Outdoor Classrooms Are Coming!

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ይህንን ዜና መፅሄት በሌሎች ቋንቋዎች ለማንበብ፤ እባክዎን ድረ ገፃችንን ይጎብኙ

이 소식지를 다른 언어로 읽으려면, 우리 웹사이트를 방문하시기 바랍니다.

.يرجى زيارة موقعنا الألكتروني لقراءة هذه النشرة الإخبارية بلغات أخرى

Hello Community Members!

Outdoor Classrooms Installed This Summer!

Melanie Meren with student at Floris Elementary

I'm truly thrilled to announce that after years of my advocacy, collaborating alongside School Board colleagues, staff, friends, and community members, the design and permitting is underway for 35 outdoor classrooms!! Please see the list below. This includes all middle and high schools that currently do not have an outdoor classroom, and are not in the renovation queue. The Office of Design and Construction plans to install as many of these sites as possible this summer!

The Educational Specifications ("Ed Specs") define the materials and layout for outdoor classrooms and were developed by a collaboration of the FCPS Get2Green team, Instructional Services Department, and the Office of Design and Construction. If a school is newly constructed or being renovated, it will include an outdoor classroom consisting of items such as outdoor seating, pavers, a rain barrel, an accessible garden bed, a hose bib, an electrical outlet, and storage.  If a school is not in the current Capital Improvement Program renovation queue, a separate program is planning the installation of outdoor classrooms.

2023 Outdoor Classroom Installation Locations:


Middle School

High School










Hayfield Sec




Lake Braddock Sec

Katherine Johnson   









Mount Vernon 

South County

Robinson Sec


South County 


South Lakes 




West Springfield 




Additional schools scheduled for outdoor classroom installation that were recently renovated or had additions constructed via the school bond funded program before the approved educational specification include the following:  Fox Mill ES, Herndon HS, Hughes MS, Hybla Valley ES, Madison HS, Oakton HS, Washington Mill ES, West Potomac HS.

Supporting Students in Crisis and Recovery 

The School Board approved a proposal to conduct a comprehensive review of Fairfax County Public Schools regulations, policies, disciplinary practices, and curriculum to ensure the school system is adequately addressing the threat of illicit drug use and fentanyl, and meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of students in recovery from substance use disorder.

In addition to this review, the Board is asking the Superintendent to consider the merits of various potential initiatives, including providing students and staff with access to fentanyl testing strips, placing naloxone in all classrooms with appropriately trained classroom-based staff, offering naloxone training to high school students, creating a recovery high school program, working with local partners to increase treatment options for minors, and helping families learn how to support their students in recovery.

Academic Matters: Student Testing

Student with underwater robot

During the Academic Matters portion of the May 11 School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid reported on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), PSAT, and SAT testing. 

Students who enroll in AP and IB courses are more likely to graduate high school on time, enroll in college at higher rates, and save time and money while in college. Dr. Reid shared some of the data around the number of students participating in these offerings in FCPS. AP exam mean scores have increased since 2021, as have passing rates and the number of students taking the exams. The number of participants in IB exams have also increased since 2021. 

FCPS invests in these opportunities to allow students to experience rigorous, college level exams. The first six AP and IB exams are funded for any student enrolled in an AP/IB course. Watch the presentation or view the presentation slides.

Enhancing Planning Time for Elementary School Teachers

Since arriving on the Board in 2020, I’ve been aware of the pressing need our elementary teachers have for more planning time. Unlike their colleagues in secondary (middle and high) schools, their time is much more limited to conduct what is essential time to plan class lessons, plan for specific learners’ needs, meet with colleagues to collaborate on instructional experiences, and more. 

FCPS has established several working groups to gather input and suggestions on how teacher-directed planning time can be enhanced and protected at the elementary school level without impacting the school division’s budget. Elementary teachers and principals are providing input. There were three Virtual Feedback Forums for elementary teachers and specialists on Monday, May 15. 

The goal is to ensure teachers have sufficient time to develop intentional, targeted instruction to meet the needs of our diverse learners. They need that time to thoughtfully plan without feeling stressed or overwhelmed. When our teachers thrive, our students do, too.

Planning time may include grading student work, analyzing data from assessments, planning and organizing lessons and activities, communicating with families, and other tasks. This time is precious for teachers; it helps ensure they are fully prepared to maximize student learning. 

Currently, FCPS provides guidance that includes 240 minutes of teacher-directed planning time per week or 480 minutes over a two-week period. View FCPS Regulation 4422 to learn more about FCPS’ current guidance for teacher planning time. 

School Board Seeks Audit Committee Applicants

FCPS invites applications from community members interested in serving on the School Board Audit Committee. Applicants must reside within the boundaries of Fairfax County or Fairfax City.  The Board will be appointing two committee members for a term ending June 30, 2025.

Applicants cannot be a current FCPS employee and must be able to understand general government processes as well as technical and complex financial reporting issues. Applicants should be knowledgeable about internal controls, financial statement audits, management and operational audits, and risk. The deadline to submit an application has been extended to Friday, May 26, 2023.  Get more information about the Office of the Auditor General and submit an application here.

Upcoming School Board Meetings 

  • Tuesday, May 23, 5pm: Work Session
    • PreK and Early Head Start Parent Policy Committee
    • Student Rights and Responsibilities
  • Thursday, May 25, 7pm: Regular Meeting
    • Strategic Plan Presentation
    • Action Scheduled for FY24 Approved Budget 
    • Office of the Auditor General Risk Assessment and Audit Plan 
  • Wednesday, May 31, 4:30pm: Committee Reports 
    • Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC)
    • Foundation for Applied Technical Education (FATE)
    • Facilities Planning Advisory Council (FPAC)

Please note, times and topics are subject to change. 

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.

QR code for School Board meetings in Spanish  

For Spanish speakers -- to watch recorded School Board meetings or live Regular Meetings on YouTube, you can visit the FCPS en Espanol YouTube channel or scan the QR code.

School Board dais photo

Hunter Mill Happenings 

Fox Mill Holds Annual Matsuri Festival

The Matsuri festival is an annual celebration for the Fox Mill Elementary School community, to share the school’s Japanese language and culture immersion program. It was held at Rachel Carson Middle School due to the almost-complete renovations to FMES.

What an event, featuring Japanese language, art, folk traditions, literature, food, games, clothing, and music! I met FCPS graduates who had returned to volunteer at the event, community members, and the FMES parent who owns a restaurant and provided amazing food for purchase. It was such a pleasant and welcoming evening. Our South Lakes HS student company, Ink Children's Books, was there, and student Mia read the latest publication, featuring a piece of sushi that has a bit of a confidence crisis. 

My two student escorts walked me around, and we talked about what it’s like to learn a second language, going abroad to another country, Japanese literature, and being with friends while learning a new language. The kids know!

All students deserve and need access to world language instruction. This is something I’ve advocated be in the budget and the strategic plan. I do expect that more will be done to create such access in all our schools in the near future.

Matsuri Festival at Fox Mill photo collage


South Lakes Plant Sale Uses Grant for Hydroponic Growth

South Lakes HS Plant Sale

South Lakes High School held their first annual plant sale courtesy of Educate Fairfax! SLHS students used a hydroponic unit purchased through an Educate Fairfax grant for a student run business. First yield was for a Mother’s Day plant sale!

Upcoming Events in Hunter Mill 

Community Meeting on Reston Comprehensive Plan: June 6

Prior to the formal public hearing before the Planning Commission this summer, Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter is hosting a community meeting for input on draft updates to the Reston Comprehensive Plan, June 6, 6:30 p.m., South Lakes High School Lecture Hall, 11400 South Lakes Dr., Reston. There will be a presentation followed by a discussion. Staff from the Department of Planning and Development will also be on hand to provide information. For more information or questions, contact Shruti Nallappa at Shruti.Nallappa@fairfaxcounty.gov. More information on the Reston Comprehensive Plan.

Other Information of Interest 

Remind Teens to Practice Safe Driving 

Image of car accident

It’s a very exciting time of year for many teens: longer days, nice weather, and end of year/graduation activities. 

Please remind teen drivers of the responsibilities that come with driving. According to this video from the Fairfax County Police Department, there were 622 crashes involving teen drivers last year in Fairfax County. Common mistakes among those drivers include failure to maintain proper control (distracted driver/texting and/or speeding), not having the right of way, and following too close (tailgating). 

Consider watching the video with your child as a way of showing the real consequences of unsafe driving. FCPD shared footage of a recent incident where speeding led to a serious (but non-fatal) accident. In a news release, the FCPD stated, “Parents and guardians should consider using this video as an opportunity to have a conversation with their teen drivers about how their driving behavior can affect the lives of others.”

How to Access No-Cost Teletherapy for High School Students

FCPS has partnered with Hazel Health to offer teletherapy to high school students at no cost. Hazel’s therapists can help students address:

  • Mood/behavior changes, motivation, grief/loss.
  • Anxiety, worry, fears.
  • Social skills, bullying, peer and family relationships.
  • Academic stress.

In order for high schoolers to participate in teletherapy services, caregivers must complete three steps:

  1. Give permission for FCPS to share basic demographic information with Hazel in ParentVUE
  2. Consent for Hazel Mental Health services
  3. Students must be referred to therapy by a guardian or designated school staff member. You may refer your child by calling 571-749-2940 or by contacting an FCPS school counselor, social worker, psychologist, or director of Student Services.

Visit the FCPS Teletherapy webpage for more information.

Making the Transition to Middle or High School 

school lockers and students

Making the move from elementary school to middle school can be an exciting and unsettling time for a parent and child. Listen to a recent episode of the FCPS multilingual podcast, En Pocas Palabras, to learn ways to ease the transition including:

  • Understanding the developmental changes in your child.
  • Getting to know middle school culture.
  • Encouraging independence, but remaining available.
  • Offering emotional support to your child.
  • Reiterating your family values and expectations.
  • Staying involved in your child’s school.

The most recent episode covers the transition to high school. When teenagers move from middle school to high school, a world of opportunities opens up. High school offers new courses, friends, activities, and responsibilities. Hear about these new opportunities in your teenager’s life and how parents can be supportive in the transition.

En Pocas Palabras is available in Arabic, English, Korean, and Spanish. Listen and subscribe.

Tutoring Grants Available for Families

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is accepting applications from parents for tutoring microgrants for their children through the K-12 Learning Acceleration Grants program. 

The program was created to help Virginia families address the pandemic's impact on student learning. It provides $1,500 grants to parents of school-age children for tutoring in specific subjects. Children from homes with family incomes at 300% or less of the federal poverty level may qualify for $3,000 grants. 

Available services include in-person, online, and hybrid tutoring provided one-on-one or in small group or large group settings. The first step in the process is to visit VDOE’s K-12 Learning Acceleration Grants page and create an application account.

Job Opportunities

Explore opportunities for:

Visit Current Job Openings for all posted positions.

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


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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.

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