Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III - Plan for Safe Return

ESSER III - In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services

Section 1: Introduction

The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s students by addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. This plan describes how Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. 

A summary of the FCPS response to COVID-19 has been posted online.

For more information on the ESSER III grant, please watch this video explaining what ESSER is all about, and also this video taking look into our schools to see how ESSER III funds are being used to help our students.  

Section 2: Maintaining Health and Safety

FCPS has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. A description of actions already taken and additional actions planned is below.

Steps to maintain health and safety during and following the return to full in-person instruction are listed on the Return to School - Safety webpage, and highlighted below.

Please note, unless otherwise stated, programs were in place in August 2021 for the start of the 2021-22 school year.  

Safety Recommendations

FCPS has adopted policies on each of the following safety recommendations established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 

  • Universal and correct wearing of masks (revised 2/28/22)
  • Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing 
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette 
  • Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation 
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the health department 
  • Coordination with state and local health officials 

COVID-19 Testing (October 2021)

Vaccines (August - November 2021)

  • Provisions of vaccinations to school communities in collaboration with the Fairfax County Health Department 

Accommodations for Children with Disabilities

  • Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies. 

Section 3: Continuity of Services

FCPS has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff's social, emotional, mental health, and other needs.  FCPS is committed to continuity of learning during the 2021-22 school year and the school division is using layered prevention strategies to do everything possible to ensure our schools remain safe, healthy and open. Our plan is to remain open using these strategies unless directed otherwise by health officials or Executive Order.  A plan is in place to ensure continuity of learning in the event health authorities or an Executive Order require a temporary closure to protect the health of students, staff, and the community.

With the return to five days of in-person instruction, FCPS describes academic plans in detail here.

Details for services are described below:

No-Cost Meals

In addition to the services listed above, the FCPS Food and Nutrition Services team offers no-cost meals to all students and children under the age of 18 in Fairfax County through June 2022.  

Virtual Instruction Program

A virtual instruction program was created to support students who have a documented medical need related to COVID-19 and were approved to attend. 

Recovery Services

Recovery Services are available to students with disabilities whose teams determined there remains a significant educational impact due to the COVID-19 school closure and virtual learning during the 2020-21 school year. Recovery Services are designed to address learning gaps and are determined by IEP teams.

Multi-Tiered System of Support

The school division uses a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework to make decisions in order to provide high quality instruction and intervention - and to address student academic social, emotional, mental health needs.   A listing of community resources on health and mental health is also available to staff, students and families.  

Paused/Quarantined Student Support (September 2021)

StreamIN/CheckIN is FCPS’ solution for providing meaningful instructional support to students who are paused, quarantined, or isolated due to COVID-19. These students may be out of school for up to two weeks, and we are committed to supporting them. No later than Day 3 of a student’s COVID-related absence, schools will provide student support. Additional information can be found on the FCPS StreamIN/CheckIN webpage.

Students' Academic Needs

  • Academic leads are in place at each comprehensive school.  These academic leads have received ongoing professional development throughout the school year to ensure that they can support the creation and implementation of their school’s ESSER III/SIIP plan.
  • Summer Learning Programs were expanded to meet the needs of students at every level with a 66% increase (30,241) in participation over the previous four-year average (Elementary Programs: 13,107; Middle School Programs: 2,745; High School Programs: 11,784). Over 300,000 summer practice books were developed and distributed to support student needs related to Pre-K skill development, literacy, mathematics, special education, and ESOL.
  • Identified clear and consistent expectations for what schools should offer as high quality Tier 1 academic content, addressing expected gaps in standards from the prior year and standards to cover. 
  • Additional resources and guidance around Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports in Literacy and Math were developed. The division is also conducting an RFP in order to have a pre-approved list of vendors to provide tutoring services.
  • Developed pacing guides, lesson plans, and other supplemental curricular resources for teachers to address expected gaps in student knowledge.
    • Aligned to VDOE prioritizing Essential Standards by grade and course, including standards that may require additional attention due to loss of instructional time in 20–21.
    • Development of required phonological awareness and phonics lessons in planning and pacing guides for grades K–2 as part of our Equitable Access to Literacy (EAL) Plan aligned to the Science of Reading. 
    • Continued access to self-paced, adaptive digital resources for literacy and mathematics in PreK–8.
    • Continued development of resources to support culturally-responsive practices and social and emotional learning.
  • Conducted baseline screening assessments in elementary and middle school reading and mathematics to determine individual student needs.

Students’ Social, Emotional, Mental Health, and Other Needs

  • Wellness Leads: Wellness leads are in place at each comprehensive school. These wellness leads have received ongoing professional development throughout the school year to ensure that they can support the creation and implementation of their school’s ESSER III/SIIP plan. 
  • Evidence Based Strategies:  Evidence based strategies are provided within an MTSS framework. Schools provide a broad continuum of interventions to serve all students, further differentiating interventions for students with identified needs. Schoolwide practices include: CASEL 3 Signature Practices, Morning Meeting (ES), and Advisory meetings (MS/HS). Interventions for students with identified needs may include small group or individual counseling, as well as referrals to community mental health agencies. 
    • Short Term Behavioral Health (STBH) referrals provided by community-based clinicians:  This service is a short term intervention of up to ten counseling sessions. Most STBH providers offer in-person and telehealth options.  
    • Children’s Services Act (CSA):  The Children’s Services Act (CSA) is a Virginia law that helps children and families have access to services and supports when children struggle with behavioral health care needs. Collaboration between state and local agencies, and care-givers plan for and provide services to youth with serious emotional or behavioral needs.
  • Ongoing Professional Development: Professional development and coaching are being provided to schools throughout the year.  All administrators, instructional staff, and school-based mental health professionals are required to take the Foundations of SEL & High Leverage Tier 1 Practices eLearnIT module through MyPDE.  Schools also held a required one-time live training called Refresh and Remind.  In January, a new Module-Safe and Caring Schools and an FCPS developed Mental Health and Trauma Awareness training module will be released for all staff. 
    • Optional training is also available to instructional staff to support student wellness. Examples include Mental Health in the Schools, Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) and Building a Trauma-Informed Classroom.    
    • School-based mental health staff participate in required trainings with a focus on suicide risk assessment, threat assessment and crisis prevention. Additional opportunities for school-based staff include Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).  
  • Data: Schools are using a comprehensive array of measures to assess and understand student strengths and needs as related to SEL and mental wellness. These measures include division-wide implementation of the CASEL- aligned SEL Screener, which provides information regarding the social and emotional skill sets and mental health needs of all students. A related data collection tool has been disseminated to all school teams to understand current trends in implementation of schoolwide behavior and wellness practices and programs across FCPS.  The Signs of Suicide (SOS) Psychoeducational Program and Depression Screening is a prevention program designed for middle-school (ages 11-13) and high-school (ages 13-17) students. All middle and high schools were required to implement this program in the fall for all 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students. Middle and high schools also had the option of administering the program to 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students, while elementary schools also had the option of implementing the program to 6th grade students.

Section 4: Opportunity for Public Comment

In developing the ARP ESSER Plan, FCPS sought public input and took such input into account with the opportunities as shared below.

FCPS sought public input via:

  • Targeted focus groups conducted on May 25, May 27 and June 10, 2021
  • School Board public hearing held on June 7, 2021 and on February 24, 2022 (see below)
  • An initial online community feedback form in May-June, 2021
  • Superintendent Town Halls (see below)
  • A second online community feedback form was open February 18 through March 4, 2022.

Public Hearings

View the recording of the Fairfax County School Board Public Hearing that was held on Monday, June 7, 2021.

View the recording of the Fairfax County School Board Public Hearing that was held on Thursday, February 24, 2022. 

Town Halls with the Superintendent

August 17, 2021 Reunion Informativa Del Superintendente (Spanish) Return to School Town Hall  - Watch Video

August 16, 2021 Return to School Town Hall - Watch Video

Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand; Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Fairfax County Health Department; Jeffrey Platenberg, assistant superintendent of the FCPS Department of Facilities and Transportation; and Michelle Boyd, assistant superintendent of the FCPS Department of Special Services, answered your questions about the layered prevention strategies that FCPS will be using to keep schools safe and healthy as we return to in-person learning five days a week on August 23. 

April 21, 2021 - Town Hall (Watch Video) 

April 7, 2021 - Town Hall (Watch Video) 

February 10, 2021 - Town Hall (Watch Video) 

January 14, 2021 Town Hall (Watch Video)

January 11, 2021 - Town Hall (Watch Video)

November 30, 2020 - Watch Video

November 19, 2020 - Watch Video

October 19, 2020 -- Watch Video

September 2, 2020 -- Watch Video

September 1, 2020 Watch Video

August 26, 2020 - Watch Video

August 19, 2020 - Watch Video

August 12, 2020 - Watch Video

July 8, 2020 - Watch Video

July 6, 2020 - Watch Video

June 16, 2020 - Watch Video

Section 5: Periodic Review and Revision of Plan

During the period of the ARP ESSER award (until September 2023), FCPS will periodically review and, as needed, revise its plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. The plan will be reviewed at least every six months, and FCPS will seek and take into account public input during the review process. Plan revisions will address updated CDC guidance on safely reopening schools, if any are issued.

February 22, 2022 School Board Work Session presentation, ESSER III ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT 1, Spending Plan Narrative, video recording of work session.

Section 6: Making the Plan Available to the Public

FCPS has taken the following steps to make this plan available to the public:

  • The plan is posted at ESSER Spending Plan;
  • The plan is available in other languages by using the orange translation buttons at the top of the web page.  This service is through "machine translation" using Google Translate. [Disclaimer]
  • The plan may be orally translated for parents. Contact the Office of Communication and Community Relations at 571-423-1200 to request translation; and
  • Upon request, a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA may be provided with the plan in an alternative format accessible by contacting the Office of Communication and Community Relations at 571-423-1200.



For answers to questions on this grant, contact the ESSER III project team at [email protected]