(Updated at 6:40 a.m.)
“During the past several hours we continue to hear genuine concerns from parents about keeping our schools open while the coronavirus response escalates around the country. Schools are closing in Maryland and several other states and a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. As a result, and in an abundance of caution, I believe it is prudent for FCPS to cancel school tomorrow to help ease parent, staff, and student anxiety,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to parents last night.
The change came just hours after Brabrand said at a press conference yesterday (Thursday) that schools are staying open because there is no evidence of “community spread” with the virus.
“FCPS takes very seriously the COVID-19 challenges that are before the community today,” Brabrand said, adding the school system is “working very closely” to monitor the virus with local public health officials.
In a tweet later that day, the school system reversed its decision.
All FCPS schools will be closed Friday, March 13, 2020.
School offices and central offices will open on time with an unscheduled leave policy in effect for 12-month employees. (Condition 2). More details to follow.
— Fairfax Schools (@fcpsnews) March 13, 2020
The school system was under growing pressure to close its schools due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
“We woke up to have a neighboring school division close,” he said, referring to Loudoun County’s announcement that it will close its schools through March 20.
FCPS announced earlier this week that there is a plan with different scenarios for school closures.
“If we were to have a positive response, we would make a decision to close that school or schools were that was to happen,” he said today.
Brabrand added that the schools are undergoing “deep cleans” with a protocol confirmed by medical officials that “kills viruses, including COVID-19.”
As of 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health says that there are 17 cases in the state, with Fairfax County having the most.
Two new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were announced earlier today in the county, bringing Fairfax County’s known count of coronavirus patients to four.
Also earlier today, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia.
“This is a very serious matter,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the press conference. “We must accept this is a changing situation hourly.”
McKay said that Fairfax County is “well prepared” and looking to phase-in additional telework and remote work options for county employees.
While county buildings will remain open, McKay urged people to do transactions online if possible.
Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director for Fairfax Health, said the risk for the general public in Fairfax County is low.
FCPS announced Thursday evening after the press conference said all extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, field trips, after-school programs, community use activities conducted by groups not affiliated with FCPS are canceled from March 14-April 12.
“SACC centers will remain open,” FCPS said. “We will share with you updates about today’s decisions by March 31.”
FCPS said it a review is underway for the food service and food handling procedures and that several parent-teacher associations are canceling school-based events “due to anticipated low turnout.”
This story appeared on our sister site Tysons Reporter
Image via Fairfax County
(Updated 2/28/2020) Students at Fairfax County’s public schools will get to stay home on March 3 for Super Tuesday.
Large crowds are expected to turn out for the primary election in Virginia. Brian Worthy, a spokesperson for the county, said that 167 polling places will be in the schools for voters casting their ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While students will have the day off, staff will still need to report to the schools, Lucy Caldwell, an FCPS spokesperson, said.
Lake Anne Elementary School has lost its Title I funding due to recent changes in the structure of the federal program, which was established by the U.S. Department of Education.
If a school has more than 75 percent or more students with eligibility for free and reduced meals, the program creates funding opportunities. Each local school district sets eligibility requirements.
This year, Fairfax County Public Schools increased the threshold from 40 percent of students eligible for free and reduced meals to 45 percent. The decision was due to “fluctuations in funding and increasing costs of programs and other supports,” according to a Wednesday statement by principal Jill Stewart.
In an email to parents, Stewart wrote that the loss of funding is expected to have a “minimal impact” on the school community. She noted that the school thoughtfully invested its funds in resources with longterm benefits for students, including:
- diversified and increased our novel units for literacy instruction
- expanded our leveled readers that are used for guided reading instruction across grade levels
- purchased additional laptops for students
- enabled us to purchase math manipulatives that provide concrete examples of math concepts
- refined and expanded the instructional practices of our teachers
- funded staff members participation in Title I professional development
- attended a conference with Virginia Department of Education to learn more about family engagement practices
- allowed Title I specialists to train our teachers and in our school
The school plans to discuss the funding change at a Parent Teacher Administration meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m.
Image via Google Maps
FCPS is one of 16 districts chosen by the company, which will cover the difference between the cost of diesel-fueled and electric buses. Dominion Energy’s vendor, Thomas Built Buses, will provide 50 buses for the first phase of the project.
“This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools,” Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell, II, said in the press release.
Here’s more from Dominion Energy:
The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.
Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes.
Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.
“Adding electric school buses in our fleet is consistent with the environmental focus of Fairfax County and the school division,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in the FCPS press release.
Photo via Unplash
A local eighth-grade student earned the highest possible ACT composite score.
Anika Gulati, a student at Rachel Carson Middle School (13618 McLearen Road), is one of less than 0.5 percent of students to earn a top score. In last year’s high school graduating class in the United States, only 4,879 of the 1.8 million students who take the test earn the top score.
Aparajita De, Gulati’s mother, said her 13-year-old daughter took the test “out of curiosity.”
” She wanted to see how the test is and how she fares in each of the different sections of the test,” De said.
Composite scores are derived from the average of test scores in English, math, reading and science.
Photo courtesy Aparajita De
Herndon Middle School‘s administration is considering installing security cameras on school grounds.
The school’s administration stated that the cameras will “increase the ability to maintain the safety of all students, staff members and visitors within the building.”
Before installation begins, the school’s administration is accepting feedback from members of the school community. An informational meeting for parents is set for Thursday (Jan. 16) at the school at 5:30 p.m.
Lucy Caldwell, the director of news and information for Fairfax County Public Schools, told Reston Now that the move was not prompted by any specific events. Caldwell noted that all high school and middle schools are slated to install security devices in the near future.
“Cameras, by their mere presence, offer a deterrent to criminal and/or inappropriate behavior. Photographic evidence also serves to help identify individuals who are trespassing onto school property, thus greatly enhancing school safety.
Additionally, camera evidence can help exonerate individuals accused of acts they did not commit,” Caldwell wrote.
Photo via Google Maps
Today’s snow may bring some welcome news for students wishing for a snow day this week.
Fairfax County Public Schools will closed today (Wednesday). Last night, the schools system planned to open on a two-hour delay.
“The change in FCPS’ operating status for today is due to the hazardous travel conditions that remain in various parts of the county at this hour, especially on secondary roads,” FCPS tweeted earlier this morning.
Photo by Brian Murphy
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) unveiled its proposed fiscal year 2021-25 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) last week.
In November, Fairfax County voters approved a $360 million school bond referendum that includes $2 million in planning funds for a new “Silver Line elementary school,” along with other construction and renovation projects.
“Funds approved in the 2019 School Bond Referendum and previous referenda will address approximately $500 million of the five-year requirement, leaving a balance of approximately $573 million unfunded,” according to FCPS.
For the new Silver Line elementary school, permitting would happen in FY 2022, with permitting in FY 2023 and construction from FY 2024-2026, according to the CIP draft.
The revised budget estimates the Silver Line elementary school will cost $39.5 million.
“Anticipation of the completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor which may result in an increase in students within FCPS,” according to the CIP draft.
Along with the Silver Line school, the proposal addresses a new elementary school in the northwest area of the county to address current overcrowding in the McNair Elementary school area, with a projected budget of $34.8 million.
In addition to the Silver Line school, the CIP also includes information on a new high school that would provide relief to high schools in Centreville, Chantilly, Herndon, Oakton, South Lakes, and Westfield areas.
The new high school is projected to cost $157 million.
A public hearing will be held on the CIP on Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. at Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road), followed by a school board work session on it on Jan. 13. A vote on the CIP is scheduled to take place on Jan. 23.
(Updated 12/28/19) Come Jan. 1, the Fairfax County School Board will have a lot of new faces.
The 12-member board will see eight newcomers in 2020.
Half of the school board’s incumbents decided not to seek reelection, including: Ilryong Moon, Ryan McElveen, Jane Strauss, Pat Hynes, Sandy Evans and Dalia Palchik. The two Republican incumbents — Elizabeth Schultz and Thomas Wilson — lost their reelection bids.
At-Large Member Karen Keys-Gamarra won reelection, along with:
- Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin
- Lee District Representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax
- Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett Sanders
Here is information on the new incoming members, who took their oaths of office on Thursday (Dec. 12) at Jackson Middle School.
At-Large Members Abrar Omeish and Rachna Sizemore Heizer
Omeish and Heizer, along with incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, beat three opponents for the At-Large seats.
Heizer has worked as a college professor, disability justice advocate and lawyer, according to her campaign website. Omeish is the co-founder of Give, a youth-led nonprofit and led the county-wide campaign for an anti-bullying campaign, according to her campaign website.
Hunter Mill District: Melanie Meren
Meren, a former U.S. Department of Education employee, beat her opponent, Laura Ramirez Drain. Meren is a parent and small business owner who has lived in Fairfax County for more than 15 years, according to Reston Now.
Dranesville District: Elaine Tholen
Tholen beat three opponents. A resident of Fairfax County for 25 years, Tholen most recently served as the director and treasurer for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, according to her campaign website.
Mason District: Ricardy Anderson
Anderson beat opponent Tom Pafford. She has been a community volunteer, a veteran of the National Guard Army Reserve and lived in Annandale for more than 10 years, according to her campaign website.
Providence District: Karl Frisch
Frisch beat opponent Andrea Bayer in the election. Frisch has served as the executive director of consumer watchdog Allied Progress, was a small business owner and worked as a staffer for the Committee on Rules in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to his campaign website.
Springfield District: Laura Jane Cohen
Cohen beat two opponents, including Republican incumbent Elizabeth Schultz. Cohen has been a resident in the county for nearly 20 years and is a former preschool teacher, according to her campaign website.
Sully District: Stella Pekarsky
Pekarsky beat Republican incumbent Tom Wilson. She was previously an FCPS ESOL teacher, small business co-owner and trustee on the Fairfax County Board.
Come 2020, the school board seats will all be filled by Democrats.
“Corbett Sanders will remain chair of the School Board and Derenak Kaufax will remain as vice-chair,” according to FCPS. “School Board officers are elected at the first meeting in July of each year.”
The board also includes a non-voting student representative who is selected by the Student Advisory Council.
As phase two of the Silver Line opens early next year, Fairfax County Public Schools are looking to secure funds to begin planning for a new elementary school near the Silver Line.
On Tuesday, Nov 5., voters will consider a bond referendum for $2 million in planning funds for the project.
A site for the new school has not been finalized. A spokesperson for FCPS also declined to release the pyramid the school would be located in until a location has been selected.
“Fairfax County Public Schools is collaborating closely with Fairfax County land use and government staff to identify sites,” said Lucy Caldwell, the school system’s director of news and information.
Developer Pomeroy/Clark LLC plans to dedicate six acres of land for the school — a condition of approval for the developer’s mixed-use project at the intersection of Sunrise Valley Drive and Frying Pan Road.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project in June, which includes 2 million square feet of residential uses and an elementary school in five separate land bays spread over 44 acres.
The plan depicts a five-story, 135,000-square-foot elementary school — details that are contingent on the future approvals of the final development plan for the school and pending discussions between the school system and land use staff.
“The applicant worked closely with Fairfax County Public Schools on the site design to ensure that adequate parking, bus circulation, and recreation space can be provided for the school,” according to the county.
School renovations and construction projects are financed through the approval of bonds.
Fairfax County Public Schools are looking to hire more bus drivers.
To date, the system has 80 openings for bus drivers, according to a recent release.
A job fair is set for Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway) in Alexandria.
“In order to qualify to work as a bus driver with FCPS, applicants must be at least 21 years old; have a good driving record; pass a physical exam, drug screening, and background check; complete a five-week training program, take the commercial driver’s license road test, and obtain a commercial driver’s license,” according to FCPS.
The current salary for a bus driver is $19.20 per hour. The position includes benefits like retirement, health, and dental plans and six paid non-working days. Drivers are also allowed to bring infant and preschool-age children on the bus with them.
Morning shifts typically run from 6-9:30 a.m. while afternoon shifts run from 1:30 to 5 p.m.
Several local schools were acknowledged by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand and the Fairfax County School Board for bridging achievement gaps in English and math.
Lake Anne Elementary School was one of the top schools in the county to achieve the greatest reduction in the English achievement gap.
Awards were given based on school performance in the 2018-2019 school year and revised accreditation standards approved by the Virginia Board of Education in 2017.
Photo via Facebook
The security systems of Dogwood Elementary School are expected to get an upgrade after state Gov. Ralph Northam awarded five Fairfax County Public Schools a state grant.
The $236,102 grant pays for video monitoring systems, mass notification systems, visiter identification technology, two-way radios and other security upgrades. It was established through the School Security Equipment Grants program, which was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Four other schools were selected for the grant: Crestwood Elementary, Parklawn Elementary, Riverside Elementary and Whitman Middle School. The grant is given to schools that are most in need of modern equipment, cannot afford the equipment, or have a relatively high number of offenses.
This year’s grant favored elementary schools at the recommendation of Northam’s Students Safety Workgroup.
A local match of 25 percent is required of most divisions to accept the grant.
Image via Google Maps
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant will help the Herndon High School 21st Century Community Learning Center, which will provide afterschool programming to improve academic performance and support developmental wellbeing.
Students will receive guidance on college, careers, life skills, community involvement, and cultural awareness. An eight-week program will supplement the school-year program.
The program will be open to between 50 and 60 students. The success of the program will be measured through objectives like improved reading and math skills, increased family engagement, reduced dropout rate, and increased emotional and social learning competencies. Rising ninth-grade students will also be involved in the center.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education covers 32 percent of the total cost of the three-year program. Additional funding will be provided from the following community partners:
- Herndon High School
- Fairfax County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services
- Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services
- Childcare Resources
- Herndon United Methodist Church
- Town of Herndon
Cornerstones will help develop the curriculum and activities for the project.
Photo via FCPS
The Fairfax County School Board is considering a plan to grant middle and high school students an excused absence for taking part in protests, rallies and walkouts.
The board’s governance committee discussed the proposal earlier this week. If approved, students would be given one excused absence from school per year to take part in “civic engagement activities by providing prior notification to the school with evidence of a sponsored/organized event or activity,” according to the draft proposal.
In a letter submitted to the board in February, board member Ryan McElveen said county schools enforced inconsistent policies when students organized walkouts in response to recent school shootings. He wrote the following in his proposal to the board:
A year ago, the devastating tragedy in Parkland galvanized students, parents, and citizens around the country to call for an end to gun violence, a powerful movement demanding action by our elected representatives that continues to this day. The Fairfax County School Board amplified this advocacy through our Resolution on Gun Violence Prevention, which became a national model for School Board resolutions around the country. School systems cannot oppose nor endorse any specific calls to action, but they are constitutionally obligated to recognize and uphold the first amendment rights of students choosing to engage in political activities that do not infringe on the rights of others or disrupt the instructional day. While FCPS provided guidance to schools about how to respond to students who wanted to walkout in support of gun violence prevention in 2018, there was inconsistent enforcement of those procedures in schools, including how schools designated excused student absences. I have spoken with many community members who would like clearer policy guidance in the event of future civic engagement activities.
The discussion is expected to continue on October 2.
At a September 4 meeting, board members sought to ensure that the proposal would not interfere with the school system’s efforts to curb chronic absenteeism. The school board is still seeking information on the absenteeism status of the county’s schools, whether or not other school districts have adopted similar proposals and the projected impact of the proposal on absenteeism.