Reston, VA

Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a town hall last night that he plans to ask the Fairfax County School Board this week to delay the start of the school year to after Labor Day.

Brabrand kicked off the town hall by saying that families will now have until Wednesday, July 15, instead of Friday, July 10, to pick whether they prefer four days of synchronous online learning or two days of in-person learning with asynchronous online learning.

Brabrand said that he wants to extend the start date to Tuesday, Sept. 8, to give principals more time to prepare, because the survey deadline is getting extended. The pushed back start date this fall would not lengthen the school year, Brabrand said, adding that he wants teachers and staff to return at the normally scheduled times to get a head start on planning and reaching out to families.

During the town hall, audience members called and emailed in questions asking about what the two learning options will look like, COVID-19 safety measures and what to do about childcare. Here’s what the superintendent said.

Safety Measures for Students and Staff

Brabrand said that more health and safety protocols, including recess and playground equipment, are expected to get released later this week. Currently, he knows students and staff will be asked to wear face coverings in schools.

The schools will not check every child’s temperature, but will check if a kid shows up without a mask, he said, adding that parents will be expected to complete a form daily about whether or not their kids have COVID-19 symptoms.

Students who show COVID-19 symptoms in class will be sent to the clinic and then possibly have to wait in an isolation room before their parents come to pick them up, he said. For COVID-19 cases, schools would decide on a case by case basis what to do after the contract tracing investigation, he said.

Brabrand urged families are struggling to decide between the two options to see how their kids respond to wearing masks for six hours.

What School Will Look Like 

Brabrand stressed that FCPS will remain flexible if the pandemic dramatically worsens or improves, but he said that he wants to curb parents going back and forth on in-person vs. online learning during the school year.

“We’ve never had to create two separate school systems before, ever,” Brabrand said.

While he wants parents to stick to their choice for the entire school year, he said that the schools will consider emergency situations on a case by cases and school by school basis.

Depending on how many families select in-person vs. online learning, Brabrand said that additional in-person days might be offered. Even if FCPS increases in-person learning, teachers would have Mondays reserved for planning and additional time to work with students who are struggling.

“We know that for families who want in-person, they want as much in person as possible,” Brabrand said.

Brabrand said that capacity is the key reason FCPS won’t offer five days of in-person learning.

The schedules for the two days of in-person learning would work alphabetically by last name so that families with kids in multiple grades would go to school on the same days, Sloan Presidio, the assistant superintendent for instructional services, said last night.

Currently, the school system is trying to figure out to maximize learning space for students. Brabrand said that he’s working with principals to consider temporary learning space outside. The weather, though, could pose obstacles, he added. School cafeterias are also places that might turn into classrooms this fall, Brabrand said.

As for online learning, families can expect FCPS teachers to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Google Classroom for video conferencing, Brabrand said, adding that FCPS has plans to use a new platform called Schoology.

Childcare Concerns

Several callers raised concerns about childcare when deciding which learning option to pick, saying that their childcare centers don’t have plans yet for the fall and that they don’t know how the synchronous online learning would work if both parents work during the day.

Presidio said that FCPS is planning to have several hours of learning for kindergarten students in the morning, but that families should check with their schools’ principals to find out what the schedules would look like.

While FCPS is working with the county and private childcare providers, Brabrand said that childcare challenges are outside the scope of what the school system can accomplish in a few months.

“I know childcare remains one of the critical issues,” Brabrand said, adding he would like to see faith communities offer more support.

Brabrand said that people can expect future town halls — including Spanish language, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and Special Education PTA ones — and more information on health and safety guidelines.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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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.

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Virginia Tech has been making local headlines lately with the announcement of its Innovation Campus in the newly-designated neighborhood of National Landing.

While the new campus will help cement the university’s regional footprint, Virginia Tech has been quietly providing graduate education opportunities in the D.C. area since 1969.

Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business has offered its MBA programs in this region for decades and more recently made the decision to narrow its focus to working professionals in urban centers across the commonwealth.

“What we did at Virginia Tech a few years ago was to say that we really want to focus on the working professional — someone who wants to enhance their career or make a change in the direction of their career, but not at the expense of continuing to be a business professional,” says Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast. That allows those students to come into the classroom, he adds, “and use what they’ve learned as part of the experience of the MBA program.”

Arlington is home to the Executive MBA program, an 18-month, cohort-based option for mid-career professionals. The curriculum is centered around experiential learning modules that provide students with hands-on experience in topics like business analytics and leadership and governance.

The nationally-ranked Evening MBA program is based in Falls Church and designed to provide maximum flexibility. Students can change their course load each semester to balance work and other commitments. They also have the option to focus their degree in one of 10 specialization areas, including traditional business topics like finance and management, and some more niche areas like healthcare information technology.

The Professional MBA program is a 24-month hybrid option with once-per-month in-person classes that rotate between Richmond, Roanoke and Newport News.

Visit mba.vt.edu to learn more about Virginia Tech’s MBA programs, or register to attend an upcoming information session.

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Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School are in the works, but it’s going to be a few years.

A 10-year forecast shows the renovation process spread out from fiscal years 2022-2026 in the Fairfax County Public School CIP.

Planning for the project is expected to start in FY 2022 with funding from a 2021 bond, with permitting beginning the next year.

The school first opened in 1986 and since then, according to county documents, there’s been no substantial renovations except for capacity enhancements in 1990.

The Hunter Mill District’s School Board Representative, Pat Hynes, noted in a newsletter that Armstrong, Crossfield and Louise Archer elementary schools are all planned for additions and renovations over the next 5-10 years.

Photo via Facebook

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Virginia Tech’s Evening MBA program moved up three places to No. 14 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 rankings of the best part-time MBA programs.

The Northern Virginia-based program now ranks as the top public university part-time MBA in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The report assessed more than 300 part-time MBA programs across the country on factors such as student quality, peer reputation and the ratio of part-time to full-time students.

“This marks the fifth consecutive year that the Evening MBA has featured in the top 20 programs nationwide,” said Dana K. Hansson, director of MBA programs. “We believe the faculty expertise and high level of flexibility we offer are key factors in continuing to attract high quality students to our program.”

The Evening MBA is one of three MBA programs offered by the Pamplin College of Business. With many shared courses and faculty, the Executive and Professional MBA program options offer a similar academic experience to the Evening program, but with alternate formats and locations to better serve a range of students.

“What we did at Virginia Tech a few years ago was to say that we really want to focus on the working professional — someone who wants to enhance their career or make a change in the direction of their career, but not at the expense of continuing to be a business professional,” says Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast. That allows those students to come into the classroom, he adds, “and use what they’ve learned as part of the experience of the MBA program.”

This commitment to serving part-time students contributed to Virginia Tech’s highest ever overall score in the ranking. Another contributing factor was a strong appraisal by other programs.

“We’re particularly proud of the peer assessment score given the high quality of other programs in the nation,” said Dr. Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for graduate programs at Pamplin. “In part, we believe the high rating is due to our commitment to offering cutting-edge courses in areas like innovation and entrepreneurship, machine learning/AI and cybersecurity that aren’t available to students in more traditional MBA programs.”

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Starting today (Feb. 15), South Lakes High School students can apply to the Reston Scholarship Fund of the Community College of Northern Virginia.

Liz Blankespoor, a Restonian and co-founder of the scholarship fund, told Reston Now in an email that the scholarship is currently supporting 22 graduates of South Lakes High School who are working on their post-secondary degrees.

The scholarship awards 10 scholarships each year to seniors planning to attend the community college before transferring to a four-year college.

South Lakes High School senior graduating in June must:

  • be attending the Northern Virginia Community College in this fall
  • have a GPA of 2.75 or higher
  • demonstrate financial need

The scholarships vary amounts, with a possible award of up to $16,000. They are spread over the course of six years and are renewable for students who maintain a GPA at or above 2.75 and continue to demonstrate financial need, Blankespoor wrote.

Submissions are due by May 1.

File photo

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Primrose Schools, a private preschool franchise, expanded its reach with a newly opened location in Reston.

The school announced on Instagram last Monday (Jan. 28) that the Reston location officially opened. Neighboring the North Hills tennis courts and pools, Primrose School of Reston takes the former site of the North Village KinderCare at 1309 N. Village Road.

The new facility is part of a franchise that has more than 400 schools in 29 states and is accredited through AdvancED. The Reston one is the 16th Primrose School in Virginia, with nearby ones in Chantilly and Ashburn. The schools in the D.C. area provide year-round full and part-time education for infants and children as young as six weeks old, according to the website.

The school, which is owned by Rina Patel and Beau and Urvi Athia, was originally expected to open in the fall, Reston Now previously reported

Earlier last month, the Reston location faced criticism concerning the size and color of its red plastic fire truck.

Reston Association’s Design Review Board ultimately OK’d the playground equipment, along with signs for the school.

The school will host an open house on Saturday (Feb. 9). A grand opening is set for April 6.

Images via Google Maps, Primrose Schools and Reston Association/YouTube

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Fairfax County public schools will open two hours late tomorrow (Jan. 31).

FCPS tweeted that tomorrow’s scheduled delay is due to dangerously cold conditions and the potential for icy spots. The county has been hit with snow, rain and gusty winds, this week, causing issues on local roads.

School offices and central offices will open on time tomorrow.

File photo

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