FCPS This Week: Mental Health Teletherapy, Collective Bargaining Resolution

Teacher with students using hand puppets

While their parents participate in a Family Literacy English class, preschoolers learn by playing with puppets.

No-Cost Mental Health Teletherapy for Students

Student with laptop

FCPS has partnered with Hazel Health to begin offering virtual mental health services to high school students via live video sessions. Starting Monday, April 10, parents/caregivers who have been struggling to find a therapist for their child or who notice changes in their child’s behavior will be able to connect them virtually with a licensed therapist. 

Teletherapy services for students are short-term, evidence-based, and culturally-responsive. 

Teletherapy is available on any device, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Therapists will be locally-licensed clinicians; 50% of whom identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC); and 40% of whom are bilingual. More than 15 languages are available.

Hazel Health’s licensed therapists can help students who are experiencing:

  • Mood/behavior changes, lack of motivation, grief/loss.
  • Anxiety, worry, fears.
  • Bullying, sexual identity challenges, challenging peer and family relationships.
  • Academic stress.

The first step for parents is to provide information through an opt-in form. Visit FCPS’ Teletherapy webpage for details.

Students Grow “Up” with Vertical Farms

Student with lettuce

Tucked behind Luther Jackson Middle School is a small ordinary-looking shed, but step inside and you’ll see a futuristic farming operation run by engineering students. 

Plastic towers are bursting with green spinach and lettuce leaves that will soon be donated to the school’s food pantry. Next to the tower sits a large circular water tank that will house about 50 tilapia fish. The complex ecosystem, known as hydroponics, will allow the fish waste to nourish the plants as the plants filter the fish’s water. 

The project has been in the works for two years and is now coming to life. Read about vertical farming at Jackson Middle School.

Understanding Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) Reports

Grade 3-8 students across Virginia took VGA tests in fall and winter of 2022-23. FCPS mailed score reports to families earlier this month that combine Fall and Winter results. When viewing students’ scores, it is important to keep in mind that there is no “passing” or “failing” for VGA tests and that each vertical scaled score reflects performance on a single day. VGA results should be used alongside other available data for a more complete picture of students’ academic progress. Also keep in mind that the VGA asks questions from the entire curriculum, including some standards that will not be taught until later in the school year.  

The FCPS VGA Score Reports webpage now includes a section on Understanding VGA Results, featuring Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). This section will continue to be updated throughout the spring to address incoming questions and to reflect additional state guidance as it is released. 

Celebrating Music and Art Heroes in Our Schools

Youtube video

This month, we celebrate art and music programs in our schools—and the FCPS heroes who help our students learn and appreciate all forms of art. James Monroe and Nicole Anderson-Morgan, who teach general music and chorus at Mason Crest Elementary School, are a dynamic team. They have worked to build a strong, cohesive music curriculum for all students at Mason Crest. They have created an environment where students feel supported and are not afraid to make mistakes because, as one student stated, "mistakes grow our brains."

The Council for Art Education has designated March as National Youth Art Month, encouraging support for quality school art programs and promoting art material safety. March has also been designated by the National Association for Music Education as Music in Our Schools Month®.

Community Meeting on the Dangers of Fentanyl

Opioid graphic

Monday evening, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid and Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis hosted nearly 400 families, staff, and community members for a conversation on the dangers of fentanyl. During this impactful event, audience members heard testimonials from individuals affected by the opioid epidemic and learned facts from medical experts and law enforcement representatives.  

The conversation will continue on Monday, April 24, with our next community meeting on the critical topic of fentanyl danger and opioid awareness. More information is coming soon. Visit our Opioid Awareness webpage for updates as they become available. 

Visit the Fairfax County Government webpage on opioids for information on how you can take action and how to get help for yourself or loved ones.

Difficult Conversations About Drugs and Suicide Prevention

FCPS’ Parent Resource Center (PRC) is dedicated to helping adults support the success of all students. The PRC will present the following webinars:

  • Preparing Families for Difficult Conversations About Alcohol and Drugs: Tuesday, March 21, at 10 a.m. 
    This webinar will give parents tools to engage in meaningful conversations with their children about alcohol and drugs. Parents will learn basic information about alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and opioids; what can be done as a caregiver; and how to identify and connect with community resources.

Click on the titles above to register.

FCPS CARES Recipient Is a Lifesaving Asset

CARES recipient

Melvin Marroquin-Andaluz, a custodian at Oakton Elementary School and FCPS CARES recipient in December 2022, is “a wonderful asset to our Oakton community,” said his nominator Counselor Kim Theberge. 

Although his usual demeanor is kind, thoughtful, and positive, an unusual event inspired Kim to nominate Melvin. One day during lunch duty (which he volunteers for), Melvin noticed a student choking and quickly performed life saving techniques. Kim adds, “Afterwards, he was very humble and said he was happy to help.” 

Thank you, Melvin, and to all the December FCPS CARES recipients! Also recognized that month were:

  • Lisa Alonso-Sibenik, Willow Oaks; and Erin Whatley, Joe Berret, Lisa Forrest, and Mark Holbrook, Gatehouse Administration Center.
  • Gregory Webdale, Marshall High School.
  • Rosa Dobarco, Fort Hunt Elementary School.
  • Traci Power, Nancy Sawicki, and Laura Conover, Kings Park Elementary School.
  • Michael Ferraris, Woodson High School.

FCPS CARES is an opportunity for parents/caregivers, staff, and community members to recognize employees for going above and beyond to help others and show they care. Read more about all of the recipients. Learn how you can acknowledge an FCPS employee.

School Board Approves Collective Bargaining Resolution

At their March 9 meeting, the Fairfax County School Board voted to approve the FCPS Collective Bargaining Resolution. Collective bargaining is a process by which an employer (such as FCPS) negotiates with a group of employees (a bargaining unit) that is represented by a bargaining agent (such as a union or association) over terms and conditions of employment. Visit the Collective Bargaining webpage to learn more.

Academic Matters: Work-Based Learning Experiences

Superintendent Reid shared information on work-based learning experiences for students that help develop career readiness at the March 9 School Board Meeting.

Proposed Updates to Student Rights and Responsibilities

The Department of Special Services will be hosting two virtual meetings for the FCPS community regarding proposed updates to the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) Regulation. Please join one of the meetings below via Zoom (click the date to register):

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the suggested updates and ask questions via Zoom Chat. Language interpretation will be available in Spanish. A certified deaf interpreter will be available as well. 

Beginning Monday, March 20, families and staff will also be able to provide feedback on proposed updates to the SR&R via a short survey. Please stay tuned for details. Visit FCPS’ website for more information.  

High School Assessment and Grading Survey

Instructional Services is conducting a survey to gather perceptions and preferences around assessments and grading elements. High school students, their families, and high school-based staff will be surveyed. Students and their families will be asked about their current classes and how they feel about assessment, grading, and grading practices and policies. 

The survey results will be used along with information from student focus groups, research, best practices, and benchmarking to propose recommendations to the School Board later this spring. Surveys will be sent Monday, March 20, and individuals will have until Friday, March 31, to respond. For more information, contact Michael Gillespie in Instructional Services.

Virtual Strategic Planning Community Forums Coming Soon

Students in front of mural

We invite parents/caregivers, staff, students, and community members to join us for a virtual community forum to discuss the first draft of proposed goals for the new Strategic Plan. Forums are scheduled for Monday, April 10, at noon; Tuesday, April 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (in Spanish); and Monday, April 17, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Registration links will be available soon.

Strategic Planning Survey Closes March 20

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to share your perspectives on the current draft of work-to-date related to the development of FCPS’ new Strategic Plan. Your input is important to this work and will help ensure a thriving future for each and every FCPS student.

Parents and caregivers of current FCPS students, please check your email for a message from FCPS dated Tuesday, March 14. For Community members who do not currently have a student enrolled in FCPS, please use this link to participate. 

All responses are anonymous. Visit our Strategic Planning webpage for more details.

Special Education First Class Award Nominations

First-Class Awards are presented each year at the Special Education Conference to individuals who support, design, and/or implement inclusion activities that result in positive outcomes for students. The Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities is seeking nominations for these awards, which recognize and celebrate the inclusion efforts of educators, administrators, and students in all facets of education. 

Please complete this form to nominate an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to inclusive practices in FCPS. Nominations will close Friday, April 14. Email SpecialEdConf@fcps.edu with questions. Award winners will be recognized virtually at the Special Education Conference on Saturday, April 29

School Board Student Representative Applications Due

Each year, FCPS students have the opportunity to 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 FCPS students’ interests. The Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council delegates will vote to elect the representative to the School Board in April.

Eligible students should currently be in grades 9, 10, and 11; a resident of Fairfax County or Fairfax City; and an FCPS student. Students are required to provide a written application by Friday, March 17, and a 30-second candidate statement via Flip video, which is due Friday, March 31.

Inspired by “Ah-Ha!” Moments

Teacher with students

Mary Fernandez, a kindergarten teacher at Fox Mill Elementary School, did not always think about becoming a teacher. But, she knew she wanted to help children. After working at a private school, her “spark” for education was lit. 

Mary decided to return to school to obtain her masters in education with a focus on early childhood, “because it is amazing to watch my students have those 'ah-ha! moments' and build their skills throughout the year," she says. 

Thinking about a career change? Consider becoming a teacher!

Site-Based Substitutes Needed

FCPS is looking for talented individuals with strong academic backgrounds to become site-based substitutes. These substitutes will work primarily at one specific school and report to that school daily. Starting pay is $24.86, and health insurance benefits are available. 

To learn more about the position and which schools have vacancies, visit the Site-Based Substitute webpage.

Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow!

Students at graduation in cap and gown

This year, spring break is April 3-7. We will be eager to welcome your children back in school on Monday, April 10. Their attendance is very important. Every day, our teachers will be teaching, and students will be learning. Studies have shown that just two absences per month can cause students to fall behind. Let’s finish this school year strong. Visit our website for more attendance resources.

Calendar Reminder: Ramadan

Ramadan graphic

This year, the first day of Ramadan is Wednesday, March 22. Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year, a time for spiritual discipline for Muslims, who believe it was during this month that God revealed the first verses of the Quran to Mohammed. Read more about Ramadan in National Geographic Kids. 

Ramadan begins with a half “O Day” on March 22, followed by an O Day on March 23. The school calendar recognizes many religious and cultural observances (O days) during the school year. There is school on these days, however, the School Board has directed that tests, quizzes, field trips, graduation, homecoming, or FCPS-scheduled athletic events will not be held on these observance days. Half O days are full school days, but important events will not be held after school on those days. See the complete 2022-23 School Year Calendar.

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