Welcome to the 20-21 School Year
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Welcome to the 2020-21 school year!
I hope your summer break gave you the opportunity to rest and reconnect with family and friends.
This will be a brief update in advance of Tuesday’s virtual start to the school year.
First Day Preparations
Since returning August 14, our teachers have been working in collaborative meetings, professional development trainings, and reviewing course content to ensure we are ready to meet the challenge of virtual learning on September 8. We have emphasized and enhanced best practices in distance learning including technical skills and curriculum support. Our teachers are collaborating to develop creative ways that students can engage with one another virtually, and ensure access to a variety of resources.
We have worked hard to address the social-emotional needs of students and staff while fostering inclusive and safe learning environments.
I am confident that our FCPS team is ready to deliver an exceptional learning experience for all our students, even in these most unusual circumstances.
We know an undertaking of this magnitude will not work flawlessly 100 percent of the time. We therefore have developed contingency plans to support our classroom teachers should any technical glitches arise next week or beyond.
The FCPS Parent Technology Resource page provides tip sheets and support in multiple languages. These tip sheets provide answers to basic questions about FCPS technologies. Often you can find the answer to your question in these resources. For technical support questions about your online parent accounts, your student’s FCPS laptop, or technology your student uses for online learning, contact the Parent Technology Help Desk (toll free) at 833-921-3277 or enter a support request ticket via the Parent and Student IT Portal .
The Parent Technology Help Desk will be answered 7 a.m.-11 p.m., seven days a week. Parents who need help in a language other than English should let help desk staff know, and an interpreter will join them on the line. (FCPS has Parent Information Phone Lines available in eight languages to assist with general questions about FCPS.)
Since March, we have significantly improved our distance learning capabilities on many fronts. This effort became even more important when we determined the 2020-21 school year would begin virtually for all students.
To improve reliability and security, we:
- completed an extensive upgrade and performed load testing of the Blackboard environment;
- completed integrating our new planned learning management system, Schoology, with Blackboard Collaborate, and began a Schoology pilot in multiple schools; and
- implemented a Cloud Gateway Management system to push security patches and updates to FCPS devices remotely.
To help users solve problems, we:
- created a Tech Support Request hub where students and parents can submit tickets directly for IT support;
- launched the Parent Technology Help Desk for direct tech support in multiple languages; and
- expanded technology support resources, in multiple languages, for everything from keeping your laptop healthy to navigating Google and Blackboard sessions.
To improve the educational experience, we:
- gave our teachers more options for managing digital learning by expanding our capabilities with Google’s G Suite for Education; and
- built a single sign-on for instructional applications that support virtual learning;
And to help all users succeed in a virtual environment, we:
- acquired additional laptops and MiFi devices to support greater use of technology by FCPS students;
- partnered with Cox Communications to provide internet access to families; and
- delivered extensive professional development on creating effective virtual environments for learning.
These initiatives do not guarantee an issue-free school year. The challenge is great—but our students, parents, and community should know that we have been working diligently so we can count on our technology to deliver an exceptional educational experience.
We also learned this week that our free meal program for ALL students will continue through December 31, 2020. FCPS has distributed more than 2.3 million Grab & Go meals since schools closed in March. Our goal is to provide every FCPS student daily access to a healthy breakfast and lunch. Beginning Tuesday, September 8, Grab & Go service hours will be 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with both breakfast and lunch available at the same time. Buses will also be distributing meals in several neighborhoods beginning at 6:30 a.m. Get more information about food distribution here .
Immunizations and Physicals
We recognize that it may be difficult at this time for families to obtain access to timely healthcare for physicals and required immunizations. We encourage all families to contact their primary care physician or the Fairfax County Health Department to schedule an appointment to meet the state requirements for immunizations and physicals. Even though, we are starting our year virtually, the state has not waived these requirements. Additional information is available here.
This isn’t how we wanted our school year to start, but we know it’s what is best right now. My hope is to end this year with our students back in school full time.
Please partner with us to ensure that every student succeeds this school year.
Scott Brabrand, Superintendent