FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — In October, select students have been returning in small groups for in-person instruction at Fairfax County Public Schools, and a revised recommendation to bring back more students will be presented in November.
The return to school plan brings back groups of students in phases. The first group, students in specialized high school career preparatory programs, began in-person instruction on Oct. 5. Additional groups are beginning to return or are planned to return in November.
Last week, the school board voted to request an earlier return proposal for the final two groups to return than what Superintendent Scott Brabrand proposed. The superintendent's proposal calls for a Jan. 4 return for group seven (third to sixth grade, secondary public day Programs-special Education at Burke Middle School, Cedar Lane School, and Quander Road School and students with target learner profiles at Davis Center and Pulley Center). Group eight (middle and high school students in grades six to 12 and Davis & Pulley Career Centers) would return on Jan. 26.
Board members who voted to request an earlier timeline proposal were Megan McLaughlin, Ricardy Anderson, Rachna Heizer, Karen Corbett Sanders, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Stella Pekarsky and Abrar Omeish. Members who voted "no" were Tamara Kaufax, Laura Jane Cohen and Karl Frisch.
The superintendent was directed to bring back a revised plan on Nov. 12. That meeting will also feature an update on concurrent instruction pilot programs being tested at several schools. Concurrent instruction is a model for students to receive two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual instruction.
In the superintendent's latest return to school update, Brabrand wrote that the school district's goal is to have all students back no later than the start of the second semester in February.
"Our first three weeks of in-person cohort learning have gone very well, and we have had no incidents to cause concern," the superintendent wrote. "We are bringing back additional groups of students as we continue to meet the health and operational metrics that have been established for in-person instruction including low transmission rates, mitigation strategies, planned response for confirmed cases, and availability of teachers and staff."
FCPS will give families a choice of virtual-only learning or the hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning. Schools will contact families to confirm if the enrollment choice they provided in July is what they want now. If a family's choice has changed, FCPS will work to accommodate the choice depending on staff and space availability.
The school district has started to share weekly updates on self-reported COVID-19 cases. These cases include students who are present in school buildings or attending the Fairfax County Support Return to School program, visitors to FCPS facilities, FCPS staff, and Fairfax County staff working in school buildings at the Support Return to School program. During the week of Oct. 19, there were nine staff cases reported and four student cases. To date since Sept. 8, there have been 100 reported FCPS staff cases, two visitor cases and 16 student cases.
The Virginia Department of Health is providing data on outbreaks of COVID-19, defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases, in K-12 settings. In the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax, no outbreaks have been reported in the K-12 public and private school settings as of Oct. 26.