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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Increase in COVID cases could delay the return to school, FCPS superintendent says

Employees at the FCPS Forte Support Center in Springfield prepare plexiglass shields for delivery to schools. [FCPS]
As COVID cases rise in Fairfax County, Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand is rethinking the schedule for bringing more students back for in-person learning

Brabrand told the community at a virtual town hall Nov. 19 that he understands families were disappointed by the “pause” in bringing back Group 5, which includes kindergarten, preK, Early Head Start, and some special education students. 

That move had been scheduled for Nov. 17. Brabrand announced the day before that Group 5 could return by Nov. 30 at the earliest and now that might be pushed back even further. 

“It’s a challenging time for all of us,” he said. While many parents are pushing the schools to reopen fully, others are urging caution, and many teachers concerned about their health want learning to remain virtual.  

Related story: FCPS delays in-person learning

“We are pursuing a middle ground,” Brabrand said. “We will continue to bring back students to school in a measured and data-driven fashion. Unfortunately, community data are heading in the wrong direction.” 

The decision on when to bring students back is based on the number of COVID cases in Fairfax County, the percentage of COVID tests that are positive, and steps taken in schools aimed at preventing transmission of the virus. 

The target is for the number of new cases per 100,000 people to be below 200 for a two-week period. But it’s been climbing for the past few days and is now at 239.  

The second key indicator is the percentage of positive COVID tests. The county is still within the acceptable range, but that number is rising. 

Groups 1 to 4 are already in schools a couple of times a day. Group 4 could revert to all-virtual learning if the COVID numbers warrant it. 

Since Sept. 8 there have been 196 COVID cases among FCPS staff, 44 cases among students, and six among contractors or other visitors to a school facility. 

There have been COVID cases since Sept. 8 in the following schools in the Annandale/Mason District area: 

  • Annandale High School – 1 student, 2 staff members 
  • Bailey’s Elementary School – 1 student, 2 staff 
  • Beech Tree ES – 1 student
  • Belvedere ES – 2 staff
  • Bren Mar Park ES – 1 staff
  • Canterbury Woods ES – 1 staff
  • Glasgow Middle School – 1 student
  • Glen Forest ES – 2 students, 1 staff
  • Holmes Middle School – 1 staff 
  • Jackson MS – 1 staff
  • Justice HS – 1 staff 
  • Mason Crest ES – 2 students, 1 staff
  • Poe MS – 1 staff
  • Ravensworth ES – 1 staff
  • Sleepy Hollow ES – 1 staff
  • Westlawn ES – 1 staff
  • Weyanoke ES – 1 staff
  • Woodson HS – 1 student, 6 staff
  • Woodson Support Center – 2 staff.

In addition to COVID data, the other factor in determining when it’s safe to bring students back involves assessing the success of the mitigation strategy in schools. FCPS is forming safety teams to monitor the risk in each school by reviewing the use of masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing in collaboration with the Health Department. 

Related story: COVID cases trending upwards in Fairfax County

“If we can do the mitigation strategies well, even if the metrics are higher, we can continue with in-person learning,” Brabrand said. 

Among other measures underway, FCPS is assessing school HVAC systems and purchasing portable air purifiers and air filtration systems. Brabrand also said FCPS is working with the Health Department to ensure teachers are a priority for the COVID vaccine. 

Several schools are participating in pilot tests of concurrent learning, in which classes are split, with some students learning in person and some virtually. 

The concurrent learning pilot at Fairfax High School has been “for the most part a great success,” said Principal Erin Lenart.

Related story: FCPS offers more details on concurrent learning

Both Lenart and Dylan Taylor, the principal of Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, which also has a concurrent learning pilot, said students are not having problems wearing masks in class. “Kids understand the need to wear masks. They’re taking it seriously,” Taylor said. 


  1. What about Annandale Terrace and Braddock Elementary....hard to believe that they have escaped COVID??

  2. school infection rate data is way out of date...private schools are being hit too