Distance Learning Plan - Distance Learning Model

Details on distance learning for all students and families

FCPS Distance Learning Model

We acknowledge distance learning cannot substitute for daily in-person instructional programs; we are not trying to replicate the regular school day experience. While our educators are eager to engage with students and help advance their academic and social-emotional learning, we recognize that student-teacher and student-student interactions at a distance are not equivalent to the invaluable social interactions that foster learning within our normal school setting. Still, we are committed to partnering with our families and community to make the best possible learning experiences under our current circumstances of forced separation.

FCPS intentionally uses the term “distance learning” to describe our plan rather than “virtual learning” or “online learning.” This choice is based on two core ideas. First, we recognize that across grade levels and across our county’s geography, students have differing levels of access to reliable technology and the internet as a learning tool.

Second, we assert that quality learning can and does happen remotely with and without computers. That said, we have seen that technology can be a powerful learning tool and that virtual collaboration platforms help maintain a degree of the connections felt among students within a traditional classroom. Training and preparation time for teachers prior to and throughout distance learning emphasize effective ways to utilize both digital and non-digital learning resources and techniques.

Role of Technology Tools

Seeking to leverage technology to further learning opportunities and options, an important component of our distance learning plan is to mitigate inequities in technology and internet access. All high school students already have a personally-assigned laptop through the FCPSOn initiative. Our distance learning plan further expands student access to technology devices and the internet through laptop and MiFi distribution to middle and elementary school students with identified technology needs.

For students with access to laptops and internet, teachers provide direct instructional experiences for students in a virtual learning environment. This includes a component of digital learning for all high school courses and digital resources and enhancements wherever feasible in elementary and middle school grades. However, at elementary and middle school, the possible lack of consistent technology access for students means teachers should not be wholly reliant on digital experiences to continue students’ learning.

Through distance learning, high school students continue to receive instruction and make progress in all enrolled courses using teacher-led synchronous and asynchronous digital learning experiences. School teams monitor progress of all seniors to ensure they are on track for graduation, and teachers monitor students’ access to course standards that were not taught before schools closed. 

Role of Distance Learning Packets

In recognition of the technology access challenges for students and families across our division’s elementary and middle schools, central office curriculum experts are developing and distributing learning packets to ensure students have consistent access to appropriate, high-quality learning materials for the essential standards and skills for their grade level content. Learning packets reflect a blend of review and reinforcement for previous learning and introduction of new learning. All learning packets have an embedded lens to foster students’ advancement of Portrait of a Graduate attributes and skills and integrate scaffolds to support students with English Language Development, Special Education, and Advanced Academic learning needs.

  • Learning packets in grades PreK-6 focus on literacy and mathematics, with interdisciplinary connections in science and social studies, extensions, and choices to develop and maintain key concepts and skills in music, art, health, and physical education. Packets include differentiated advanced mathematics content for grades 5-6.
  • In grades 7-8, packets address all four core content areas (language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies), while maintaining connections, extensions, and choices to continue development in fine arts, health, and physical education.  In grades 7-8 Middle school mathematics content is differentiated through Algebra 1, based on course enrollment. Middle school students enrolled in high school world language courses receive additional packets to support continued development of their language skills. 
  • Across grades PreK-12, instructional packets for students with disabilities receiving an adapted curriculum reflect this specialized curriculum. Two supplemental resource packets were provided at the beginning of distance learning to support students with disabilities receiving a general curriculum in grades K-8. 
  • Spanish translations are provided in grades PreK-2. English Learners in grades 9-12 receive packets to support English Language Development across their high school courses. Supplemental resource packets are also provided for English Learner students identified with limited or interrupted formal education in grades 3-12. 
  • A one-time mailing of summer practice books is designed to support continued practice and development in mathematics and language arts skills in grades K-8.

Printed packets are delivered to students’ homes beginning with a collection of review materials the week of March 30. After spring break, packets provide a blend of review and new learning. Electronic versions of the packets are also available for families to access on FCPS 24-7 Blackboard. New learning packets are developed and distributed weekly through the end of the 2019-20 school year. A special mailing for grades K-8 is scheduled for delivery near the end of June to support summer learning.

Instructional Week

Packet Focus

Estimated Delivery

Week beginning March 30

Review of Previously Taught Content

Monday, March 30

Week beginning April 6

Spring Break - No Packet


Week beginning April 13 to Week beginning May 26

Blend of Review, Practice, and New Learning

Saturdays weekly, April 11 through May 23

Week beginning June 1 to Week beginning June 8

Review and Culminating Activities

Saturdays weekly, May 30 through June 6

Summer Continuity of Learning Program Summer Practice Books (Grades K-8) Saturday, June 27

Role of Learning Videos and eBooks

FCPS cable channels provide instructional programming throughout the day and may be accessed through a cable television network for Fairfax County residents or via a live web streaming service. Channel 21 provides elementary school content, Channel 25 offers middle school content, and Channel 99 offers high school content.

New elementary learning videos have been developed and continue to be rolled out on Channel 21 specifically to support distance learning, with a special focus on literacy and mathematics. Videos are a core component of the distance learning plan for primary grades PreK-2 to accompany instructional activities within the distance learning packets. At grades 3-6, videos supplement and enhance materials within the distance learning packets.

Each school’s webpage has a link to online library resources, including eBooks appropriate to students’ grade levels and interests. 

Role of Student Monitoring and Support

Checking for understanding, monitoring student progress, and providing feedback are important parts of face-to-face instruction and are equally important within distance learning. Teachers across grade levels and content areas continue to check in and monitor student learning using the tools available to them. In addition, a team at each school is tasked to identify, support, and monitor students who may need additional support beyond what they receive within their normal classroom instruction. 

During the school closure, school teams will monitor and address needs of students with potential risk factors, such as: 

  • Students already receiving additional supports prior to school closure
  • Students whom teachers are unable to connect with
  • Students with inconsistent attendance or non-participation in virtual sessions
  • Students who demonstrate learning needs through informal assessments during virtual learning
  • Students who are not receiving delivery of distance learning materials
  • Students at risk for retention or course failure
  • Seniors at risk for not graduating
  • Students who request additional support (or whose parents request additional support)

School teams monitor existing data, including English language proficiency (English and home language literacy), special education needs, social-emotional wellness, and health as well as specific factors that are of increasing importance during distance learning. These additional factors include technology access and connectivity, family support and availability, and other home commitments of students (e.g., work commitments, caring for siblings). Central office staff are available to assist school teams in the process of identifying, supporting, and monitoring students. Collaboratively, school and central staff work to ensure specific areas of need are met, including parent outreach, special education, language proficiency, social-emotional wellness, and technology resources. Additionally, FCPS works with county and community partners to provide support and connect families to additional resources.