Return to School Countdown - August 4, 2020

By Communications and Community Relations Staff
August 04, 2020

Bell Schedule for Virtual Learning

The bell schedule for virtual learning for the 2020-21 school year will more closely resemble the start and end times our schools were using in 2019-20 before the school closure. That means the virtual high school day will be from 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.; secondary schools will follow the high school schedule; and middle schools from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The bell schedule for elementary schools varies. Your individual school will share with you the specific start and end time for elementary instruction. 

We want to provide as much of a sense of normalcy in our daily schedule as we can in this most unusual of circumstances. We are able to follow these schedules in a virtual environment because transportation arrangements are not needed.   


State Superintendent Waives Accreditation for the 2021-22 School Year

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane exercised emergency authority granted to him by the 2020 General Assembly to waive annual school accreditation for the 2021-22 academic year. Schools will be assigned a rating of “Accreditation Waived,” the same rating assigned schools for 2020-21 under a waiver issued in April.

Accreditation ratings are based on performance during the previous school year. The statewide closure of schools in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of spring Standards of Learning testing. Student performance on SOL tests in English, mathematics and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s school accreditation standards.

Without spring 2020 SOL results, there is insufficient data for the Virginia Department of Education to calculate accreditation ratings for the 2020-21 school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and growth in mathematics are also accreditation metrics, VDOE won’t have sufficient data to calculate ratings for 2021-22 either, because even if students are able to take tests next spring, the department won’t have baseline data from 2019-20 for measuring growth. 

In April, Lane appointed a task force to study the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on the commonwealth’s school accountability system and make recommendations on accreditation determinations for 2021-22. Waiving accreditation until there is sufficient baseline data to measure student growth was one of two options recommended by the task force which included FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

“Waiving annual accreditation for a second year will allow our schools to focus on assessing the impact of the shut down on students, academically and on their social and emotional well-being,” Lane said. “It will also allow school divisions to make decisions about resuming in-person instruction or reverting to virtual learning that prioritize the health of students and staff, without the added pressure of the possible impact on accreditation. If tests are administered during the upcoming school year, the focus should be on evaluating the impact of the pandemic on student learning and establishing a new baseline for measuring student growth.”


Special Education: Enhanced Virtual Programming

During August, special education case managers will work with parents and IEP teams to amend the student IEPs, if necessary, to reflect services the student will receive in the all virtual setting.

Teachers working in the virtual option will be conducting real-time face-to-face instruction four days a week. Special education teachers and related service providers will be providing instruction in groups and one-on-one as appropriate for students’ goals and scheduling.

Direct instruction may be supplemented with activities which can be completed by the student in addition to the synchronous instruction.

More Special Education updates are available online


Annual Virginia Tax Holiday Applies to School Supplies, Clothing Purchases

School will start virtually this fall for students in FCPS, but families in Virginia will get a sales tax break on clothes and supplies for school when the state holds its annual Virginia tax holiday, August 7-9.

To be eligible for the tax break, school supply items must be priced at $20 or less, and clothing and footwear must be priced at $100 or less. 

Among the eligible school supplies are art and music supplies, calculators, composition books and notebooks, paper, dictionaries, crayons, lunch boxes, pens, pencils, and reference books. 

More information about the Virginia tax holiday, including complete lists of eligible school supplies and clothing items, is available online


SAT and ACT Testing

FCPS is aware that families of high school students, especially our rising seniors, are concerned about access to ACT and SAT testing in FCPS and surrounding areas. We will proceed with the scheduled August 29 SAT testing at several FCPS high schools. In addition, we will work with the College Board to offer FCPS seniors an opportunity to take the SAT at their schools on September 23, through the SAT School Day testing program. We will share registration information for the September 23 test date in mid-August.

Any additional changes for weekend testing sites for the ACT or SAT in FCPS throughout the 2020-21 school year will depend on health conditions along with health and safety guidelines. Changes will be communicated directly to registered students by ACT or by the College Board for the SAT.

Free online test preparation is available at the following links: Khan Academy Official SAT Practice and ACT Academy. We encourage our rising seniors to carefully review the admissions criterion for the colleges on their lists, as many colleges are adjusting requirements for ACT or SAT. School counselors and career center specialists will be available in mid-August to discuss postsecondary planning with students and their families.


Virginia High School League Announces Sports and Activities Plan for 2020-21

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) Executive Committee, meeting in special session on July 27, voted to move forward with Model 3 in its re-opening of sports and activities for the 2020-21 school year. Model 3 delays all VHSL sports and activities until December 14 and adopts the Condensed Interscholastic Plan. This model leaves all sports in the season where they are currently aligned.

Model 3 – Condensed Interscholastic Plan:

  • Season 1 (Winter) December 14 to February 20 (First Contest Date–December 28): Basketball, Gymnastics, Indoor Track, Swim/Dive, Wrestling.
  • Season 2 (Fall) February 15 to May 1 (First Contest Date–March 1): Cheer, Cross Country, Field Hockey, Football, Golf, Volleyball.
  • Season 3 (Spring) April 12 to June 26 (First Contest Date–April 26): Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Track and Field.

More information is available on the VHSL website

Marching band season has been postponed. If students are able to return to school this fall or winter, we will consider possible marching band performance opportunities that do not conflict with the concert band assessments.


Food Resources for Families

Since school buildings were closed in March, our food services team has provided more than two million grab and go meals to families. FCPS will continue to provide grab-and-go meals through the remainder of the summer and once the school year begins.

Food and Nutrition Services is currently researching how to best meet the needs of families this upcoming school year, while exploring meal service options. Food distribution information will be announced as soon as possible.


Technology Access for Every Student

FCPS will provide all students laptops to use for online learning this school year. If a student does not already have an FCPS laptop, your school will send information on the laptop distribution process. Parents and caregivers will be able to pick up computers with minimal contact and without having to access FCPS buildings.

Technology Supports for Parents and Students

FCPS is also working to support families and students with technology. Supports include:

  • Providing technology access to students and families.
  • Launching a help desk for parents.
  • Developing a portal to allow students to request technology help directly.
  • Developing methods for students to manage their Blackboard Collaborate/Google Meet class links in their Google Calendar.

From the Healthy Minds Blog: Incorporating Growth Mindset Strategies to Help Children Thrive

Mindsets are groups of beliefs that guide how we interpret the world around us. They shape our behaviors and decisions, and they play a major role in how we set and obtain goals. Research pioneered by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that people function on a continuum between having a “growth” mindset and a “fixed” mindset. While all of us have bits of both, finding ways to incorporate more of a growth mindset into our lives can help us to thrive and achieve our goals.

Developing a growth mindset is a process that involves three main components: increasing effort, showing a willingness to try new strategies, and asking for help when needed. All three of these factors are important, and it is necessary for each to be taught, emphasized, and practiced. The following strategies can help teach these principles.


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