Reston, VA

A new online petition is urging Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to conduct simulations of what in-person learning will look like before the school year starts.

As of this afternoon, the petition has received 674 signatures since Scott Waters created it one week ago on Change.org. FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand is expected to pitch virtual-only learning at a school board meeting this afternoon, but it is unclear how and if the plan would proceed.

Recently, families picked whether they want fully online learning for the upcoming school year or hybrid learning — a mix of in-person and remote learning — for their kids in the county’s public school system. In total “111,712, or 60 percent, chose hybrid learning,” Patch reported. “This includes 31,289 who did not respond and were automatically given the in-person option. The other 40 percent chose online-only learning.”

The petition outlines what a simulation could look like, saying that adult volunteers could role-play as custodians cleaning, students who do and don’t wear masks and teachers grading quizzes.

One proposed aspect of the simulation would assign a volunteer playing a “student in each class to be an asymptomatic Covid-19 carrier, ask those students to keep a record of the surfaces touched and the number of people they came into contact with that were closer than three feet at any time or six feet for at least 15 minutes.”

The petition asks that “in addition to observations made during the simulation, collect feedback from all participants and consider a focus group of those assigned to play specific roles.”

The petition says that the simulation ideas were developed by middle and high school teachers and that different simulations might be appropriate for elementary schools, special education and transportation services.

Supporters of the idea said in comments under the petition that simulations could help the school system find and address in-person learning issues beforehand, instead of trying to fix things after school starts.

“A simulation would drive home the realities about to be faced by students, teachers and staff members,” one commenter wrote. “And if you cannot willingly find adult participants to do this simulation (which will be [a] reality in the fall), perhaps you should rethink your current plans for in-person learning.”

Whether or not the school system will take up the proposal is unclear.

“The concept is certainly worth consideration as we are all working together to prepare our students, families, and staff for a safe, responsible return to school,” according to a statement shared by FCPS Spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.

More from the statement:

FCPS is deeply appreciative of the efforts, the work, the collaboration and the commitment of FCPS  teachers and support personnel. Their roles are crucial to the success and well-being of students across the division and their voices are being heard.  We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and community in developing our return to school plans.

Caldwell did not answer Tysons Reporter’s question about whether or not the school system is discussing simulations.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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