October Newsletter

Dear Fairfax County Students, Families and Staff,

It has been an extremely busy beginning of the 2021-2022 school year! I hope that you and your families have adjusted to the school year well and I thank everyone for the flexibility and patience required as we have adapted to the realities of the five days a week of in-person school during the Delta wave. I want to give our teachers and administrators a huge thank you for rolling with the punches and working for our students. I have loved seeing our students connect and engage with each other and their school communities again in the hallways, and through Homecoming celebrations, band competitions and so much more! Many principals have shared with me that they are seeing more students participate in extracurricular activities with more enthusiasm than ever. I think perhaps our students, and indeed maybe all of us, have gained a newfound appreciation for the everyday events of life and a new joy in the mundane.

I continue to appreciate your advocacy and encourage you to keep reaching out, as it informs my work. I am honored to be able to represent you and am here to listen and help.

In that vein, I will be holding a virtual town hall with Stella Pekarsky on Monday, November 8th at 7pm.  You will be able to access the town hall through this link.  Please submit your questions in advance here.  I hope you can attend!

I do know that we have had many challenges, including transportation, lunch layouts for elementary school students, delays in the contact tracing, and concerns regarding pausing and quarantine lengths. Some adjustments have been made to address these challenges and I applaud the hard work and creativity of those who found ways to make these challenges smaller as well as the collaboration with the health department and the county in making adjustments while still centering safety. 

I also understand the desire to adjust pausing and/or quarantine lengths and I know it impacts our student’s access to education, their social and emotional needs and childcare concerns. Our health expert, the Fairfax County Health Department, continues to recommend a 14 day quarantine and we are committed to following the guidance of our health experts during a public health situation, such as COVID. So far the good news is we have an incredibly low percent of positive cases. In short, what we are doing is working to keep schools safe and keep students in school. Our in-school transmission rate remains much lower than the community transmission rate.

Dr. Brabrand continues to collaborate with the health department and the County to adjust where possible and discuss options, including test and stay, to safely shorten our pause and quarantining days without impacting the levels of COVID transmission in our schools.  I know the CDC is reviewing test and stay protocols as well as the latest data and we hope they will present updated recommendations and options for our health department. In the meantime, I advocated strongly for live streaming/recording of classes for students as well as a regular, live check in with a teacher or staff and will continue to advocate for ways to help our students stay connected as much as possible to their teacher, class, and peers. 

One of our biggest challenges remains staffing. We were able to provide our bus drivers with pay increases which I hope will help address the persistent shortage that is part of a nationwide shortage. We also have an extreme shortage of substitute teachers which places a huge strain on our teachers.  The Board held a discussion of potential pay raises for substitute teachers at our October 5th Work Session and will be voting on the proposal at Thursday’s Regular Meeting. 

I appreciate many of you who have asked how you can help! One way you can help is to sub! Our teachers are pulling double duty covering for their colleagues and schools are straining to cover classes due to sub shortages. So please, consider subbing or passing the word to someone you know who may be interested in subbing. It is extremely flexible and extremely valuable to our students and our teachers!  

Please spread the word:  https://www.fcps.edu/careers/career-opportunities/substitute-teaching-opportunities

Looking forward, I am excited to anticipate the availability of vaccines for 5-11 years. FCPS has been partnering with the county, INOVA, and our pediatricians to make sure the vaccination will be available in many areas to make it as easy as possible for children to become vaccinated. We also are getting ready to roll out a targeted screening testing program as an addition to our prevention strategies. See the Instruction and Operations section below for more details.

Our regular work of the board continues - please see below for more information.

I know it's been a long 18 months under COVID and we are still in the middle of this. This often weighs heavily on me even as we have adapted in many ways to living with COVID. I am sure we will continue to adapt but I also know the process of adapting to massive changes is itself traumatizing, anxiety inducing, and difficult. I hope we can continue to find ways to come together to make living under COVID as good as we can. We are all in this together.

My warmest regards,


homecoming collage

Below you will find information on:

  • Instruction and Operating Updates
  • School Board News
  • Other FCPS News
  • Community News and Resources
  • Quick Links

Instruction and Operating Updates 

Resources for Students Experiencing COVID-Related Absences

StreamIN/CheckIN has begun in FCPS schools. This new option keeps students who are paused, quarantined, or isolated due to COVID-19 connected to the classroom. Curious about what the experience is like for teachers and students? Check out this brief video

Learn more about StreamIN/CheckIN on our website.

COVID Testing Rollout

COVID-19 screening testing for individual unvaccinated students will begin:

  • The week of November 1 student-athletes (required)
  • The week of November 8 for elementary students (with parent/guardian consent)
  • The week of November 15 for middle and high school students (with parent/guardian consent) 

Screening testing is a highly recommended strategy to reduce COVID-19 transmission and keep our schools safe. FCPS will test at least 10% of students who are not fully vaccinated and have parent/guardian consent, which follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Parent/Guardian consent is required for students to be part of the testing pool. Parents may provide their child(ren)’s vaccination status and indicate consent via a secure online portal. The link to the portal will be shared as soon as it is up and running.

Test results are kept confidential, like all medical records. Parents/guardians will receive their child’s test results through the vendor’s online portal. There is no cost to families for testing.

For more information about COVID-19 testing in FCPS, visit our website.

The need for screening testing is directly related to county transmission and vaccination rates. The higher our student, staff, and community vaccination rate, the lower the rate of county transmission. When Fairfax County moves to a low transmission rate, we can consider eliminating screening testing.

Supporting Vaccination for Children Ages 5-11

Fairfax community vaccination rates are some of the highest in the country and a coalition of organizations are preparing for the next watershed moment of the pandemic- the availability of vaccination for children ages 5-11. 

FCPS is collaborating with the Fairfax County Health Department, Inova, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Inova Health System in its coordination of the anticipated vaccine rollout for ages 5-11. 

The plan includes multiple opportunities to support different needs, ranging from community vaccination sites to targeted vaccination clinics in evenings and on weekends, and targeted vaccination clinics during the school day. 

For all of the details shared by Dr. Brabrand, watch a recording of the meeting on the FCPS YouTube page or view the PowerPoint.

Inclement Weather Approach for 2021-22

FCPS has announced updates to its inclement weather policy for the 2021-22 school year.

  • The first five inclement weather days will be traditional inclement weather days. These five days may occur consecutively due to a single weather event or may take place as several individual events. 
  • Once these five days have been taken, FCPS will use the flexibility provided by the General Assembly to have unscheduled virtual learning days, wherever possible, to maintain continuity of learning. 

Find out more.

Social and Emotional Learning Supports Students

SEL photo

Research tells us that students with strong Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills are more successful in school, work, and relationships.  Especially after the disruption of the last 1.5 years, FCPS will be ensuring all students get the social and emotional learning supports they need.

SEL helps children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy, establish positive relationships and make responsible decisions by developing:

  • Self-awareness.
  • Self-management.
  • Social awareness.
  • Relationship skills.
  • Responsible decision-making.

Research shows that SEL provides numerous benefits to students including:

  • An increase in academic achievement by an average of 11 percentile points.
  • An increase in prosocial behaviors including kindness, sharing, and empathy.
  • An improvement of attitudes toward self, others, and school.
  • A reduction in mental health problems including depression and high levels of stress.
  • A decrease in dropout rates, behavior issues, drug use, and teen pregnancy.

Research also shows that for every dollar invested in SEL programming, there is a savings of $11 dollars that would have been spent on costly interventions. 

Learn more in our Healthy Minds Blog.

Quarantine Data Added to FCPS COVID-19 Dashboard

Quarantine data has been added to FCPS’s COVID-19 Health Metrics Dashboard, which tracks COVID-19 student and staff cases. Daily quarantined cases are now reported for students and staff for the entire division and by each school or building site.

Student-Athlete Vaccination Requirement 

athlete vaccine

Students who are 16 years of age or older (age as of November 8 for the Winter season) and want to participate in athletics will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have either a medical or religious exemption. Unvaccinated students who are 12-15 years of age must provide a weekly negative COVID-19 test to be eligible to participate in team activities. 

Submitting Proof of Vaccination

Starting October 4, student-athletes could submit their proof of Covid-19 vaccination to their school. Students will need to either show their vaccination card to authorized school personnel or provide clear documentation via an electronic format of the vaccination card or photocopy to the authorized school personnel. Schools will provide specific details of submitting proof of vaccination information.

Religious Exemption

Starting October 4, student athletes (both middle and high school) could submit the Religious Exemption form to their school. The form must be notarized and should be submitted directly to the Student Activities Office of their high school. Students who are not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious reasons will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test weekly. Please use the Commonwealth of Virginia Certificate of Religious Exemption form.

Medical Exemption

Starting October 4, student-athletes could submit the medical exemption information to their school. They will need to provide documentation of a medical exemption from their physician. Students can do this through a letter from their doctor (on the doctor’s office letterhead) stating the student has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the Covid-19 Vaccine. Students who are not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to documented health or medical reasons will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test weekly.

Deadline for Medical and Religious Exemptions for Winter Sports Season

The Deadline for submitting medical and religious exemptions for the Winter season is Monday, November 1. The exemption must be received by the November 1 deadline for students to participate in winter tryouts. This will allow enough time for those students with a medical or religious exemption to provide proof of their negative Covid-19 test that week so that they may participate in tryouts. As a reminder all students with a medical or religious exemption for receiving the Covid-19 vaccination must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test weekly. 

Students with a Religious or Medical Exemption and Unvaccinated Students Aged 12-15 (Age as of November 8 for the Winter Season)

Unvaccinated students who are 12-15, or students with a Religious or Medical exemption must provide a negative test weekly to participate in team activities. 

 Read the FAQs to learn more.

school board

School Board News

Operating Update

The School Board heard the latest update about the 2021-2022 school year at its October 19th Work Session from Dr. Brabrand and several community health partners.  Among the information presented was the number of COVID-positive cases from the last month -- 717 cases or .35% of the FCPS student and staff population.  Dr. Brabrand also shared information about the number of students and staff who were paused from in-person instruction as potential close contacts in the past month -- both were about 1% of the total numbers.  Dr. Brabrand also shared plans regarding future vaccination efforts for our students age 5-11 as well as details regarding new surveillance and diagnostic testing.  You can view the presentation and the meeting recording.

Strategic Program Review

The School Board held a Work Session on the Strategic Program Review of non-core program offerings that was approved by the School Board earlier this year.  The Strategic Program Review is divided into three phases and this Work Session was the second phase in which the Board could review and discuss the information provided by staff in Phase 1 and determine which programs would be subject to additional analysis and review in Phase 3.  The Board heard the staff presentation and began a discussion of this material.  You can view all of the materials and the meeting recording.

Transportation Salary Scales

At the September 24th Regular Meeting, the Fairfax County School Board voted to accept the recommendation to apply a 2.5% market scale adjustment (MSA) to the schedule H transportation salary scale. The Board voted to reduce the fuel contingency reserve by $1.5m to fund the cost of the salary scale increase.

The 2.5% MSA will benefit any bus driver whose salaries were not increased when FCPS raised the hourly salary to $22.91 in August. The MSA approved by the School Board will be applied to the salary scale effective for the pay period from October 9 to October 22. 

This increase recognizes the amazing work of our transportation team during the pandemic and every day, and helps us to be competitive in the current market to recruit and retain staff. It follows actions in August that increased the starting hourly pay to $22.91 and provided a $3,000 recruitment bonus.

Finally, the School Board also directed the Superintendent to examine salary scales to recognize years of service for existing transportation employees in steps 1-5 as a result of this change. They directed the Superintendent to return to them with a plan to include the necessary modifications, after consultation with key stakeholders, as a part of the market scale study findings scheduled for presentation in December.

A market review of bus driver and bus attendant salaries and benefits among Washington Area Board of Education (WABE) school divisions will be completed later this fall. 

Special Education Comprehensive Review -- First Year Report

The School Board focused a portion of the September 21 Work Session on the First Year report of the Special Education Comprehensive Review.  The researchers presented their summary of emerging strengths and areas of focus, as well as plans for the second year of the study.  The School Board had several areas of questions and follow up that the researchers will work to incorporate into the next year’s plan.  You can view the presentation and report here.  You can view a recording of the meeting here.  

Equitable Access to Literacy Plan


The School Board heard from a literacy expert and the FCPS Instructional Services Department regarding the creation of an Equitable Access to Literacy Plan aimed at providing every student with the education and support they need to develop the reading and writing skills necessary for school and life. 

The Equitable Access to Literacy Plan is designed to close the opportunity gap in literacy for students with disabilities, English Learners, economically disadvantaged students, Black, and Hispanic students. 

Data presented by FCPS and literacy experts show the need for a new approach to literacy education. Literacy has a strong impact on overall academic success, economic well-being, health outcomes, social participation, and civic engagement. 

Read more or watch the School Board work session presentation to find out why literacy education is so important, what FCPS is doing now, and what’s to come.

Upcoming Board Work

In addition to the important responsibility of continuing to provide oversight to FCPS’s five days a week instruction during these times of COVID disruption, the School Board has other upcoming work, including the following:

  • Review of Boundary Policy Consultant Report
  • SY 22-23 Calendar
  • Ongoing oversight of ESSER plan implementation
  • Superintendent Search
  • Capital Improvement Program
  • FY 22-23 Budget
  • Collective Bargaining

Upcoming School Board Meetings

  • October 21, 2021 - Regular Meeting - 7pm
  • October 25, 2021 - Work Session - 5pm -7pm:  Legislative Program
  • November 9, 2021 - Work Session - 11am -4pm:  Membership Trends

Accessing Board Meetings and Materials 

Other FCPS News

Congratulations to FCPS National Merit 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.  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.  See the list of semifinalists.

Congratulations to the Winners of the Excellence Awards

excellence awards

I was happy to attend the 2021 FCPS Excellence Awards Ceremony on October 13.  Thank you to all of these wonderful employees who have worked hard to support the FCPS mission and vision. See the winners and more pictures.

Multilingual Parent Podcasts: New Podcasts on Establishing Routines for Time Management and Connecting Parents and Schools with Schoology


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 English as a Second Language (ESOL) Services and the Office of Professional Learning and Family Engagement.  Learn more.  

Listen and subscribe:

The FCPS Special Education Handbook

special ed handbook

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 prc@fcps.edu with any questions including access to these documents.

Community News and Resources

October 23 Free Opportunity to Practice Police Interactions

I am thrilled that a pilot project that I worked on has now been expanded throughout the County!  The Arc of Northern Virginia and the Fairfax County Police Department are offering several locations to practice police interactions this Saturday.  More information and sign up.

police flyer

School Bond Referendum on November 2 Ballot

A school bond referendum will be on the general election ballot on Tuesday, November 2. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents of Fairfax County may vote if they are 18 years or older on Election Day and have registered to vote 22 days prior to the election (on or before October 12, at 5 p.m.). 

Early voting is now open and available through October 30. See the Fairfax County early voting website for hours and locations

Our school buildings and outdoor spaces are used by community members as teen centers, recreation and athletic sites, polling places, places of worship, civic meeting spaces, and School Age Child Care facilities. Like a home renovation, school renovations enhance and protect taxpayer investments. 

The building and renovation of schools is not financed through the school system’s operating funds, but through bonds. Bonds sales must be approved by voters since they are a future obligation for taxpayers. As long as debt service costs do not increase significantly as a percentage of combined general fund disbursements, the county's bonded debt is not likely to be a contributing factor to any increase in local taxes.

Learn more about the 2021 Bond Referendum.

Community Vaccination Clinic Now Open


Vaccination is our best strategy for keeping schools safe and ending the pandemic. Are you not yet vaccinated? Are you eligible for a booster shot? If so, a new, convenient opportunity is now open.  The Fairfax Community Vaccination Center (Fairfax CVC) is located at the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner Center and is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The center offers:

  • First and second doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
  • Booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to individuals eligible for the vaccine booster.
  • An additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for individuals who are immunocompromised.

Appointments are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome. Individuals seeking a booster of the Pfizer vaccine or an additional dose of either vaccine are asked to bring their vaccination card showing the dates of previous doses. 

Read more about the Fairfax CVC online. To find an appointment visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA.

Counseling Services for Children, Youth and Families  

healthy minds

Healthy Minds Fairfax coordinates a full range of mental health and substance abuse services for children and youth across multiple county agencies, the school system and private treatment providers. The goal is to help you and families in the Fairfax-Falls church community access mental health and substance abuse services.  

Healthy Minds Fairfax offers Short Term Behavioral Health Services (SBTH). This service provides timely counseling services to your child and to assist you in securing more long-term counseling services through your insurance or another community resource if needed. The Short-Term Behavioral Health Services for Youth is funded through Health Minds Fairfax. Services are provided to you at no cost. An SBTH provider will work with your child to clarify presenting concerns, help identify choices and develop a counseling plan. Your child can receive a total of 8 – sessions to include an assessment, counseling sessions, and a wrap-up closing session. If you would like to have your child considered for Short Term Behavioral Health Services please contact your school social worker, school psychologist or counselor and they can provide you with more information or you can call Healthy Minds Fairfax at (703) 324-8111 for more information about the program.

educate fairfax

The Foundation for FCPS is now Educate Fairfax

For over a decade, the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools has been investing in programs to help every FCPS student find a path to success. The global pandemic provided an opportunity for it to re-evaluate its mission and improve the organization’s reach in the community. The result is a new name that clearly expresses its purpose and goals to FCPS employees, students, donors, and the community.   

The Foundation for FCPS is now Educate Fairfax.

Educate Fairfax remains dedicated to supporting Fairfax County Public Schools by engaging the community to invest in educational and supplemental programs for all students. With its continued emphasis on three focus areas–teacher grants, employee recognition programs, and Kids in Need–Educate Fairfax believes that strong schools are the bedrock of a vibrant community and that every FCPS student has a path to success.

More information is available at www.educatefairfax.org.

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month


"Americans with disabilities — particularly women and people of color — have faced long-standing gaps in employment, advancement, and income.  The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these inequities, as people with disabilities have faced heightened risks — particularly the disproportionate share of people with disabilities employed in the hardest-hit industries.  Our Nation will never fully recover and rebuild unless every single community — including disabled Americans — is fully included." Read the Proclamation and learn more here.

 LGBTQ History Month

lgbtq history

October is a time to celebrate the achievements of LGBTQ+ people from our community and around the world. For more on how FCPS provides a safe and respectful environment for all, visit our website.

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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.

© 2021 Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County, Virginia