September 2021 Newsletter

Dear Mason District Community,

We are in the 5th week of the school year and our students have had many wonderful experiences since returning to school in-person, 5 days a week. Students are excited to be back in our buildings with their teachers and peers.

While we continue to face challenges in addressing students requiring quarantine and/or pause due to classroom Covid-19 cases and the support needed for them during this period, we are encouraged by the low transmission numbers in our schools. I continue to work with staff to advocate for stronger mitigation efforts during lunchtime and to conduct instruction outdoors as much as possible. We also continue to collaborate with staff and the health department to develop processes that will expedite students’ return to schools once exposed to others who may be potentially infected.

In this newsletter, I want to recognize the accomplishments of the 214 FCPS students identified as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists this year, but I am concerned that none are from the comprehensive high schools in the Mason district. It’s imperative that staff identify the barriers that hinder performance and create a plan to promote more equitable representation from Falls Church, Justice and Annandale High Schools. 

I value the input I receive from the Mason Community and am happy to address questions or concerns via email or phone. You can reach me by email at If you are interested in scheduling a phone call, please reach out to my assistant, Cristy Coffey, at to arrange a time.

I wish you all good health.


Justice HS Addition / Justice Park Update

School bond referendums from 2017 and 2019 funded planning and construction of a 46,000 square foot addition, including science labs at Justice High School. This necessary addition will alleviate the existing capacity concerns. Most recently, the school was at 116% capacity and is expected to reach 121% and 126% in the next two years. 

The essential addition scheduled to be constructed on the school property will substantially reduce the number of parking spaces currently available. With the addition, FCPS will be able to accommodate less than half the number of parking spaces currently required by Fairfax County. Thus, FCPS initiated a process to work with the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) to consider adding parking spaces at Justice Park across the street from the school. The solution would have resulted in converting approximately 1.1 acres of the park into parking spaces. Currently, over half of Justice Park has been rendered unusable due to insufficient management of invasive species.

Additionally, the school division proposed enhancements to the park such as clearing over 8 acres of invasive species to increase usable green space to 14.7 acres from the current 7.7 acres available for community use. Lastly, the FCPS proposal included the construction of a walking trail and an outdoor classroom.

In late July, the FCPA rejected the FCPS proposal requesting the needed 1.1 acres, citing concerns raised by the community. Since that time, FCPS staff has been working to find alternative solutions to meet the County requirements to build the Justice High School addition and avoid further delays. 

FCPS staff will provide updates and identify next steps during a virtual community meeting scheduled for October 12 at 7 p.m. Please register to attend and indicate if you need an interpreter. A link will be sent to you on October 12.

Mitigation Efforts at Lunchtime

FCPS is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our staff and students throughout the entire school day, including lunchtime, when students are not able to wear masks while eating.

The situation at lunchtime looks different at each school due to the varied physical layout of cafeterias. I continue to advocate for the use of outdoor spaces for periods during which students have their masks off and food is being consumed (breakfast, lunch, snacks). 

FCPS is currently hiring student monitors to assist with supervision for students in the classroom, cafeteria, and outside.

I am pleased to see Mason District schools being creative with their approaches to spreading students out and using outdoor spaces.


Mitigation efforts during lunchtime at Parklawn, Westlawn, Glasgow, Poe, Annandale HS, and Falls Church HS

Students Keep Learning in Pause, Quarantine with StreamIN/CheckIN

StreamIN/CheckIN provides meaningful instructional support for students who are paused, quarantined, or isolated due to COVID-19. Participating in StreamIn/CheckIn offers these students the opportunity to remain engaged with their classes. 

Learn more about StreamIN/CheckIN on our website.


New Process to Speed Up the Return of Fully Vaccinated Students to Classrooms

FCPS heard from many of you about your concerns regarding the amount of time fully vaccinated students are being paused from in-person instruction when identified as a potential close contact to a COVID-19 positive case. 

FCPS collaborated with the Fairfax County Health Department to adjust this process and expedite the return to the classroom for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic students. The goal is to  ensure our students are in the classroom as much as possible, while also keeping our schools safe and healthy for everyone—staff, students, and visitors.

The new process benefits all students, including those of elementary school age who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Because contact tracers will no longer have to contact families of students who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, they will now be able to focus more resources on elementary school investigations. This will allow elementary school students, among others, to return to the classroom quicker.

More information is available online.

Test to Stay - CDC & VDH Recommendations

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has researched some of the “Test to Stay” models implemented in other states through participation on national calls and follow up calls with individual jurisdictions. On September 8, 2021, VDH held a call with the CDC School Support Division regarding CDC’s project evaluating Test to Stay strategies in the United States. During that call,  and via email, the CDC was clear that they do not recommend Test to Stay strategies at this time and that the approach is not in accordance with CDC guidelines. However, CDC is actively working with the handful of states who have adopted these models to evaluate their effectiveness. They anticipated being able to share some data with VDH as early as mid-late October 2021. 

VDH recommends that local health departments monitor this evolving information, but does not recommend implementation of Test to Stay strategies at this time in Virginia. The VDH recommendation is based on the  current CDC recommendation, insufficient data on the effectiveness, and potential risk associated with shorter durations of quarantine and modified quarantine (e.g., allowing potentially infectious contacts to remain in school with regular testing).

FCPS will continue to follow the health guidance of local, state, and national health experts when making health decisions for schools and will work with them to explore various ways to limit student time away from instruction.

COVID-19 Case Notification Update

Many families are finding it stressful and overwhelming to receive a new COVID notification email every time there is a positive case in their child’s school. FCPS has updated their process to provide families some relief.

Potential close contacts of positive cases will, of course, continue to receive real time notifications. These notifications include instructions that are time-sensitive.

In addition, families will be notified of outbreaks at their schools immediately.

Once a week, either on Friday or the last day of school for the week, school leadership will share an update if there were any reported COVID-19 positive cases in the school that week. The FCPS COVID-19 Health Metrics webpage will still be updated for families who wish to know about cases in real time.

Updated Virginia COVID-19 Close Contact Definition and K-12 Indoor/Outdoor Classroom Exceptions

The state of Virginia has updated the definition of a close contact for COVID-19 and provided a K-12 classroom close contact exception. 

If a COVID positive individual was on-site during their infectious period, the following individuals will be paused from in-person instruction/work until notified by FCPS that they can resume in-person activities.

  • Staff who were within 6 feet or less of a Staff Case for a cumulative amount of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours. 
  • Staff who were within 6 feet or less of a Student Case for a cumulative amount of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours. 
  • Students who were within 6 feet or less of a Staff Case for a cumulative amount of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours. 
  • Students wearing masks who were within 3 feet or less of a Student Case in the indoor or outdoor K-12 setting for a cumulative amount of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours. 

Indoor/Outdoor Classroom Exception

In the K-12 indoor/outdoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) wore well-fitting masks the entire time.

Note: The inclusion of “outdoor” in the K-12 exception was made at the state level (Virginia Department of Health). The federal exception continues to include only indoor settings.

Daily Recess/Breaks in our Middle Schools

In April, I introduced a Forum topic to the School Board requesting that staff explore establishing a policy and regulation regarding the provision of unstructured break/recess for middle schools across FCPS. The School Board approved the directive to the Superintendent and staff and requested that the findings be reported back to the Board.

This important accommodation allows students to connect with each other and teachers in new ways, fostering greater connectedness to the school community. I recently visited Poe Middle School during their break time and was able to witness the activity and speak to students who were loving their outdoor time. I am so appreciative of the planning and support provided by the fantastic staff and administrators.

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 are tailored to individual school needs and are responsive to student input. 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. 

Poe breaks

Poe MS students enjoying their outdoor break

Student-Athlete Vaccination Requirement: Your Questions Answered

Fairfax County Public Schools requires student-athletes be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus for the winter and spring sports seasons as an additional safety measure to support  layered prevention strategies

Find answers to questions about the implementation timeline, how vaccination status will be verified, exceptions, safety, and more in these Frequently Asked Questions.

hard hat

Facilities Updates

At the School Board meeting on September 9, 2021, the School Board approved the contract for the tennis court replacement at Holmes Middle School.

The Glen Forest Elementary School roof replacement project has been advertised and bids have been received. The School Board expects a recommendation for the award of the project contract prior to the October 7, 2021 School Board meeting.

Safety Teams Update

Safety teams have resumed operations. This year, FCPS has contracted with Temporary Solutions, Inc., who does similar work in Loudoun County. The teams provided by the contractor are supervised by FCPS retired administrators who oversaw this work last year. Each school will be visited on a weekly basis. They will focus on the following 3 tenants:

    • Correct Use of Mask
    • Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
    • Cleaning and Disinfection


Hispanic Heritage Month: Sept 15 - Oct 15

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place September 15 to October 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. Beginning in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was originally observed as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson, but it was later extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988. Since then, the month has been celebrated nationwide through festivals, art shows, conferences, community gatherings, and much more. 

The US Department of Education's Office of Career and Technical Education highlighted Falls Church High School teacher Ms. Tellez Perez in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month!

tellez perez

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

Two hundred fourteen students from 16 high schools from across Fairfax County Public Schools have been named semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for 2022. 

Congratulations to Mason District resident Chaemin Lee who was one of the semifinalists named from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

All semifinalists are eligible to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarship awards worth more than $30 million, to be awarded in spring 2022. Semifinalists advance to Finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and other requirements including a recommendation from their principal.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, which represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. These determinations are made by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, not FCPS or individual schools.

sped handbook

The FCPS Special Education Handbook is Available to Families

English             عربي                  한국인                  Española          Tiếng Việt

The Special Education Handbook for Parents includes details of the special education process. This process occurs sequentially, over a period of time, with each step building upon the previous step(s).

It is important for families to understand how the special education process works, so they can effectively participate and collaborate with school staff members in making appropriate decisions regarding their child’s educational needs. Families are an integral part of the decision-making team.

Contact the PRC at 703-204-3941 or with any questions including access to these documents.


AVID - College Readiness

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is an academic mentoring program at the middle school and high school level that helps students reach the goal of attending college. It is an elective class where students build their skills to succeed in honors, AP and IB classes as well as learn about colleges and careers.  Teachers, counselors, tutors, and guest speakers (including college admissions officials, community members, and alumni) support students in reaching their academic and long-term college and career goals. 

AVID has been at Glasgow Middle School and Justice High School since 2005 and now serves over 600 students, the largest such program in northern Virginia. In that time, Justice’s enrollment in IB classes has tripled. 98% of AVID graduates enroll in a college, with 70% attending four-year colleges. For more information on AVID, contact Eric Wolf Welch, AVID Program Coordinator at Justice High School (

The AVID program at Holmes Middle School serves 37 students and the AVID program at Annandale High School serves 150 students and has tripled in size in the last 5 years. In addition, the AVID program supports the postsecondary success of all students at Annandale HS. For example, this fall, AVID seniors are volunteering weekly after school to help other AHS seniors get started on their college applications. For more information about the Annandale HS AVID program, contact Laura Wells, AVID Coordinator (

AVID has been an integral part of the Falls Church High School curriculum since 1999. In partnership with Luther Jackson Middle School, AVID is available at all grade levels 7th-12th. Staff support students to access an appropriately rigorous course load to include Honors, Advance Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. Falls Church High School has had a number of Posse Foundation Scholars in addition to many other scholarship recipients. One hundred percent of AVID students meet graduation requirements and have been accepted to four and/or two year colleges and universities, with over 60% choosing four-year schools the past two years. Please feel free to contact Matt Cope for more information about the Falls Church High School AVID program (


Recent AVID College Application Workshop at Annandale HS

Signs of Suicide Program

This fall, all middle and high schools will be required to implement the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program and associated wellness screening with all 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students by December 17, 2021. Middle and high schools will have the option of administering the program to 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students, while elementary schools will also have the option of implementing the program with 6th grade students.

SOS is a universal, evidence-based depression awareness and suicide prevention program designed for middle-school (ages 11–13) and high-school (ages 13–17) students.  The goals of the program include reducing suicide and suicide attempts in youth by increasing knowledge and encouraging help-seeking behaviors, reinforcing the importance of seeking treatment for depression or suicidal thoughts and feelings, and reducing the stigma of mental illness.

In light of the impact the pandemic has had on some students’ mental health, and in the absence of SOS implementation last school year, it is especially important that we administer this program as students return to five days a week of in-person learning in the fall.  A variety of recorded and translated resources will be made available to school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to support program implementation.


FCPS Multilingual Family Podcasts

Listen and subscribe to a FCPS Multilingual Family Podcast to hear timely, important information related to school news. The podcasts are produced in conjunction with the Office for ESOL Services and the Office of Professional Learning and Family Engagement. The goal of every podcast is to help families access key resources and understand how to best support their children’s education.  

Listen and Subscribe:

Spanish Podcast:

Arabic Podcast:

Korean Podcast:

Moving on to Life in the Community: Virtual Resource Fair

For students with intellectual disabilities who may require ongoing supports after graduating from high school.

OCTOBER 19, 2021

6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

This resource fair assists parents, guardians, and caregivers with future planning for students with intellectual disabilities who may require ongoing supports after graduating high school. Participants include representatives from vocational, residential, leisure, recreational, independent living, and advocacy programs/organizations.


ballot box

School Bond Referendum on November 2 Ballot

A school bond referendum will be on the general election ballot Tuesday, November 2. 

Bond sales, a form of long-term borrowing, are used to finance the building and renovation of schools and must be approved by voters since they are a future obligation for taxpayers. The building and renovation of schools are not financed through the school system’s operating funds, but through bonds. 

Students benefit from updated schools and better learning environments–and the entire community benefits too. FCPS designs and builds schools to meet current and future technology, safety and security, and capacity needs. And our schools are increasingly “green” saving everyone money. Watch the video

Learn more about the 2021 School Construction Bond Referendum.

2022 Graduation

Dates Announced




Annandale HS

June 1, 2022 at 9 a.m.

(rain date June 2 at 9 a.m.)

Annandale HS

Edison HS

May 31, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Eagle Bank Arena

Falls Church HS

June 2, 2022 at 2 p.m.

Eagle Bank Arena


June 4, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Eagle Bank Arena

Justice HS

June 1, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.

Eagle Bank Arena

Woodson HS

May 31, 2022 at 2 p.m.

Eagle Bank Arena

Mason District Representatives to Citizen Advisory Committees

I am excited to have this fantastic group of Mason District residents representing our community on the citizen advisory committees for the 2021-2022 school year. Thank you all for your dedication to our students and your service to our community!

James Albright, Advanced Academic Programs Advisory Committee

Javier Alejandro Caballero Cantarero, Adult and Community Education Advisory Committee

Harry Henderson, Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities

Adam Phillips, Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee

Greg Martin, Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee

Dan Aminoff, Facilities Planning Advisory Council

Leonard Bumbaca, Human Resources Advisory Committee

Edward Osborne, Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee

Holly Spanier, School Health Advisory Committee

Upcoming School Board Meetings

Regular School Board Meetings (Luther Jackson Middle School)

  • October 7, 2021 at 7 p.m.
  • October 21, 2021 at 7 p.m.

Work Sessions (Gatehouse Administration Center)

  • October 5, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.
  • October 19, 2021 at 11 a.m.


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.

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