Q&A on Back to School for Fairfax County

Superintendent takes questions at Virtual Town Hall.

FCPS hosted a virtual Town Hall Meeting on July 6, to answer questions about its two Return to School Plans: Full-time Online Instruction or In-Person Instruction with Social Distancing. Superintendent Scott Brabrand said, "Our kids need us to return to school in a responsible, safe manner... And we are returning to school, empowering you to make the choice of what's best for your child, and for your family."

Brabrand announced the school system extended the deadline for plan choice from July 10 to July 15 and that he would recommend to the school board on Thursday to push back the first day of school to Sept. 8. "Our teachers and staff would still come back at their normal times," he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Sloan Presidio and director of the office of special education procedural support Jane Strong joined Brabrand. Questions covered various topics, including the switching choices, safety, curriculum, technology and extracurricular activities.

Q&A

What if my child isn't thriving in a virtual or in-person setting?

Brabrand: We're building two completely different school systems... for a whole year...We can't simply have a preference to change back and forth week to week, month to month.

How are you going to track the testing for the coronavirus if children are showing symptoms?

Brabrand: A student that comes in not wearing a mask will be subject to a temperature check... Any kid that presents with concerns... will be sent down to the school clinic. If they make an assessment that there are concerns, they will be sent to an isolation room... Parents will be... asked to come as expediently as possible to pick up their child. According to Brabrand, the County is committing to hiring 200 more contact tracers for the schools.

How will they ensure each teacher at high schools and middle schools sanitize all desks and chairs in the 5-8-minute periods rotation of students?

Brabrand: I would not be honest as superintendent to tell you that every time your child changes classes that the desks will be wiped.

What online platforms will be used for virtual options?

Brabrand: We're going to continue to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra... We will also allow Google... and we will be piloting a new platform Schoology.

I'm wondering about the Academy.

Brabrand: We have no plans to cancel the Academy Programs... Academies offer very unique courses that will be dependent-based on whether the teacher is returning and, in the manner, that the teacher is returning.

Children...may not get every elective class that they wanted.

I want to know about sports, Marching Band, and extracurricular activities.

Brabrand: The Department of Education is working with the Virginia High School League... No decision has been made yet about high school sports. We have allowed conditioning to resume for fall sports.

What standards will be implemented to monitor student and staff physical and mental wellness?

Brabrand: We have a protocol in place where we look at student data around absences... We've already identified... children and those families who weren't able to connect as much with teachers.

"I will continue to do everything I can to reach out to this community and give you the honest truth as best that I can, with all the information that I can. That is my commitment to you today, tonight, tomorrow and for the year ahead," said Brabrand.

THE WEEK BEFORE, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Fairfax Education Association and Association of Fairfax Professional Educators issued a joint statement. "Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools," said Trina Williams, President of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. "It is absolutely unacceptable that FCPS has established an arbitrary deadline for employees and students to make decisions about the next school year without adequate data or specific information," said Becca Ferrick, President of Association of Fairfax Professional Educators. "We believe our community as a whole should not return to in-person learning until a vaccine or treatment is widely available for COVID-19, said Kimberly Adams, President of the Fairfax Education Association.

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