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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Fairfax County schools expand in-person learning

 Annandale High School staff welcome students back to class.
Fairfax County Public Schools is expanding access to in-person learning to four days a week for certain preK-12 students during April. 

This is being done in accordance with the updated CDC guidelines issued March 13 that allow schools to reduce the social distancing requirement from six feet to three feet in some circumstances. The expansion of in-person learning is also based on a school’s available space and staff capacity.  

Starting the weeks of April 6 and April 13, FCPS is offering four days of in-person instruction to PreK-12 students who are experiencing the greatest learning challenges, as identified by school personnel using the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). 

Starting the week of April 20, FCPS will offer four days of in-person instruction to preK-12 students whose families identified a preference for in-person instruction since the fall and are already attending two days a week in person.

FCPS will contact families of students eligible to return under this scenario during the week of April 13. Bus transportation for those already attending in-person will start the week of April 20.

“Both options will take into consideration the school’s capacity, staffing, and associated current rate of community transmission,” FCPS states. “As a result, the transition will not look exactly the same in every school.”

These are some reasons why the expansion of in-person learning will differ from school to school: 

  • In-person attendance already varies widely from school to school, ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent. 
  • Schools have different numbers of students identified through the MTSS. 
  • Space challenges vary, including current occupancy, size of classrooms, furniture, and lunchroom space.
  • Schools need sufficient space for all students to eat lunch without a mask, six feet apart, and all facing the same direction. (The CDC guidelines call for six feet of distance when students are not wearing masks. Staff-to-student and staff-to-staff spacing will remain at six feet.)
  • Some schools will need to adjust their schedules. 
  • There is the possibility that some bus routes will increase capacity from one student per seat to two students per seat while others may not. 
  • Staffing levels might not be sufficient if staff need to quarantine.

Students have the option of returning to virtual learning at any time, but if they do this, they have to remain virtual for the remainder of the school year. 

For the next school year, FCPS expects to welcome all students back for five days of in-person learning. Limited virtual options will be available.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will host a virtual Community Town Hall on Wednesday, April 7, 7-8 p.m. The town hall will be live-streamed on Channel 99. Submit questions in advance to returntoschool@fcps.edu or call 800-231-6359 during the event.

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