August Newsletter

Dear Mason District Community,

I am so excited to welcome our students and staff back to school and into the school buildings after a very long and challenging experience last school year. Teachers and staff have been preparing all summer for a successful reintroduction into the classrooms for five days of instruction.  

While many of the concerns we faced last year remain, this August, our community, our schools, our staff are much better equipped to address them. The wide availability of vaccinations for teachers and students 12 and older has increased the confidence in our community in returning to the building for in-person instruction. The universal mask mandate in our school buildings as well as greater opportunity for instruction out of doors, improved ventilation in buildings and increased and targeted cleaning protocols will serve well to foster a healthy and safe learning environment. 

As a parent of an elementary student who is ineligible for a vaccine at this time, I share the concerns of our families.  I will be leaning heavily on the mitigation efforts of our schools, especially our elementary schools, to promote and encourage a safe learning environment. FCPS is also requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October. Staff who choose not to, or are unable to be vaccinated, will be required to submit proof of a negative test on a regular basis.

As always, I continue to be impressed and encouraged by the work of our staff and PTA/PTOs as we prepare for another school year. I look forward to our students being able to engage with their teachers and peers to meaningfully address learning loss and reconnect or establish social networks.

I remain dedicated to serving the Mason District community as we return strong to five days of in-person instruction.

I wish you a healthy and successful school year!!


Welcome Back, Mason District Teachers!


Welcome New and Returning

Mason District Students!


holmes safety

Health and Safety Updates

FCPS will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October. Staff who choose not to, or are unable to be vaccinated, will be required to submit proof of a negative test on a regular basis. FCPS is planning division-wide vaccination clinics, beginning in the next few weeks to help staff and students get vaccinated and receive booster shots when eligible.

The FCPS administration is in the process of partnering with a third-party provider to provide access to screening testing among other health service supports for FCPS students and staff. We recognize that screening testing of individuals who are not fully vaccinated is important given the recent surge of the Delta variant. We look forward to sharing details regarding this emerging partnership soon. In addition to the emerging partnership for screening testing described above, we continue to partner with the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) to provide diagnostic testing for symptomatic, in-person students or staff who are unable to access testing independently. The partnership for diagnostic testing for in-person students and staff who need support was established during the 2020-21 school year and will continue as we start the 2021-22 school year. 

Elementary schools will provide seating charts to minimize the number of potential close contacts while masks are removed. This is a NEW prevention strategy for elementary school given elementary students are generally not age-eligible for the vaccine.

FCPS is following CDC guidance on masking and does not require masks to be worn outdoors, including during recess. Parents who have specific requests for their child can contact their school. Schools will make the best possible effort to ensure the parent’s request is followed when possible. Please understand schools cannot guarantee all requests will be able to be met.

Protocols for Potential Temporary COVID-19 Closure: Virginia public schools are required under SB 1303 to provide five days a week of in-person instruction, as directed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. FCPS is committed to continuity of learning during the 2021-22 school year and the school division is using layered prevention strategies to do everything possible to ensure our schools remain safe, healthy and open. 

FCPS has plans in place to ensure continuity of learning in the event health authorities require a temporary closure to protect the health of students, staff, and the community. Find out more.

town halls

Returning Strong: Your Questions About the Opening of School Answered

On Monday and Tuesday evenings this week, Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand; Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Fairfax County Health Department; Jeffrey Platenberg, assistant superintendent of the FCPS Department of Facilities and Transportation; and Michelle Boyd, assistant superintendent of the FCPS Department of Special Services answered your questions about the layered prevention strategies that FCPS will be using to keep our schools safe and healthy as we return to in-person learning five days a week on August 23. 

If you missed the live town halls, you can watch them online.

Middle Schools to Have Regular Instructional Breaks in 2021-2022

This school year, to support student social and emotional wellbeing, all middle schools (grades 6, 7, and 8) and secondary schools (grades 7 and 8) will implement a regularly scheduled student break throughout the instructional week. Break time will occur a minimum of every other school day for at least 15 minutes and may be scheduled around lunch, during the Advisory block, or at another time supported by the school bell schedule. I was glad to have been able to present this topic to the Board who voted unanimously to direct staff to establish this important accommodation for our students.

Access to outdoor activities will be included in all formats, weather-permitting, and breaks will not be withheld due to academic performance or behavior. Breaks will be tailored to individual school needs and will be responsive to student input.


No-Cost Breakfast and Lunch

Each student is eligible for one no-cost breakfast and one no-cost lunch each school day. If your student would like to purchase additional meals or a la carte items, they will need to pay. The best way to purchase items this year is to use MySchoolBucks. Set up your student’s MySchoolBucks account and help them memorize their pin. If you have questions about MySchoolBucks, your school’s front office staff can help.

Your child may choose to bring their meals and snacks to school this year. FCPS encourages this practice for students who have specific dietary requirements or are particularly picky. Bringing food from home ensures your child will have the meals and snacks they enjoy to fuel their day of learning.

Check out FCPS school meals menus.

SACC Program Open for 2021-22 School Year

The School Age Child Care (SACC) program (which is run by the Fairfax County Government, not Fairfax County Public Schools) will be providing before- and after-school care for children in grades K-6 beginning August 23.  

All SACC 2021-22 school year enrollments are pending finalization of center capacity and enrollment protocols. Families will be contacted by SACC Registration staff to confirm services

To request services:

  • Families with existing SACC enrollments and waitlists: No need to re-enroll. Log in to the new online registration system to update information and request to add services. Login by using the primary email address. To cancel services, families should call SACC Registration at 703-449-8989. 
  • New Families: Access the new online registration system to create an account and submit a request for SACC services for the 2021-22 school year. Families will receive an automated response, and a SACC registrar will follow-up within five business days regarding enrollments and/or waitlists.

More information about SACC is available online.



Fairfax County Public Schools’ contract with Blackboard ended on June 30. Our new learning management system, Schoology, is a learning space that enhances face-to-face and distance learning through communication, collaboration, and personalized learning.  

Teachers use Schoology to post their classroom materials online; to provide a safe forum for students to discuss their ideas and collaborate on projects; and to assign and collect homework electronically. It helps students stay organized and it keeps the class connected.

Parent Accounts

A Schoology Parent Account gives you access to:

  • Your child’s classes.
  • Your child’s upcoming assignments.
  • School, class, and group announcements.

Parent accounts will be available in mid-August. To access Schoology, parents will need to have an active SIS/ParentVUE account. 

More information on how to login and use Schoology is available online.


Virginia Students Will Take New Fall Growth Assessments

Students in grades 3-8 will take a Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) this fall. State legislation introduced this new testing requirement to help schools measure student growth through the year. This fall’s VGAs will assess content and skills from the previous grade level so schools can identify learning needs early and form plans to address them. VGAs are about half as long as spring Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

Learn more about Virginia Growth Assessments, and watch for additional information from your elementary or middle school in September.

Secondary Grading and Homework Updates

Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to consistent grading practices where grades are an accurate reflection of student learning. Last school year, temporary changes were made to secondary grading and homework expectations in response to pandemic learning. This past spring, a stakeholder group reviewed the grading changes from last year and recommended that two changes be made permanent. The following changes have been approved by FCPS leadership:  

  • 50 is the lowest grade on a 100-point scale. 
  • Allow late work on major assignments with a maximum penalty of 10 percent if submitted within two weeks after the due date.

Last school year, FCPS set temporary limits for homework to account for the conditions of virtual learning and student wellness during the pandemic. FCPS is resetting homework expectations to account for both student wellness and the existing FCPS regulation on homework.

To ensure that student homework falls within existing FCPS regulations:

  • Middle school teachers should plan for homework not to exceed 25 minutes per class block.
  • High school teachers should plan for homework not to exceed 30 minutes per class block.
  • When long-term projects require additional time, teachers should adjust daily homework assignments accordingly.

Reading assignments are considered part of the homework load.



Volunteer Opportunities!


Applicants are being sought who are interested in volunteering to serve on the following committees:

  • Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC)
  • Basal Resources Review Committee for K-8 Science
  • Basal Resources Review Committee for Elementary School Language Arts

Applicants must be residents of the Mason District to be considered for a position as my appointee. If you are interested in serving on one of these committees, please send your resume and a statement of interest to my assistant, Cristy Coffey, at no later than September 6, 2021 for consideration.



The Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee advises the K-12 health and physical education and FLE curriculum coordinator on Program of Studies development and implementation. The role of the committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the curriculum coordinator as goals, objectives, media, and special instructional materials are developed. (FCPS Regulation 1708)

This committee meets monthly and appointees serve a 2-year term.


Basal Resources Review Committees for K-8 Science and Elementary School Language Arts

FCPS is engaging in the Request for Proposal and basal resource adoption processes for K-8 Science and Elementary School Language Arts. The process, governed by FCPS regulation 3004.5, will include both a community review period and a deep review by a committee made up of representatives from a variety of stakeholder groups—teachers, administrators, and community members.

The review and acquisition are constructed to ensure:

  • Resources align to newly adopted Virginia Standards of Learning and the FCPS Learning Model.
  • Resources meet the educational needs of a variety of learners.
  • Resources reflect culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy.
  • Students gain equitable access to high-quality, dynamic resources.
  • Input from multiple stakeholder groups is collected and valued. 

Once these processes are complete, the recommended resources will be brought to the Board for approval, tentatively scheduled for March 2022.  

Fairfax County Office for Children

The Fairfax County Office for Children provides many wonderful resources for families with young children. Check out their School Readiness page for helpful information including early childcare and education, child care assistance, kindergarten readiness, and Virginia Preschool Initiative. 


Public Safety Day at Annandale High School

public safety ahs

Columbia Elementary Principal in the News

Mr. Astudillo, new principal at Columbia Elementary School, has been the topic of several news stories recently. Nearly 40 years ago, he was a student at Columbia! Learn more about Michael Astudillo and his Columbia Elementary School story.

astudillo news


Follow @MasonDistrictSB on Twitter!

The official Mason District School Board Twitter account was recently launched. Be sure to follow to receive timely updates on information for the Mason District.

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