Reston, VA

Fairfax County Public Schools has decided to delay bringing more students back into in-person learning due to rising COVID-19 cases — a decision made after previously stating they would prepare to bring back 6,800 students on Nov. 17.

A Return To School Town Hall will be taking place on Thursday, Nov. 19 to discuss the decision and next steps. The town hall will take place virtually on the FCPS website from 6-7 p.m. Participants can submit questions to [email protected] or call in to 1-800-231-6359.

The Fairfax Education Association, alongside other Northern Virginia education associations, has urged Gov. Ralph Northam to fully return to virtual learning. The association also wrote a letter to FCPS on Nov. 12 demanding virtual learning. 

Gov. Northam, however, exempted educational settings from his new 25-person limit on social gatherings in his tightening of restrictions on Nov. 13. 

Do you believe trying to maintain the current hybrid learning is the right decision? Or do you believe FCPS should return to a virtual model? Was delaying the return of students the wrong call?

Photo via the FCPS website 

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Young readers now have virtual access to the Fairfax County Public Library through a new program created in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools.

LEAP, or Library Equity Access Pass, started on Oct. 1. The program was initially piloted in 2019 and was created to ensure student access to library materials, even without a library card or an account with the library, according to the program website.

Now, the program has been adapted to a virtual platform, making access even easier in the midst of the pandemic.

Through LEAP, students grades PreK-12 only need their name to check out materials. Additionally, the program will never charge fines or fees. Each account will allow students to check out up to three items at a time for six weeks each.

The program has been running for about three weeks and has already served students at each of the county’s branches. While the program hasn’t run long enough to collect specific usage data, LEAP customers and staff have reported questions about the program from across the community.

“Word is spreading, our marketing efforts are reaching people, and the community seems enthusiastic about LEAP,” said Ted Kavich, the administrative services division director of the FCPL.

In particular, on Oct. 20, the staff at Reston Regional Library worked with staff from Dogwood Elementary School to check out books to local families using the LEAP accounts, according to Kavich. According to the school, more than 15 families were provided with books.

For more information, students and parents can ask a teacher or librarian at their school, or call any FCPL location.

Photo via Dogwood Elementary School/Twitter

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As kids return to the classroom, Reston Now wants to know how parents and the community feel about this current school year.

The Fairfax County Public School Board debated the best practices for the start of the school year and ultimately decided to begin with a primarily virtual classroom — incorporating varied in-person learning opportunities for certain ages.

FCPS released a portal to help families work out technical issues that caused confusion in the spring.

Despite attempts to confront potential issues, Fairfax County officials previously expressed concern about the lack of childcare opportunities for parents who work full-time jobs while their kids are in school.

To fix this, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to allow county staff to work with FCPS on ways to improve resources and support systems for working families.

Do you feel that these measures are enough?

Please fill out the poll below and then expand on your opinion in the comments.

Additionally, if you’d like to share your experience with us personally or share a news tip, please send our editorial team an email.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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Helping to supplement K-12 curriculum in the era of COVID-19, Reston-based maker space Nova Labs decided to extend its class offerings this fall with a new program.

Called Nova Labs MakerSchool, the school is designed by Nova Labs Vice President Karen Shumway who said the program supports homeschool students whose parents want to ensure they have a comprehensive education.

“Whether you have been homeschooling for years, were already unhappy with your child’s school situation before COVID-19 made its appearance, or want to augment traditional schooling, the Nova Labs MakerSchool is here to provide an uncommon, innovative solution to twenty-first century education,” the school’s website said.

Students in the program can either join full-time “pods” of students in their age group or take classes “a-la-carte,” the website said.

Each pod of students consists of a six to eight kid class size and allows students to learn together in a “Montessori” style setting, according to Shumway.

The program focuses on science, engineering and technology, Shumway said, but added that the curriculum offers humanities as well.

Once COVID-19 hit, parents at the maker space began talking about alternative options to online learning through Fairfax County Public Schools – which inspired her to come up with the idea for the new school in June, according to Shumway.

Classes are set to begin in September but registration is still open for certain age groups and individual classes, Shumway said.

Though creating a new curriculum in just a few months may seem daunting, Shumway said it wasn’t a problem since she had taught k-12 science before at public schools in West Virginia.

“These are courses I’m familiar with and had already built out, so all I really had to do is go into my computer and pull it up,” she added.

On the program website, Nova Labs Makerschool lists over 31 class offerings for students, each of which will be taught by 12 instructors, according to Shumway.

Since Nova Labs Makerschool offers a variety of time offerings, parents can choose a schedule that best fits their needs.

Private schools can be expensive, but a goal of the program is to keep tuition affordable for working families, according to Shumway. Though there are no scholarships yet available for low-income students, Nova Labs MakerSchool is in the process of forming corporate partnerships that would supplement cost.

“I have a couple of leads but haven’t had time to track them down yet,” she said.

Full-time tuition will cost parents $7,500 for the 2020-2021 school year, the website said, adding that semesters run for 15-weeks each.

Though not technically an accredited school option, Shumway said that she works with families to keep the kids on tack, so they would be able to test into a comparable grade if they wanted to make the transition to a public school.

Considering Fairfax County spends roughly $15,000 a year per student, according to Shumway, the school is trying to keep costs low for parents while still paying staff fairly.

Photo via Nova Labs MakerSchool/Facebook

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With the start of the new school year quickly approaching, the latest Fairfax County Public Schools town hall will focus how staff will support students with disabilities in a virtual learning environment.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will talk to some of the school system’s special education staff.

“Staff members will explain what they do to support students with disabilities in Fairfax County and will talk about student engagement in the virtual environment, family partnerships, student support, and specialized instruction,” according to FCPS.

The town hall is set to run from 6-7 p.m. and will be livestreamed. People can  submit questions in advance by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-800-231-6359 during the town hall.

Recently, Brabrand has held town halls on Wednesdays to talk about the plans for the virtual return to school and answer community members’ questions.

FCPS has a town hall about the return to school in Spanish scheduled for next  Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, on resources for parents.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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As families, educators and school systems grapple with how to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic, some parents are turning to “learning pods” this fall.

Learning pods — also known as “pandemic pods” — are essentially micro-schools. Small groups of kids learn together in-person either from a tutor or parents.

A New York Times survey found that most of the families who said they plan to use learning pods said that they address both concerns about health risks at school and desire for in-person education.

Some local parents say that having multiple families chip in makes hiring a tutor more affordable and that the pods will make it easier for them to go back to work than if their kids were learning virtually.

However, the concept has raised questions about the wealth disparity with education.

Fairfax County Public Schools recently brought up concerns about “tutoring pods,” saying that the school system is declining requests from parents to have FCPS teachers lead their pods.

“While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students,” the statement said. “Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.”

Let us know in the poll and comments below what you think of learning pods.

Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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Fairfax County Public Schools invites the local community to a virtual town hall on Wednesday.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will discuss the virtual return to school on Sep. 8 and address any questions. The event plans to run from 6-7 p.m.

People interested in viewing can watch via the livestream or on Channel 99. Questions regarding the virtual start to the school year can be sent to [email protected] or to 1-800-231-6359.

According to a recent message from Brabrand, weekly town halls will resume starting with tomorrow’s town hall.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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Fairfax County Public Schools’ superintendent said he is committed to tackling racism in the public school system during a town hall last night.

The Fairfax County NAACP met with FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to talk about how to address systemic racism going into the 2020-2021 school year.

The discussion between Sujatha Hampton, the Fairfax County NAACP’s education chair, and Brabrand, along with several other guests, focused on a list of priorities from Fairfax County NAACP to address equity.

Brabrand repeated throughout the town hall that he was ready to be held accountable for making change. “We need to be more comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Brabrand said at the end of the meeting.

The town hall began with a discussion on COVID-19 and the status of reopening schools. On July 21, Brabrand announced that schools would be opening virtually on Sept. 8. Hampton made it clear that it will be essential to address the inequities that online learning presents in minority communities.

What would an anti-racist school system look like and how can FCPS strive for that? Hampton had several proposals.

One would address the scope of the chief equity officer position within the county, with Hampton noting the importance of hiring someone with “anti-racist” policies versus a traditional hire for the position.

Hampton’s proposed job description included conveying “transformational leadership” and having “successful experience as a change agent.”

“Anti-racism is a fairly new thing for systems to be considering,” said Hampton when emphasizing the importance of radical change with leadership.

Another priority is creating an anti-racist curriculum. FCPS Social Studies Coordinator Colleen Eddy said that they are already in the process of auditing the existing curriculum.

A major topic of discussion was the disproportionate discipline statistics in the county’s schools. Hampton presented a series of data points showcasing the high number of Black students receiving referrals for “disruptive behavior” versus their peers. FCPS Deputy Superintendent Frances Ivey agreed that it’s time to reinforce positive behavior rather than disciplining students.

Hampton also discussed the lack of Black teachers and principles within the school system and emphasized the importance of creating a data-driven plan to hire more Black teachers in a transparent way. She said the culture of a school stems from a principal, and it is “criminal” to give kids a racist principal.

“I want everyone to remember that these are actual children’s lives,” Hampton said.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Herndon High School third-place finishers in Real Food for Kids’ annual culinary contest were given the opportunity to replicate their winning recipe for community members in need. 

The team consisted of Liam Owens, Eli Shifflett, Alex Chang and Ivonne Claros-Vigil. Their recipe, Carne Asada Tacos with Asian Slaw, was replicated for the Chefs Feeding Families’ Mighty Meals Program to feed those in need, according to a statement from Fairfax County Public Schools. 

The four students were invited to help with the distribution of meals at Harvey Hall Apartments in Arlington earlier this summer, according to the statement. 

“When I found out that our recipe was going to help out with people in need, it made it more exciting and more nerve-racking because it’s a really good feeling knowing that you’re helping people and you’re helping the community,” said Claros-Vigil in the statement.

Claros-Vigil credits her Gourmet Foods class with her success because of the wide variety of spices, foods and traditions they learned. Her background also includes lots of cooking with her mom, which gave her experience cooking new things.

The competition gave students the opportunity to experience how they can create change in a community while innovating in the kitchen, according to Mary Porter of RFFK in the statement. Connecting the competition to Chefs Feeding Families and helping families in need allowed the students to see their work come “full circle,” said Porter. 

“You ever want to grow a relationship with someone? Cook, bake etc., just hop into the kitchen and let your maker mind go to work,” said Owens in the statement. “The goal and challenge of the meal is what was fun.”

Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools website 

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Cornerstones is officially collecting school supplies for its annual Back-To-School Drive

The organization is working in collaboration with Fairfax County Public School officials to provide backpacks and essential supplies to students, despite the continuance of digital learning this fall. 

In addition to backpacks and school supplies for kids grades K-12, they are also collecting financial contributions. Donations can be made online or via mailed check made payable to Cornerstones and sent to 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, VA 20190. 

Those with backpacks and supplies can make a contactless donation at Reston National Golf Course (11875 Sunrise Valley Drive) every Saturday in August from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Cornerstones has a donation drop-off tent set up next to their Laurel Learning Center Bus in the parking lot of the golf course. 

Questions can be directed to Nate King, the Donations and Drives Coordinator, at 571-323-9569. 

Photo courtesy of Cornerstones

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Fairfax County NAACP announced a new virtual town hall to discuss system racism in public schools with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

Brabrand was originally going to co-host a town hall on the topic with Fairfax NAACP on July 21. He dropped out of the event, which took place the same night the county’s school board reconsidered reopening plans for schools.

Fairfax NAACP pivoted and used the town hall on July 21 to unveil the organization’s priorities for combatting racism in schools. Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman said during the event that the organization would work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

Now, Brabrand and Fairfax NAACP are scheduled to host a town hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. People can watch the event on Facebook Live.

“One topic that will be discussed is the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Fairfax NAACP posted on Facebook, sharing a YouTube video by The Root, a Black-oriented online magazine, that explains how the School-to-Prison Pipeline works.

Here’s the event description:

From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism effects our children’s lives every day. This will be a civil discourse where we can openly talk about our and our kids’ experiences, ask questions, and talk about what change looks like.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Fairfax County confirmed it is still mandatory for all students enrolling in Fairfax County Public Schools to receive their required immunizations, despite the school year starting virtually.

The county’s health department is providing nine additional community childhood vaccination clinics and encouraging families to take advantage of free vaccination opportunities before the start of the school year, according to the Fairfax County Emergency Information website.

Required vaccinations protect against life-threatening illnesses such as polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox, according to the website. Additionally, incoming seventh-graders need a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine, and preteens need vaccines to protect against diseases such as HPV.

Only a select number of appointments will be available at community vaccination clinics to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To schedule an appointment, call 703-246-6010, TTY 711. Clinics encourage families to send a picture of their child’s vaccination records to decrease face-to-face time at the clinic.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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Herndon Police Issues Warning about Unlocked Cars — Local police investigated reports of at least 10 vehicles that someone entered other than their owner. All vehicles were left unlocked. [Herndon Police Department]

Teachers’ Union Seeks Roles for All — The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers is asking Fairfax County Public Schools has a role for all staff including instructional assistants and bus drivers. [Fairfax County Federation of Teachers]

Arrest Made in Aggravated Assault Case — “Marian Jose Acuna Palma, 27, of Herndon, VA was arrested and charged with aggravated assault for the stabbing of a victim that is known to her. The victim went to Fair Oaks Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries,” according to police. The incident happened on the 1000 block of Elden Street on July 21. [Herndon Police Department]

Atlanta Firm Acquires Reston Company — “Atlanta-based investment company Battle Investment Group has acquired Reston-based telecommunications company Oceus Networks, the company announced Tuesday.” [Virginia Business]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County Public Schools has reversed course and now plans to have a fully virtual start new school returns in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, the Fairfax County School Board approved the virtual start after FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that he was worried about staff feeling comfortable returning for instruction in the classroom.

Previously, the school system was going to give parents the option to choose between fully online learning or a hybrid model with a combination of in-person and virtual learning.

In late June, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association raised concerns about teachers’ safety with in-person learning during the pandemic.

In early July, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed FCPS as a “disaster” and DeVos, along with President Donald Trump, said that schools must open in the fall. Yesterday, Trump said that schools may need to delay opening as COVID-19 cases rise.

When Reston Now asked readers on Monday, July 13, which option they liked, roughly 55% said they would choose fully online learning, while 30% picked the hybrid model.

Now that the school system has switched to the fully virtual option to kick off the school year, we want to know what your thoughts are. Do you agree with the school system’s decision?

Photo courtesy Dan Dennis on Unsplash

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Fairfax County NAACP shared nine priorities for tackling racism in the county’s public schools on Tuesday night.

The virtual town hall was originally set to be a two-hour discussion with Superintendent Scott Brabrand, but Brabrand declined and instead attended the school board’s meeting to push for a fully online start to school.

Sujatha Hampton, the chair of Fairfax NAACP’s education committee, presented the nine priorities. “Black kids are regularly asked to swallow their pain,” Hampton said.

The event Tuesday night received more than 1,700 views. Most of the discussion and comments focused on school resource officers (SROs), the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) and principals’ power.

Advanced Academic Programs

Several commenters claimed that there are “drastic” differences between the general education curriculum and AAP Program. “I support getting rid of the AP program for SO MANY reasons,” one person wrote. “We could do so much more as a school system if we didn’t have it.”

The organization’s president Sean Perryman said that the AAP Program is large, referring to a Washington Post story about students getting into the program through the appeals process.

“There’s a reason for us to look deeply at the AAP Program to see if the juice is worth the squeeze,” Hampton said. “It has so many problems, let’s just take a look at it.”

School Resource Officers

For SROs, Perryman said he wants to have more conversation around the idea of taking officers out of schools, questioning how effective SROs have been in preventing and responding to school shootings. Instead, SROs can increase the school-to-prison pipeline for Black and Latino students, Perryman.

“I know for a lot of people, it gives them heartburn when they think we’re going to take the SROs out of schools because they have this understanding that if a cop is present in the school, my child is safe,” Perryman said.

Especially now that FCPS will start off the school year virtually, Perryman said that state funds that go to SROs can instead get used for therapists — “counselors not cops,” he said.

Principals 

Several commenters agreed that principals should take the lead on creating an anti-racist school culture.

Hampton said that principals have “tremendous power” over their schools — “almost like a mini fiefdom” — when deciding disciplinary actions.

Here are the nine priorities:

  • protect vulnerable students, faculty and staff most impacted by COVID-19
  • add more support for Equity and Cultural Responsiveness Team in schools*
  • have the School Board vote on removing SROs from schools*
  • make curriculum review committees to scrutinize racial/cultural bias*
  • create a plan to hire and improve retention of Black and Latino teachers
  • examine AAP’s admission process, goals, etc.
  • review demographics and accessibility of abstract math, Honors, AP and IB classes to increase Black and Latino students*
  • examine the roles of principals and regional superintendents to ensure effective oversight on equity issues
  • review and revise the admission process to Thomas Jefferson High School
  • *priorities to be completed by end of the upcoming school year

Perryman said that the organization will work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

People can watch the full video on Facebook Live.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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