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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Under FCPS return-to-school plan, all students won't be back until February

The Fairfax Federation of Teachers held a car rally Oct. 15 at the FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center in Merrifield. 
The Fairfax County School Board has deadlocked, 6-6, on whether to endorse Superintendent Scott Brabrand’s schedule for bringing students back for in-person learning

Under Brabrand’s plan, presented at a school board work session board Oct. 15, students in grades 3-6 wouldn’t return to school until Jan. 4, and grades 7-12 wouldn’t come back until Feb. 1. Several board members want in-school learning to start earlier. The school board will revisit the plan at its next meeting.

Some students, including high school students in career and technical education, are already back in class, and students in preK through grade 2 will come back in mid-November. 

Concurrent learning

Brabrand is also proposing concurrent learning, meaning students who prefer to continue with virtual instruction will be in the same class as their in-school classmates. 

That requires cameras in all classes and teachers presenting the same material at the same time to the in-class and virtual students. 

FCPS plans to pilot-test that arrangement starting Oct. 19 with a small group of students at West Springfield High School and a not-yet-named elementary school.

Related story: Fairfax County Public Schools to start in-person learning in October for certain groups of students

Under the in-person model, students would be in school two days a week and would be learning at home with their class concurrently. While at home, students would be able to contact and access their teacher in the classroom. Mondays would be reserved for independent learning and planning time for teachers. 

Here’s how it would work for an elementary school class: groups A and B would spend two days a week in school and two days at home. When group A is in school, group B would be home and vice versa. Group C would be at home online every day. All groups would receive the same amount of instruction.

Parents who submitted their choices in July – opting for either in-person or all virtual learning – will be able to change their minds. 

The Fairfax Federation of Teachers opposes concurrent enrollment. A survey of federation members found less than 10 percent feel safe returning to school. 

COVID precautions

According to a staffing survey conducted by FCPS, 259 teachers requested accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 47 requested emergency leave for childcare, 41 requested a leave of absence, and 11 plan to resign or retire. 

The ADA requires the school system to make every reasonable accommodation; if employees still cannot do their job, they would be offered an unpaid leave of absence. 

If COVID-19 cases resurge in the county, Brabrand said FCPS could revert to an all-virtual format. 

He said there have been 32 COVID cases among FCPS employees, visitors, and students in August; 66 in September; and 22 so far in October. 

In August, one student athlete and two coaches tested positive for COVID. Seven athletes and one coach tested positive in September. Other than athletes, there were no COVID cases among students.

Related story: FCPS promises more support for special ed students

Brabrand said COVID mitigation strategies include requirements for face masks, social distancing, protocols for cleaning and disinfection, and isolation rooms for students with COVID symptoms.

Students requesting a mask exemption must provide a note from a doctor. Students who don’t comply with the mask requirement “may be temporarily excluded from in-school learning,” he said. 

FCPS has prepared schools by installing plexiglass barriers, assessing HVAC systems, purchasing air filters if needed, and securing personal protective equipment, and other supplies. 


  1. So the School Board did not endorse the plan. What does that mean exactly? Is the county still planning to start kindergarteners back mid-November without the endorsement of the school board?

  2. Schools need to start next September for in class learning. The cases have only increased and vaccine is still being identified and will need to go through safety. The risk of having our kids come home and potentially get one of us sick puts work, and life at risk.