Staff members for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) presented their preliminary findings and recommendations for the 2020-21 school year to the Fairfax County School Board at its work session on Monday, June 15.
The plan complies with the guidance set forth by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the safe reopening of schools using health and social distancing protocols. The information presented today includes the following three potential reopening school scenarios for fall 2020:
- A Virtual Start: No students would be allowed in school buildings, and all instruction would be delivered via enhanced distance learning, including expanded digital access and digital curriculum resources.Staff would have access to the buildings for instructional purposes following health department guidelines
- Reopening with Health and Social Distance Protocols in Effect: Students would be allowed in school buildings at 50 percent, or 25 percent capacity; new health and safety protocols would be in place in classrooms and non-academic settings; new instructional bell schedules may be implemented to serve students on alternating days or a.m.-p.m. shifts; in-school instruction may be prioritized for high needs populations such as special education students, English language learners, or students in grades K-2 while serving the majority of students virtually. Under these plans, Fridays would be set aside as in-person support days for students with IEPs, English Language Learners or other selected students in need of additional support.
- Online Learning by Need: This option could play out within either of the other scenarios as well as in a “routine” return structure; would require alternative instructional delivery for students opting out of in-school instruction (e.g., Online Campus, Virtual Virginia); may involve monitoring and intervention supports for students when they eventually return. Full-time online enrollment would be offered to students with documented medical needs (personal or family).
“I want to thank our Reopening of Schools Task Force for their guidance and support in developing this plan,” said FCPS Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand. “There were a number of guiding principles that we followed. We had to ensure safe learning and working environments for students and staff members; that students received instruction that meets state and federal standards; that students have access to technology and connectivity along with social-emotional wellness and health supports, supports to meet the needs of special populations, and support for student transitions and building new relationships. We also considered how to provide training, time, and support for staff members to prepare for a successful reopening; and proactive, clear communication to all families and staff.”
The goal is to reach an agreed-upon reopening of school plan by June 26.
In addition to the guidance provided by the state, the plan complies with guidance from the CDC, which provided criteria for deciding if—and when—districts would be able to reopen their doors to students and staff members. Criteria include following state and local health department guidelines, protecting students and staff members at higher risk, the ability to screen students and staff members, promoting healthy hygiene, intensifying cleaning and disinfection, encouraging social distancing, and performing ongoing monitoring for signs of infection.
“We all want our schools to return to ‘normal’ operations and we’re hopeful that will be permitted and feasible during the upcoming school year,” explained Brabrand. “This report also includes contingency plans should there be a resurgence of the virus in the fall at the onset of flu season or if ongoing waves of the infection occur. In those cases, we could see a return to distance learning for all students, or blended learning.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, and much depends on how Virginia’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 rollouts go,” he continued. “We are considering all of the variables; foremost are the health and safety of our students and staff members along with budget considerations and support for staff members and families.”