Reopening Schools Plan - Operational Approach

Overview of the division's approach to learning in 2020-21

FCPS Operational Approach for 2020-21

With the uncertain future of COVID-19 in our region, FCPS continues to actively plan and prepare for a range of scenarios and challenges that are likely to face our community as schools resume instruction in the fall. The FCPS Reopening Schools Plan lays out the core elements of these plans and preparations as of each publication date. It is expected that plans will continue to be adjusted and further developed throughout the summer and fall.

Full-Time Educational Program 

At the foundation of the FCPS plan for reopening is a commitment to ensuring access to a full-time educational program for all students. Each of the operational models shares a 5-day instructional week, as illustrated in the table. 

table showing the breakdown of the 5-day instructional model

Dialing In and Dialing Out 

At the heart of the FCPS in-person option is a careful balance between a commitment to health safety for students and staff and a belief that in-person instruction is able to support students academic, social-emotional, mental health, and behavioral development in ways that cannot be replicated through online-only interactions. In this time with coronavirus present in our environment, any in-person interactions carry a degree of risk. FCPS staff, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Health Department, have developed and continue to refine comprehensive strategies to mitigate health risk. While these mitigation strategies are essential, they also introduce new operational and logistical challenges that FCPS has never before faced. 

Throughout 2020-21, division leaders will face the persistent question of finding the right level of in-person services that can be safely offered for families electing this option. The in-person instruction continuum option is designed to allow the level of in-person service to dial in and dial out at different points in the year based on the current health conditions and trends. Note that final decisions about the number of levels in the continuum, level names, and level definitions will be finalized by the start of the school year.  

Continuum of FCPS in-person instruction

When dialing in on the continuum, opportunities for in-person instruction will begin with the most vulnerable students, such as English learners, students with disabilities, and primary grade students. The chapter on the in-person instruction continuum provides additional details about instructional delivery at each level of the continuum, including relevant schedule and safety information. Note that the continuum applies only to students whose families select the in-person instructional model for the school year. Students whose families elect full-time online instruction can expect consistent full-time online instruction for the entire school year. 

Virtual Launch for All 

The FCPS School Board and superintendent made two important decisions in July that affect reopening plans. 

  • The first day of the school year was postponed until September 8, 2020. This will allow additional time for scheduling student classes, hiring teachers to fill vacancies created by resignations and leave requests, providing professional development and training to all staff, and distributing technology devices to families. 
  • FCPS will open the school year with virtual learning for all. This change means online instruction not only for students whose families selected the full-time online option but also on a temporary basis for students whose families elected in-person instruction with social distancing in schools. 

With these decisions, instruction for all students is delayed two weeks, and students whose families selected in-person instruction will begin the year at the most restrictive level of the delivery continuum. This is a substantial shift from prior plans to begin with two days per week of in-person services for all students, a substantially less restrictive level of the continuum . 

Under the most restrictive “temporary online for all” continuum level, class schedules mirror those used for students participating full-time online for the year. Online practices reflect lessons learned from spring 2020 and include expanded digital curriculum resources, as well as additional staff training. The division’s ongoing expansion of technology, connectivity, and blended learning strategies across grade levels and curricular areas will ensure FCPS students are able to access high-quality, rigorous instruction in this temporary model and across all levels of the continuum throughout the year. FCPS will provide additional professional development for staff and resources for families to prepare for a successful start to the school year under a model of virtual learning for all.

Family Choices 

Within this general 5-day FCPS model, families have a choice between two options to meet their children’s educational needs. This choice will become active for families as the division begins offering in-person instruction with social distancing in FCPS school buildings.

Table comparing the family choices for 2020-21 learning

Reopening Schools Plan - Complete Information