place via Zoom on Wednesday evenings, 5 pm-6 pm. Dates: March 24, April 7. Educators who attend two sessions will receive a free outdoor education resource book to use within their learning environment.

Celebrating Women's History Month with NASA Scientist & FCPS Graduate Dr. Swati Mohan!

Dr. Swati Mohan

If you watched the February 18th, 2021 Mar's landing, then you heard the voice of Dr. Swati Mohan who led the development of the altitude control and landing system of the Mars Perseverance Rover. Her interest in space and science was sparked when she watched her first episode of "Star Trek" at the age of 9, and saw the beautiful depictions of the new regions of the universe that they were exploring. When she was 16, she took her first physics class. She said that she was lucky enough to have a great teacher, and everything was so understandable and easy. That was when she really considered engineering, as a way to pursue space.

2021 Congressional Art Competition

All high school students who are residents of the 11th Congressional District are invited to participate in the 2021 Congressional Art Competition!

Entries are due Friday, April 30, 2021.

All entries will be displayed at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. This exhibit will be open to the public and will adhere to the Workhouse Arts Center’s COVID-19 safety protocols. The display will be up from May 5th, 2021 to May 16th, 2021.

The winning piece will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol for one year, the second-place entry will be exhibited at the Workhouse Arts Gallery for a year, and with the permission of the artists, additional high-ranking pieces will be displayed in Congressman Gerry Connolly's Capitol Hill and district offices.

Visit the website of Congressman Connolly for more information on the competition.

Gerry Connolly, congressional art competition

Hunter Mill Happenings

Virtual Budget Town Hall Meeting - March 29 

FCPS FY22 advertised budget graphic

I am participating in a virtual town hall on Monday, March 29, 7 to 9pm, hosted by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, to discuss the county executive's proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. Christina Jackson, director of the Department of Management and Budget will also be participating. The meeting will be hosted on the Webex platform. Use this link to attend and participate in the meeting. To listen to the meeting on your phone, call 1-844-621-3956 and use access code: 129 632 1224. You also can watch the meeting on YouTube Live.

Vienna’s First Liberty Amendments Month Celebration

Town of Vienna logo

Planning for the Town of Vienna’s inaugural Liberty Amendments Month June 19 to July 19 celebration is underway – and community organizations, businesses and residents are encouraged to help shape the four weeks of festivities.

Liberty Amendments Month is a celebration of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, which extended rights to those who had previously been excluded from full participation in our country.

Activities will kick off June 19 with an educational event that will offer thoughtful reflection on the liberties assured by these four amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The celebration will culminate with a multicultural festival featuring food, drinks, crafts, and entertainment from around the world on July 17.

Groups interested in creating a celebration event, should submit an application available at by April 1. (Please note that planners should keep in mind that pandemic restrictions and social distancing guidelines may still be in place in June and July.) Organizations also may join ongoing planning meetings held the fourth Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m.; contact for a Zoom link to the meetings or more details.

Reston Police Community Engagement Forum

Reston police badge

A Reston District Community Engagement Forum was hosted online by the Fairfax County Police Department on March 23, to address community concerns regarding recent violent and nonviolent crimes in the Reston. Reston District Station Commander Captain Thea Pirnat, patrol supervisors, and representatives from the Fairfax County Police Department's Major Crimes Division shared updates on incidents and strategies to address concerns – and ultimately sought to increase the awareness of safety and security in our communities. In the months ahead, I will be partnering with Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn on efforts to fortify public safety, with a particular focus on our school communities. Please stay tuned for more information.

Contacting Me

I prioritize responses to Hunter Mill constituents, so please be sure to identify yourself as such if you contact me. If you are unsure of your county magisterial district, you can look that information up here.

To contact me, it is most helpful to 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. Thank you for your cooperation.


Please take good care,

Melanie Meren


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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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