December Community Update

Dear Community Members,

This last week before the winter school break is a full one for the School Board. Our public meetings cover a range of work critical to the school division, including public conversations (not actions) about:

I have also continued seeding advocacy to the Virginia General Assembly for when it convenes in January, for literacy instruction that benefits all learners. Since the Board discussion in October, conversations continue and work is happening in FCPS to make this a reality now, in incremental steps.

The Board considers the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) at the Thursday 12/16 Regular Meeting. Work on this continues – including the opportunity for public input on January 4 – in the new year. This document guides all construction, renovation, and long-term facilities planning of the school division, and is updated annually to cover a five year span.

Also, I’ve championed advocacy proposed by constituents - planning for expanded partnerships to bring therapy dogs into schools (per a Madison student’s efforts), and piloting the use of electric-powered lawn care equipment to reduce FCPS’ carbon footprint from gas-powered machinery (Aldrin Elementary in Hunter Mill will participate in this trial!).

This work has happened as I continued to monitor vaccination rates and COVID mitigation strategies in our schools, and working with the Superintendent to be sure FCPS is ready to adjust what it’s doing to keep people as safe as possible during the on-going global pandemic.

As I hope you will see, my work on policies, programs, and investments for our schools is complex and fascinating. I’m grateful and humbled to be able to work for students, staff, and residents living in the Hunter Mill district and Fairfax County.

I wish you a restful and healthy winter break.

Recent Work 

Student Quarantine Period Reduced to Seven Days

CDC guidance allows for a reduction of the student quarantine period to seven days “when diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available.” With FCPS now offering drive-through diagnostic testing at six sites across the county, in addition to the many alternative ways to access COVID-19 testing, FCPS is reducing the quarantine for students who are exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting to seven days. 

The division continues to balance the need for students to have a high-quality in-person learning experience with student and staff safety. By adhering to layered prevention strategies and increasing vaccination rates, we are all doing our part to keep schools safe.

Pop-up Pediatric School-located Vaccine Clinics

Vaccine graphic

On Tuesday, November 16, the Fairfax Health District and FCPS began offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, at ten clinics located at schools across Fairfax County. All children are welcome, and a parent or responsible adult must accompany them. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and free.

The Fairfax County Health Department’s webpage has information about the clinics and resources for finding and scheduling a vaccine appointment. Up-to-date information about vaccination opportunities is available here.

As of 12/2/21, Virginia Department of Health has reported:

  • 4% of Fairfax residents aged 5-11 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 6.1% are fully vaccinated. 
  • 3% of Fairfax residents aged 12-15 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 77.7% are fully vaccinated.
  • 4% of Fairfax residents aged 16-17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 84.9% are fully vaccinated.
  • 1% of Fairfax residents aged 18-24 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 78.7% are fully vaccinated.

Superintendent Search Update

On December 13, the School Board held a work session to discuss the Superintendent search process, timeline, and engagement opportunities. Watch the Work Session on the FCPS YouTube Channel.

There are many ways you can share your voice during this process. Below is a snapshot of upcoming activities:

  • Survey: GR Consulting, the search firm handling the superintendent search, will be administering a survey. The survey will be available in multiple languages and will be a great opportunity for the FCPS community to weigh in on the most important qualities our next superintendent should possess. Look for the survey in your email inbox next week.
  • Parent, Student, Community Focus Groups: The search firm will hold in-person focus groups with previously identified parents, students, and community members. These focus groups are planned for January 10-12.

Please visit the Superintendent Search webpage for additional information.

Superintendent search graphic

School Division Budget Information

The development of the FCPS budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 is underway. It is a primary responsibility of the School Board annually to ensure that public funds are best budgeted for student success. Here are some updates on that process, which will continue into the spring when the Board votes to approve the final budget:

  • The School Board met with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on November 23 to review a fiscal forecast for Fairfax County. You can view this information here.
  • The Superintendent will present his proposed budget to the School Board at the January 13 Regular Meeting.
  • The public is invited to participate in a public hearing about the budget on January 24. Information about how the public can participate will be provided in advance.

Additionally, though not part of the annual budget development, the school division is required to hold a public hearing about funds provided federally to support COVID recovery (ESSER). This will be held on February 10, to convene prior to the start of the Regular Meeting that evening - when FCPS staff will provide a presentation on this funding, with a follow up work session on February 22.

Legislative Program Approved 

Capitol Building graphic

The School Board has approved its “Legislative Program”, which is the annual guide for how the school division will advocate regarding policy and laws before the Virginia General Assembly when it convenes its session in January 2022, as well as to the federal government’s on-going work.

I’m particularly pleased that my amendment was approved unanimously to state FCPS’ support for expanding the science of reading, which is a proven approach already used within our schools to help all students achieve a depth of literacy in reading and writing. 

A draft had been publicly presented and discussed in October, and the vote to approve the Program happened on November 22. 

Remember that anyone can advocate for public policy change - this includes you! To identify your elected officials you can search using your address

Interim Chief Equity Officer Named 

Nardos King

Dr. Nardos King has been named Interim Chief Equity Officer of FCPS. Dr. King, previously the Assistant Superintendent for Region 3, assumed the role from Dr. Lisa Williams.

The appointment reasserts FCPS’ commitment to ensuring the work of centering equity remains at the forefront of all decisions the school division makes.

FCPS Reaffirms Commitment to Diversity in Our Libraries

Two books that were subject to a formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to FCPS libraries.

The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to providing diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters. Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys.

The response that I have since received from constituents affirms that the people in this county overwhelmingly want those who live here to be respected for who they are!

Read more about the decision.

FCPS library

Keeping School Safety a Priority 

Brabrand video thumbnail

Please watch this important message from Dr. Scott Brabrand regarding school safety. 

Joint County and City School Board Dinner

December 9 was the annual partnership-affirming dinner between the Fairfax County Board and the Fairfax City Board. We discussed common work, such as development and student membership changes that cross County and City lines, the new Superintendent search, and more. We were hosted by the culinary academy students at Chantilly High School, led by FCPS teacher Chef Doubleday. The food was superb and the service outstanding!

Student presenting at County/City dinner

CTEAC Updates


While there is no December CTEAC meeting, I hope you will view the following documents from the November meeting:


Also, in January, CTEAC members will be visiting schools to learn about current programs, see labs and classroom spaces, and talk to students, teachers, and administrators. 

Battery Powered Leaf Blower Pilot 

FCPS Facilities staff plans to begin a pilot of battery powered blower equipment to determine the cost and planning needed to transition away from gas-powered lawn equipment. The pilot will provide needed data to budget for division-wide transition.

Once the pilot equipment arrives, it will be distributed to 12 schools throughout the division. For the Hunter Mill District, Aldrin ES will be participating.

Recognizing our School Psychologists

I was pleased to join my colleagues in supporting a resolution to recognize the tremendous contributions of our school psychologists at our meeting on November 11. All children and youth can face problems from time to time-related to learning, social relationships, making difficult decisions, or managing emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, worried, or isolated. School psychologists help students, families, educators, and members of the community understand and resolve both long-term, chronic problems and short-term issues that students may face. They are a highly skilled and ready resource in the effort to ensure that all FCPS children and youth thrive in school, at home, and in life. The role school psychologists play in the lives of our students and school community is important now more than ever as children continue to recover and rebound from the academic, social, and emotional impacts of a global pandemic. I am grateful for the work of these educators and celebrate and thank them for their service. We thank our school psychologists for all they do! Read the resolution.

Read more about School Psychology services available to support the academic, social-emotional, and mental wellness of FCPS students

Upcoming Meetings and Topics to be Covered

SY 22-23 Calendar Development Update

The 2022-2023 school year calendar development is well underway. FCPS is working to build a calendar that is inclusive and equitable. The framework for creating the calendar can be found on the calendar webpage

Upcoming School Board work on the 2022-2023 calendar:

January 13 - Presented as new business with opportunity for public comment

January 18 - Discussion at Work Session

January 27 - Vote on final calendar with opportunity for public comment

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).

Regular Meetings and Work Sessions are live-streamed on the FCPS website and televised on FCPS Cable Channel 99. Meeting recordings can be found on FCPS YouTube. For more information about signing up to speak at a regular meeting, click here.

FCPS School Board Members

Hunter Mill Happenings

It has been a robust few weeks in the Hunter Mill District! 

I attended a "listening session" with students at Madison HS, where they raised topics about what it's like to be in the minority of religion, culture, and gender identity, and how this affects their academic success. The big take away for me is that bonds among teachers and students, and students to students, have a huge impact on how students show up for learning, and focus on learning. I can't underscore enough how much students talked about the human connections as vital to their success - more than grades or after-graduation success. Afterwards, I spoke with Principal Hood and my colleague Rachna Sizemore-Heizer, about how to prioritize this time for developing connections and respect, in a time where students are catching up from COVID-induced learning delays and the pressure of college preparation.

Regarding safe routes to schools, I've attended virtual and on-site meetings at Flint Hill, McNair, and Wolftrap with community members, FCPS staff, and county staff (including the Hunter Mill Supervisor's office, as well as Fairfax Police Department officials) to collaborate on solutions .

While the schools are doing their part to have policies and practices for safety, students, families, and residents must also do their part to cross at established intersections, park where allowed, and ultimately be patient during drop off and pick up times around our schools. Consider how you can allow more time for transit to decrease the related stress involved with these routes.

Therapy dog visits have begun at Aldrin ES! I have been communicating with a student who is working with staff on how to implement a similar program at Madison HS.

Congratulations to the Madison HS football team on a hard fought season! This past weekend they competed in the State Finals for the first time in Madison history! 

December collage

Facilities Improvements to Hunter Mill Schools 

Outdoor facilities improvements at four Hunter Mill FCPS schools were approved by the School Board at its December 2 public Regular Meeting. Contracts were awarded to install new playgrounds at Vienna ES and Floris ES, to replace the synthetic turf field at South Lakes High School, and a roof replacement at Westbriar ES. Not only students, but also residents of Fairfax County who use school grounds for recreation will benefit from these upgrades!

I have enjoyed engaging with community partners, as well as FCPS Facilities staff about ideas for incorporating nature into playgrounds, as well as continued developments to outdoor classrooms. 

Floris Team Wins First Lego League Regional Championship 

Floris Lego League Team

Congratulations to the Floris ES team on winning the First Lego League (FLL) Regional Championship! This is an amazing achievement for a rookie team, out of 210 competing teams in all of Virginia and DC the Floris team won the 1st place in Robot Performance and the 2nd place in the Overall Championship. These 5th graders scored the most points in the Robot Performance for any team including 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the State of Virginia and DC. The theme for the competition was Cargo Connect, where student teams were required to execute robot missions and create an innovation project around transportation. The team also won the Championship at the qualifiers before being invited to the state event at Harrisonburg, VA. The team members are (L to R) Ishaan Gulati, Abhinav Palaniappan, Aayush Mehrotra, Zach Paul, Heidi Koolmees, Isha Katti, Riya Boini and Adyan Khan.

Westfield Student Places at National Spelling Bee Semifinals

Akshita Balaji became the first Fairfax County student in more than a decade to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals. On December 7th, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized Akshita for her efforts.  

Tune in at minute 48 to watch Akshita receive this certificate during the December 7 Board of Supervisors meeting.

FCPS student Akshita Balaji at Scripps Spelling Bee

Bards Alley Virtual Book Fair 

Bards Alley Bookstore logo

Flint Hill Elementary School will receive 15% of all profits from the Bards Alley virtual book fair which will directly support their library renovation!

The fair began on December 1st, and will run through December 20th. 

Please click here for more information.

Hunter Mill Winter Coat Closet 

Check out the flyers below to get more information on how to get a coat or donate coats.

Winter Coat Closet- English Flyer

Winter Coat Closet- Spanish Flyer

Hunter Mill coat closet

South Lakes HS Food Pantry 

food cornucopia

Thursdays 4:30- 5:00 p.m.

Email Bethsy Vasquez for information:

**For SLHS pyramid families only

Other Information of Interest

Free 1st Stage Theatre Tickets for High School Students 

1st Stage Theatre

The Youth Engagement Subscription (YES Pass) is a free season subscription to 1st Stage’s 2021-2022 Season for all high school students who live in Fairfax County OR attend a Fairfax County High School. This offer also applies to the Fairfax County High School classes of 2019 and 2020. To sign up for a YES Pass, click SUBSCRIPTION.

What Is the Office of the Ombudsman?

Ombudsman Office staff

The FCPS Office of the Ombudsman provides an independent, confidential resource for students, families, community members, and employees who are seeking informal help to answer questions, resolve concerns, and voice complaints regarding FCPS matters. 

Examples of services the Office of the Ombudsman provides include:

  • Sharing strategies for parents to improve communication with, and between, school and home.
  • Helping to resolve disagreements between parents and schools or disagreements involving employees in the workplace.
  • Providing ideas to foster parent participation in Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman does not:

  • Change or make decisions, policies, or regulations.
  • Take sides.
  • Provide legal advice.

Contact the Office of the Ombudsman by using the "Submit a Question" button at the top of the Office of the Ombudsman webpage, by calling 571-423-4014, or emailing

Firearm Safety for Families

December 14 marked 9 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Please consider the following actions that you can take to honor the individuals murdered at Sandy Hook and to prevent gun violence in Fairfax:

• Safely secure any weapons you have

• Have age specific conversations with children about violence in schools and society

• Seek assistance to ensure that family members or friends who are experiencing a mental health crisis do not have access to firearms

• Report lost or stolen weapons immediately (

Additionally, the School Board is scheduled to hold a Forum on January 11 at 10am on the topic of preventing gun violence.

Firearm safety for families

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


Was this email not addressed to you? Sign up for my newsletters here!

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