FCPS Superintendent Defends Rationale for Virtual Start to School

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand says that the decision for a virtual start to school on Sept. 8 was largely motivated by the health risks associated with COVID-19.

In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, Brabrand said that while cases are relatively stable in Fairfax County, precautionary steps are necessary to ensure the safety of staff and students. FCPS initially planned a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual instruction — a decision that was reversed by Brabrand in late July. The Fairfax County School Board approved the change July 22.

“As educators, there is nothing we want more than to have all students back in school. This school year will be a challenge for us all, but we are doing everything possible to ensure a high-quality education through virtual learning to start the year,” Brabrand said.

Brabrand also said staffing challenges complicated the transition to in-person learning, including the limited availability of substitutes and more leave of absence requests by teachers and other staff.

FCPS staff are developing metrics to determine when and if schools can reopen. Factors under consideration include the trajectory of cases, access to testing, and impact on staff and operations. More details are expected in mid-August, he said.

The school system also plans to provide laptops to all students to use for online learning. Schools will provide information on laptop distribution if a student does not already have an FCPS laptop.

Brabrand said his staff is also exploring ways to boost technical support for families and students, including a help desk for parents. All athletic seasons are also delayed until December.

The entire letter, which includes more details on class schedules and a commitment to more communication, is posted online.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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