FCPS This Week e-newsletter - September 1, 2021

By Communication and Community Relations
September 01, 2021

How Pausing, Quarantining, and Isolating Keeps Our Schools Safe

Since the beginning of August, the majority of COVID-19 cases have been acquired through community spread, outside of school buildings. 

FCPS’ layered prevention strategies are working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Pausing, quarantining, and isolating are tools we use to keep schools safe when a positive COVID-19 case is reported. Understanding the difference between the three scenarios can help families be prepared.


A pause to in-person instruction is a short-term safety measure used by FCPS and the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) to allow time to investigate and determine the safest way to address a positive case within our school community. The pause will be initiated by the FCHD for anyone who interacted with an individual who reported a positive COVID-19 case.

  • A pause typically lasts between 24-48 hours while FCHD verifies vaccination status and completes contact tracing.
  • Vaccination status may reduce the time spent in a pause, but must be verified every time an individual is put on a pause. 
  • The FCHD does not accept a negative COVID-19 test to release an individual from the pause. 
  • You will be contacted by the FCHD with a date they can return to school or work.
  •  This flowchart best explains what happens when there is a pause.

Close Contact

close contact is any person, regardless of vaccination status, who is within six feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for equal to or greater than 15 minutes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) K-12 Exception indicates that students will not be identified as close contacts if they are at least three feet apart and are consistently wearing masks in the classroom setting. Adults are not included in this exception.


When a student is identified as a close contact, there are two things that may occur as a result:

  • Not fully vaccinated students who are identified as a close contact with someone with COVID-19 must remain home for 14 days after their last exposure. FCPS will notify a student of their return date.
  • Fully vaccinated students must remain home until their vaccination status is verified. Upon verification of vaccination status by the FCHD, and if the student/staff is asymptomatic, they may return to in-person learning and activities once notified by FCPS of their return date.


Isolation is the response when someone tests positive for COVID-19. Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may not return until:

  • It has been at least 10 days since the student first had symptoms, AND
  • The student must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, AND
  • The student’s symptoms are getting better.

FCPS is committed to providing students with opportunities to remain engaged in learning when they are in a pause, quarantine, or isolation period. This chart outlines the ways students receive instruction and materials.

It is important to note that more than one case reported by a student, staff, or visitor to a particular school or building does not always mean there is an outbreak. An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with onset within a 14-day period who are epidemiologically linked (a case in which the person has been exposed to a confirmed case in a way that a known transmission can occur), do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in a setting outside of school during the health department investigation. 

FCPS’ goal is to keep students learning in-person all year. We are doing our part by implementing layered prevention strategies and working with FCHD to address positive cases and potential exposures. Every FCPS student and family can do their part by wearing masks, getting vaccinated when they are eligible, practicing healthy hygiene, and staying home when sick. 

To learn more about COVID-19 case notifications, watch this video

FCPS to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Athletic Participation

Beginning November 8, FCPS will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League (VHSL) winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. 

Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination will also be required for participation in any other activity that requires a physical. This includes dance team and step team, as well as out-of-season practices and workouts. 

Read Dr. Brabrand’s letter to the community.

Please note: Exemptions will be permitted on religious and medical grounds.

We know you have lots of questions! Check back next week for more details and answers to frequently asked questions. We are still working through some of the operational aspects of this decision.

Fairfax County School Board Approves $188 Million ESSER III Spending Plan

The Fairfax County School Board approved a $188.6 million spending plan for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) grant funds at its Board meeting on August 26. 

The funds will be used to address expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the safe reopening of schools and to sustain the safe operation of schools. The spending plan also outlines how the division will address the impact of COVID on students by addressing their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Safety Reminder: Mask Wearing on School Buses

Masks are an essential tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting those unable to be vaccinated. To ensure a safe start to the school year, masks will be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, inside FCPS buildings and on school buses

Elementary School Parents: Stay With Your Child Until They Are Picked Up by the Bus

As a result of the nationwide bus driver shortage that is affecting FCPS, some elementary school bus routes that previously had two bus drivers are now served by only one driver and require the driver to “double back,” or make two trips to the school. If your child must wait for the driver to double back, please remain with them until they are picked up.

Do Your Part!

Masks are not simply a piece of fabric we are told to wear. A mask is a tool each of us uses to keep ourselves and others safe and keep students learning together in classrooms.

2021-22 Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R) 

The Student Rights and Responsibilities document (SR&R) explains expectations for student behavior and adult responses to enhance school safety and to create a fair, equitable and supportive school environment. Changes to the 2021-22 S&R include:

  • Edited language throughout the document to reflect gender neutrality. 
  • A new section entitled Notable Changes for Students and Parents that highlights changes in the SR&R from last school year.
  • Restructuring of the Rights and Responsibilities Chapter with student rights prominently featured.
  • Language that further defines interaction of law enforcement and students. 
  • Additional terms in the glossary to increase understanding.

The SR&R Parent/Guardian signature sheet is due by October 29. More information about the SR&R is available online.

2021-22 Cultural Observances and Religious Holidays

The Fairfax County School Board approved a calendar for the 2021-22 school year that is designed to recognize, respect, and honor the plurality of religious and cultural observances in Fairfax County. The calendar ensures students will not have to make choices between honoring their cultural or religious beliefs and missing a test or school activity. 

On the 15 observance days listed below, schools will not schedule tests or quizzes. Tests and quizzes will be given before any of these days, so students are not expected to study on the observance day. 

In addition, schools will not schedule events including field trips, graduation, homecoming, or FCPS-scheduled athletic events on any of the 15 observance days. 

The calendar recognizes 15 diverse religious and cultural observances including:

  • Eid al-Adha.
  • Rosh Hashanah.
  • Yom Kippur.
  • Día de los Muertos.
  • Diwali.
  • Bodhi Day.
  • Three Kings Day/Epiphany.
  • Orthodox Christmas.
  • Orthodox Epiphany.
  • Lunar New Year.
  • Ramadan.
  • Good Friday.
  • Theravada.
  • Orthodox Good Friday/Last Night of Passover.
  • Eid al-Fitr. 

The 2021-22 calendar also separates spring break from any religious or cultural observances.

Provide Input on Boundary Policy Review at a Virtual Community Meeting

The Fairfax County School Board is in the process of reviewing Policy 8130, Facilities Planning, Local School Boundaries, Program Assignments, and School Closings

In July 2019, the Board requested the Superintendent hire an outside consultant to work with the Board to identify best practices in boundary policy and engage the community in the discussion.

MGT Consulting Group (MGT), an education consulting firm, will be sharing information about the boundary policy review at three upcoming community meetings and seeking community input in a survey. 

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting. Each meeting will provide the same information and use the same format. No specific boundary changes will be discussed at the meetings. The meeting dates are:  

  • Monday, September 13, 7 to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 14, 7 to 8 p.m.
  • Monday, September 20, 7 to 8 p.m.

Please register online to receive the meeting link and indicate if you need an interpreter

MGT will send all FCPS parents an email with the survey link to collect input. The community meetings will not be discussing any boundary changes for any schools within FCPS. The information shared will focus on what factors should be considered when making boundary changes. 

More information about the Boundary Policy Review is available online

Students Earn AP Capstone Diploma and AP Seminar and Research Certificates

Sixty-six FCPS students earned the Advanced Placement (AP) ® Capstone Diploma and 23 students earned the AP Seminar and Research Certificate™ during the 2020-21 school year.

AP Capstone™ is a diploma program from the College Board based on two year-long AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. Both courses prepare students for college and career success through the development of critical thinking, academic research, collaboration, presentation, and time management skills. Throughout the AP Capstone program, students study a variety of topics across multiple disciplines and have the flexibility to choose topics of personal interest to show mastery of critical thinking, research, and presentation skills. Official AP Seminar and AP Research assessments include academic papers, multimedia presentations, and defense of findings.

See who earned an AP Capstone Diploma or an AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

FCPS Students to Participate in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener

FCPS is committed to supporting the well-being of all students and building caring school cultures that foster mental wellness. This year, students in all grades will have the opportunity to participate in a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener. SEL skills include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

The screener will review these skills, as well as students’ relationships, feelings of belonging, feelings about their school environment, and mood. These skills are important for collaboration and perspective taking. They help students manage their feelings, address challenges, and reach their goals.

Teachers will complete a survey on their observations of students' skills and experiences for students in grades K-2 in the winter and spring. Students in grades 3-12 will reflect and report on their own skills and experiences in the fall, winter, and spring. The SEL screener allows staff to gather information regarding student strengths and needs, thereby enhancing programming for schools, classrooms, and individual students. Results will be shared with parents and guardians following each assessment window.

Schools will be reaching out to their communities with additional information in the coming weeks. More information about the SEL Screener is available online.

Fairfax County Public Schools Announces Standards of Learning Data in Line with Pandemic Trends Felt Across the Region

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has announced 2020-21 Standards of Learning (SOL) pass rates for school divisions that show the impact of the pandemic on Fairfax County Public Schools was similar to that felt across the entire state. 

The VDOE is treating this past year’s SOL pass rates as an anomaly, due to lower participation rates brought on by the pandemic, and will not be taking them into consideration for school accreditation this coming school year. 

More information is available online.

ACE Relaunches Industrial Apprenticeship Program

FCPS Adult and Community Education (ACE) is re-launching its Apprenticeship program with a new curriculum. ACE has partnered with NCCER, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, to provide students with a premier experience. NCCER incorporates teacher-led instruction with theory and performance assessments to produce authentic learning. Online textbooks are offered in both English and Spanish. NCCER curriculum is nationally recognized, upon completion, students will have a portable credential recognized by employers as one of the best training experiences students can get in the trades. 

With the beginning of NCCER Apprenticeship classes in August, ACE will now offer classes based on a semester format (level 1 classes for 2021-22). The semester format will allow students to complete their apprenticeship training faster. The change also allows high school CTE students in skilled trade academy classes to seamlessly transition to ACE to complete their Apprenticeship training. 

For more information or questions, send an email to appren@fcps.edu.

Save the Date for Stuff the Bus on September 11 and October 9

On Saturday, September 11, and Saturday, October 9, Stuff the Bus will be collecting non-perishable food donations at 21 locations throughout Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax. Help fight hunger and feed hope in our community by donating. For updates, including donation locations, most requested food items and more, visit http://bit.ly/FfxStufftheBus.

Vietnamese and Korean Speakers Needed as Election Officers for the November General Election 

The Fairfax County Office of Elections needs additional bilingual election officers to assist voters for the General Election to be held on Tuesday November 2, and in future elections. Specifically, individuals who speak Vietnamese and English fluently or Korean and English fluently are needed to serve in Annandale, Centreville, Chantilly, and Falls Church.

Bilingual election officers will perform all regular election officer duties, including assisting most voters in English, but will be assigned to precincts with a significant number of voters who may primarily speak Vietnamese or Korean. To serve as a designated bilingual election officer, an applicant must be a registered Virginia voter and also complete a short oral language skills assessment.

Fairfax County is the largest voting jurisdiction in Virginia with 247 precincts countywide. It takes thousands of enthusiastic and trained election officers to ensure that we have efficient and well-run elections. Compensation begins at $175 and training is provided online for new officers.

If you are interested, the application process can be completed online. Be sure to indicate if you speak Vietnamese or Korean. Please apply as soon as possible, but no later than Monday, September 13, to serve in November.

More information on becoming an election officer is available online.