New Literacy Materials for all K-6 grades! Advertised Budget Adopted; Students in Academics, Art, & Athletics; Opportunities for Input; Explore Summer Offerings, and More!

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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

Dear Community Members,

Big, big work is happening in our school division!

First, I was ecstatic to vote to adopt the Elementary Language Arts Basal Instructional Resources for grades K-6 at the March 7 Regular School Board meeting! These materials will begin to be used in the next school year – beginning Fall 2024.

The term “basal materials” simply means the “foundational materials” that are used. It’s the materials that all K-6 grades will be using, consistently.

When FCPS adopts new instructional materials - adopted by Board vote, and then later the Board approving a contract being awarded to purchase the materials – it is the culmination of a transparent process that includes much input and careful consideration from a range of stakeholders – including our educators, school-based administrators, and community members.

I have closely followed and engaged in this process, because early literacy and mastery of literacy is a core interest of mine – going back to when I began my career in 2002 at the US Department of Education working on this exact topic!

Please know that adoption of this new literacy program, called “Benchmark Advanced“ is of huge significance! This program does several things:

  • Ensures that all students in K through 6 are instructed via the “science of reading” approach, which is proven to be the strongest approach to ensure literacy mastery. When students are literate by the end of second grade, research shows they are poised for their achievement. For readers who struggle, or who have a learning disability (like dyslexia, such as 20% of the population in America), science of reading strategies help identify such struggles earlier in life, and get students the additional support they need – before students experience frustrations that can further derail their learning beyond just literacy. For students in third grade and beyond, additional strategies are used to help students master literacy.
  • Aligns literacy instruction across the entire school division, for teaching strategies and thematic content. Now, all elementary grades will be receiving this best-practice instruction, with thematic content that aligns with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs). Education is “an art and a science” – I’ve heard from educators who relish the ability to create their lessons and experiences for students (the “art”); yet, I’ve also heard from educators that they’d like more of a play-book that helps them direct instruction while still leaving room for creativity in other ways (the “science”). These basal resources meet our educators’ needs and provide equity in that the best strategies with knowledge-building content is offered to every student, K through 6th grade!
  • The content is designed to build knowledge, vocabulary, and perspectives via thematic units across grade bands. The themes of the basal are organized into units, where each grade band is learning about a theme concurrently, with rising complexity in each grade level (see image below). For instance, Unit 1 is about Life Sciences for all of K-6; however, each grade level has a guiding question with content of appropriate complexity and breadth for that grade: Kindergarteners explore why living things have different needs; third graders explore how living things survive in an environment; and fifth graders explore how decisions are made about which resources to develop. So, if you have K-6 students in your family, you can talk to all of them about a topic, at the same time! Other themes include History, Culture, and Geography; Perspectives in Literature; Government and Citizenship; Technology and Society – and more! E-readers and hard-copy books and materials are included for every unit, for every student. 
  • Meets the requirements of the Virginia Literacy Act. Virginia adopted its statewide Literacy Act in 2022, and FCPS is further meeting the law with this adoption. FCPS is already planning on the professional development that educators will need to successfully deploy this new resource for the upcoming school year - and for years to come. FCPS is eagerly awaiting promised information from the state about the screening tools to use so educators can differentiate instruction for learners’ needs – and not only in K-6, but also into middle school, per the state’s directive.
  • Adjustments can be made to best instruct our Students with Disabilities and our English Language Learners. The basal includes approaches and supplemental materials so that educators can meet learners’ needs. Additional supports through complementary strategies and programs are also being used, as appropriate.

I hope you can see what a substantial investment of time, energy, and funding it requires to fully embrace this new basal resource. (The Board has already approved and set aside funding in prior years to plan for this forth-coming investment.) I continue advocating that the Superintendent provide time for educators to learn and master this resource. This is an exciting and overwhelming time as we adopt this approach. Let’s support our educators and students in this work! Family resources are part of the basal materials, so you should be receiving information about what students are learning and how you can support them.

Building Knowledge Matters - Essential Questions


In this newsletter,

Recent Work

Fiscal Year 2025 Advertised Budget Adopted 

The School Board voted to adopt the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 Advertised Budget during the February 22 Regular Meeting. 

The Advertised Budget prioritizes the school division’s most urgent needs, including providing employees with competitive compensation, so that each and every student has access to the world-class education they deserve.

The budget is closely aligned with FCPS’ 2023-30 Strategic Plan, which seeks a strong academic start for our youngest students and prepares our graduates for a thriving future. Nearly 86% of the budget is focused on instruction.

The School Board will vote on the FY 2025 Approved Budget in May. 

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors are hosting a series of FY 2025 Budget Town Hall Meetings in each district. I will be participating in two upcoming Hunter Mill meetings with Supervisor Walter Alcorn on March 20 and March 25. More information on those can be found below!

FCPS 2025 Budget


Exploring Middle School Start Times 

Middle School Start Times presentation slide

In September 2023, FCPS awarded a contract to Prismatic Services, Inc., to develop a plan for changing middle school start times. Recommendations will be brought to the School Board in January of 2025, with potential implementation happening as early as fall of 2025.

At the February 22, 2024, School Board meeting, Prismatic presented an analysis of middle school start times including background information and community engagement plans. View the presentation slides here. Slides 10-11 provide a brief history of school start times in FCPS, including past changes made.

The process will include many opportunities to provide community input prior to the Board’s vote. I welcome you sharing your input with me via my webpage.

New Regulation on Meditation and Reflection Spaces

FCPS has created a regulation to ensure all students and staff have reasonable accommodation and access to meditation and silent reflection spaces within the school division. Regulation 1502: Expectations for Meditation and Silent Reflection Space Accommodations provides guidance for schools on how to manage requests for silent reflection during instructional and non-instructional time and for students to leave school for religious activities.

These spaces are designated areas within a school or on school premises for individuals to engage in prayer, meditation, or silent reflection, inclusive of their religious or non-religious beliefs. Parents/caregivers must provide written permission for students requesting to miss instructional time on a regular basis.

Academic Matters

Building a Foundation for Future Careers 

In the Academic Matters segment of the February 22 School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid addressed how STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) and computer science are building the foundation for students’ future careers. Access to STEAM and computer science is part of Goal 4 in the 2023-30 Strategic Plan. View the presentation slides or watch the presentation.

Early Childhood Access to STEAM powerpoint slide

March Is...

Read Across America Week

Read Across America Week was celebrated at many schools.

I was delighted to join students to read about a tree frog at Aldrin Elementary School - especially since it was Leap Day, too! School staff also invited and hosted many community and FCPS leaders - a testament to including the community in students’ learning.

Armstrong Elementary School held an African America Read-In. Grade levels visited the library at scheduled times to hear invited guests read to them from books written by African American authors and/or illustrated by African American illustrators.

Collage of Read Across America celebrations


National School Social Work Week

FCPS social worker

March 3-9 is National School Social Work Week. Social workers in FCPS help to prevent social, emotional, and behavioral factors from affecting a student's ability to perform at their best. Their primary goal is to remove barriers that prevent a student from fulfilling their academic potential. 

Social workers are assigned to every school and center in the division. Most social workers serve one or two sites. Learn more about the role of social workers in FCPS.

National Women's History Month 

Women's History Month graphic

Every year, March is designated as Women’s History Month by presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions to American history. Read more about Women’s History Month in National Geographic Kids.

Check out Women's History Month | Park Authority for community events hosted throughout the County and to read about some of the women who have made history right here in Fairfax County. You can also visit Celebrating Women's History | Fairfax County,to find ways to celebrate all throughout our region. 


This year, the first full day of Ramadan is Monday, March 11. In Islam, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset each day while striving to increase their spirituality, through prayers, charity, and good deeds. Read more about Ramadan in National Geographic Kids.

March 11 is a religious and cultural observance day. The school calendar recognizes many religious and cultural observances during the school year. There is school on observance days, however, tests, quizzes, field trips, graduation, homecoming, or FCPS-scheduled athletic events will not be scheduled. See the school year calendar.

Ramadan Mubarak for all those observing!

Ramadan graphic

Upcoming School Board Meetings 

  • Tuesday, March 19, 10:30am: Work Session
    • Student Rights and Responsibilities
    • Strategic Plan Goal 5 Baseline Report 
  • Thursday, March 21, 7pm: Regular Meeting
    • Fiscal Year 2024 Third Quarter Budget Review
    • ERFC Plan Changes
  • Tuesday, April 2, 10:30am: Work Session
    • Strategic Plan Goal 2 Baseline Report
    • Student Rights & Responsibilities
  • Thursday, April 11, 7pm: Regular Meeting 
    • Strategic Plan Goal 5 Baseline Report 

Accessing Board Meetings 

The work sessions and regular meetings will be broadcast live on Channel 99 (Verizon channel 11) and the FCPS website. Both will be recorded for future viewing and posted to the FCPS School Board YouTube channel.

Visit the community participation webpage to sign up to speak at a regular meeting. Visit BoardDocs for more meeting logistics, agendas, and handouts.

Interested in School Board action items? Sign up to get an update on School Board votes the morning after the School Board meeting.

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

  QR code for spanish speakers
Fairfax County School Board

Hunter Mill Happenings

Recognizing Student Artwork

I recently attended the FCPS Regional Scholastic Art Awards held at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale Campus. Students’ work was on display, and an awards event featured the students themselves. The competition is for secondary school students (basically middle and high school grades), and open to students in public and private schools. FCPS students had an overwhelming presence. Students whose work is identified in this event can go forward to the national level Scholastic awards. One such South Lakes High School student is included in this category! Hark! My Letter of Resignation, a piece by Rhiannon Stevens, was nominated for the best-in-show American Visions Award!

Seeing the world through students’ eyes is humbling and important. There is truth, fear, humor, love, and more expressed in their art.

Their work is publicly displayed for a bit longer on the campus. Several community partners were present, including generous scholarships being awarded by the Vienna Arts Society, League of Reston Artists, Ju Ju Art Gallery, ArtsFairfax, and Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild. Thank you for supporting students and youth artists!

Closer by in Hunter Mill district, the South Lakes pyramid is hosting two exhibits of student art, one for elementary students’ art and another for secondary students. I’ll be at both of the open house events coming up - the public is welcome! The art will remain on exhibit for a few weeks.

Collage from Regional Scholastic Art Show


South Lakes Basketball Advances to State Finals 

The South Lakes High School Boys Basketball team is heading on to the VHSL State Finals at VCU, Saturday, March 9!

No matter the outcome of the game, the journey has already left a lasting impact on the school and community, embodying the essence of high school sports – teamwork, resilience, and community spirit.

South Lakes boys basketball team


Hunter Mill Student Named Coca-Cola Scholar

Brian Z., a Hunter Mill student attending Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, was selected to be a member of the 36th class of Coca-Cola Scholars! These scholars are a group of 150 high school seniors that will each receive a $20,000 college scholarship and join a family of 6,900+ alumni who are leading positive change in their communities and around the world. Less than 1/6th of 1% of applicants were chosen to receive this extremely competitive award!

Coca-Cola Scholars will attend Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend in Atlanta, April 25-28, where they will be the guests of honor at the 36th annual Coca-Cola Scholars Banquet and participate in the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Development Institute facilitated by program alumni. Collectively, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation will award $3.1 million in college scholarships to these outstanding young leaders. 

2024 Coke Scholars


VA Middle School All-State Honors Choir

Out of 1100 auditioners from around the Commonwealth of Virginia, 7 talented singers from Thoreau Middle School will be heading to Richmond for the Middle School All-State Honors Choir in April! Congrats to Prisha C, Cora H, Allison K, Gabriella M, Hunter N, Amelia N, and Piper S for their acceptance into this prestigious honors choir!


Leaping into Fun at Wolftrap 

Leap Day at Wolftrap ES

Students at Wolftrap Elementary School showcased their resourcefulness on Leap Day by successfully corralling a horde of "frogs" that had unexpectedly taken over the premises. A special thanks goes to the dedicated PTA for injecting a whimsical touch into the school atmosphere with this amphibious adventure.


Hunter Mill District Budget Town Hall Meetings 

I am looking forward to participating in two upcoming budget town hall meetings for the Hunter Mill District with Supervisor Alcorn:

  • March 20, 7pm, in-person at Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Ave. East, Vienna.
  • March 25, 7pm, virtual. View more information and how to participate, here.

Outstanding Hunter Mill Staff

Heather Walters

Dogwood Elementary School teacher and military Veteran, Heather Walters, was honored for going the extra mile for students. Ms. Walters received the Extra Yard for Teachers Grant from the Military Bowl Foundation and Wegman's. That’s $1,000 to use in the classroom!

Thank you for your service to the nation and our students!

Madison High School celebrated Ginny Keel and Miguel Fernandez who received an FCPS Cares award for their collaboration in leading students to explore ancient governments compared to depictions of dystopian life in modern literature!

Madison HS warhawks mascot graphic
Teacher Zach Firestine

Thoreau Middle School's Zach Firestine was selected as the Madison Pyramid Outstanding New Secondary Teacher! 

Herndon Middle School celebrated two staff members - Elizabeth Novelo was awarded the Herndon Pyramid's recognition for Outstanding Operational Employee and Emily Ready was awarded the Pyramid's Outstanding New Secondary Teacher!

Herndon MS Outstanding Employees
Hunters Woods Assistant Principal Buck Condill

Hunters Woods Elementary School celebrated Assistant Principal, Charles "Buck" Condill, who was named the South Lakes Pyramid Outstanding Leader!

Additional Information of Interest 

Family Engagement Survey Now Open

Family engagement surveys have been emailed - you have a unique link! You can complete one for each student of yours (anonymously, of course) with that unique link.

Taking this survey will help strengthen the partnership between your family and your child's school. When that partnership is strong, students can experience a range of benefits including improved school readiness, higher student achievement, and better social skills and behavior.

The survey is available in 10 languages. Parents/caregivers may stop by a school to fill out a paper survey or for support with completing the survey online. Please check your email for the survey invitation or access the survey link on the Family Engagement Survey webpage.

family engagement graphic


Share Your Thoughts on Schoology

FCPS will be conducting voluntary, anonymous surveys on the use of Schoology from Monday, March 11, to Friday, March 22. Surveys will be delivered to:

  • Elementary students (grades 3-6) through the Schoology App Center.
  • Secondary students via email from Naviance.

Student feedback will inform the school division’s use of Schoology and help improve its processes, communication, and professional learning for staff. FCPS’ Instructional Services Department will also be reaching out to families through focus groups. 

Please contact if you have questions.

Become Next Year's School Board Student Representative

Student Representative Video

Each year FCPS students have the opportunity to apply for the position of student representative to the School Board. The student representative is not a member of the School Board but serves in a nonvoting, advisory capacity by representing the interests of the students of FCPS. 

For more information on this role, please see FCPS Policy 1802. Visit the application webpage for details on eligibility, the application, and deadlines.

Rida Karim, the current student representative to the School Board, describes the demands, expectations, and rewards of the position in this short video.

Empowering Students Through Middle School Sports

FCPS video about middle school sports

Witness the transformative power of middle school sports, as FCPS students share their experience with participating in school athletics for the first time. Watch this video to discover how these no-cost programs provide an important pathway for students of all backgrounds to explore their athletic passions. Access to and participation in extracurricular activities are part of Goal 2 and Goal 4 in FCPS’ 2023-30 Strategic Plan.

Help Minimize the Impact of Fentanyl and Other Drugs

A community conversation addressing the opioid crisis within Northern Virginia and Fairfax County public schools will be held Monday, March 18, 6:30-8 p.m., in the auditorium at Lake Braddock Secondary School. 

All attendees will receive free REVIVE! Narcan training and learn about support services available within FCPS and Fairfax County.   

The material discussed is suitable for students in grades 6 to 12. Language interpretation services are available as well as American Sign Language accommodation. Childcare and transportation will also be provided, as needed. Learn more about the event and register online.

Regional Science and Engineering Fair

FCPS science fair bee graphic

Members of the general public are invited to attend the Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair open house at Robinson Secondary School on Sunday, March 17, 1-3pm.


Menstrual Supplies Drive Through March 29

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman and District offices are collecting menstrual supplies for donation.

Period poverty is defined as the lack of access to safe and clean menstrual products. Support our local shelters and nonprofits by donating new and sealed packages of tampons, pads, liners, and menstrual cups.

You can drop off donations at several sites countywide through March 29, including Hunter Mill Supervisor Alcorn's office at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston.

NOVA Virtual Sessions for Seniors and Their Families 

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is offering virtual information and application sessions. Information sessions will provide an overview of NOVA and the opportunities, services, and resources designed to connect high school seniors to the NOVA Nighthawk Community.

Sessions are open to all FCPS seniors and their families. For questions, email or call 703-323-3000.

Student Environmental Action Showcase

Join students from across Northern Virginia for a day recognizing and sharing their environmental vision and solutions at the Student Environmental Action Showcase (SEAS). SEAS will feature a project and eco-art expo, student presentations, partner exhibits, teacher resources, and career discovery opportunities. SEAS will take place Thursday, April 18 from 10:30am-1:00pm at the Northern Virginia Community College Annandale campus. Register by Sunday, March 31. Learn more in the SEAS Flyer and on the NoVA Outside SEAS webpage.

 Native Seedling Sale 

native seeds for sale

Are you ready for seeds? The 2024 seedling sale opens Thursday, March 14 at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm. Be ready to place your order early as packages sell out quickly. Orders must be picked up on Friday, April 19 or Saturday, April 20. Learn more about the seedling sale and place your order on March 14.

Future Conservation Leaders College Scholarship

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) is offering a $1,000 scholarship to graduating high school seniors or college freshman pursuing a degree in natural resource conservation or a related field. NVSWCD’s Future Conservation Leaders Scholarship award winner will also be submitted to the VASWCD Educational Foundation committee for review and may be eligible to receive one of four $2,000 state-wide scholarships. The deadline to apply is Monday, April 1. Learn more and apply for the Future Conservation Leaders Scholarship.

 Conservation Poster Contest

Calling all student artists! The 2024 Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District Poster Contest theme is "May the Forest Be With You, Always." This contest is open to all K-12 students in Fairfax County, and scouts are eligible to earn a poster contest patch. Additionally, this year features a digital poster contest open to students in grade 7-12. The application deadline is Friday, September 27, 2024. Learn more about the 2024 Conservation Poster Contest and contact Ashley Palmer with questions.

May the forest be with you graphic

 Summer Camps and Learning Programs

Two students learning at computer

Have you made summer plans for your child yet? Are you looking for a camp for your child with special needs?

The Family Resource Center has compiled information on summer camps including local options, camps for students with special needs (sorted by need), and camps for students experiencing grief or who have parents in the military.

Registration is now open for many summer camps and learning opportunities offered by FCPS for all students.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) camps and Institute for the Arts (IFTA) camps will be held in July at Lake Braddock Secondary School from 8:30am to 2pm. Free bus transportation will be available from select FCPS middle and high schools. Visit these sites for more information:

Find session dates and registration links and deadlines on the FCPS summer programs webpage.

FCPS VIP Summer Camp flyer


Vienna Summer Strings Camp

Vienna Summer Strings is offering a summer camp for anyone in 3rd grade (rising 4th grade) who wants to learn a string instrument, 4th, 5th and 6th grade string students!

When: June 24th-July 12 (No camp July 4th and 5th)

Where: Thoreau Middle School

Learn more and register today!

Fairfax Fun: Rec-PAC's 6-Week Adventure for Elementary Kids

Rec-Pac camp logo

Rec-PAC (Pretty Awesome Children), operated by Fairfax County Park Authority, is a six week structured recreation program with emphasis on leisure skills designed for elementary school children.

Participants will have an opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of activities such as: fun and fitness, indoor and outdoor games, team sports, nature, crafts, storytelling, sports festivals, talent shows and supervised play sessions. 

Rec-PAC takes place June 24 to August 1. Registration opens on March 12 and closes on June 14. Learn more here

Youth Conservation Camp for HS Students

Youth conservation camp poster

Applications are now open for Youth Conservation Camp, held July 14-20 on the Virginia Tech campus. This one-week program will focus on forestry, soil, aquatics, and wildlife to teach high school students more about the natural world. Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to apply and may receive a partial scholarship from NVSWCD. Applications are due Friday, April 26. Learn more about Youth Conservation Camp, including how to obtain an application and contact NVSWCD with questions.

Job Opportunities 

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 via my website (click "Submit a Question"). 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.


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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