Family Guide for Return to School
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is partnering with families to ensure we keep students and staff safe and healthy as we return to school buildings for learning.
FCPS - Responsible Together
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is partnering with families to ensure we keep students and staff safe and healthy as we return to school buildings for learning. Working together, we will follow recommended health guidance that focuses on student health, safety, and emotional well-being.
Health and Safety Guidance Document
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is providing the following guidance to staff regarding school health practices for students. The guidance is consistent with Governor Northam’s phased reopening plan for Virginia schools and guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Schools should follow all CDC, Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), and the local health department guidance for reopening schools during all phases.
This document is updated frequently and contains the most recent information on health and safety topics.
Family Guide for Return to School
The information in this guide will help families know what to expect as students return to school. The guide includes steps families will need to take at home in preparation for the return to school. Please take time to review the information. We recommend talking to your children about how school will be different when they return. Ask them what questions they might have and share how we are all working together to prepare for a safe return. Have your children practice wearing a mask during the day. Discuss the importance of hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes.
Schools will notify families which student groups are returning to school if they selected in-person learning. An individual student’s schedule, including days of the week and times for in-person attendance, will be communicated directly from the school. Families who selected virtual learning for the school year will be able to remain in virtual learning. Both students participating in virtual learning and in-person learning will receive the highest quality instruction from FCPS teachers.
The Return to School timeline is broken by return dates and student groups. Our core focus remains the health and safety of students and staff. The Virginia Department of Education and Virginia Department of Health have published updated guidance for returning students to schools, including explicit health decision making guidance.
- Washing hands often
- Avoiding close contact
- Covering mouth and nose with a face covering/mask when around others
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Cleaning and disinfecting
Safety Teams will help monitor each schools’ adherence to five mitigation strategies for COVID-19. These teams will conduct random onsite spot checks, deliver education and resources, and report data back to administrators. FCPS will also monitor health data to contain transmission of the virus within our schools.
This web page is subject to updates. If and when the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change, this guidance may also change.
Pease see the Return to School page for the student group information.
As students return to school, we will employ concurrent instruction for in-person students, a model in which instruction is accessible by students in school and at home at the same time. Students who choose to return to in-person learning receive two days of teacher-led instruction in the school building and two days of teacher-led instruction at home. Students who will remain as full-time virtual students will access teacher-led instruction by logging into synchronous (teacher-led) instruction Tuesday through Friday from home.
Concurrent instruction maximizes teacher-led instruction (two days in person, two days virtual) by allowing in-person students to connect with their teacher via FCPS online platforms during at-home days.
Sample Elementary Concurrent Schedule: Two days of instruction in the school and two days of virtual instruction at home—both led by the teacher. Students who have selected to remain virtual will continue to receive virtual instruction all four days.
(full time online)
Elementary school concurrent schedule (as shown above): Two days of instruction in the school and two days of virtual instruction at home – both led by the teacher.
- Group A: In-school Tuesday and Wednesday and online Thursday and Friday.
- Group B: Online Tuesday and Wednesday and in-school Thursday and Friday.
- Group C: Online Tuesday - Friday
- Mondays: Teachers will use for planning. Students will have independent work day.
|Group A||Periods 1,3,5,7
|Group B||Periods 1,3,5,7
(full time online)
Middle and High school concurrent schedule (as shown above): Two days of instruction in the school and two days of virtual instruction at home – both led by the teacher.
- Group A: In-school on Tuesday for periods 1, 3, 5, 7 and Wednesday for periods 2, 4, 6, 8. They will be online Thursday for periods 1, 3, 5, 7 and Friday for periods 2,4,6,8.
- Group B: Online Tuesday for periods 1,3,5,7 and online Wednesday for periods 2, 4, 6, 8. They will be in-school on Thursday for periods 1, 3, 5, 7 and in school on Friday for periods 2,4,6,8.
- Group C: Online for periods 1,3,5,7 on Tuesday and Thursday and online for periods 2,4,6,8 on Wednesday and Friday.
- Mondays: Teachers will use for planning. Students will have independent work day.
Students who prefer to continue full-time virtual learning will receive four days of teacher-led instruction while learning from home.
Classroom monitors are used when a teacher is instructing virtually from home.
If a teacher will be teaching virtually, a classroom monitor will be present to support in-person students in the classroom. The teacher and the students at home will still log into Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU). In-person students will be in the classroom and BBCU or Google Meet will be streamed in to interact with the teacher and engage in learning. The classroom monitor will set up the live session for the class and support in-person students as needed.
The teacher will still be doing all of the planning and the majority of the interacting with students; the classroom monitor will be following the teacher’s directions to make sure students have what they need and will be available to help with additional face-to-face supports.
Aside from BBCU or Google Meet, the teacher and class can still use other digital tools that students are familiar with, such as G Suite tools or Blackboard.
In preparation for the Fairfax County Public School transition to a hybrid model of in-person and virtual instruction, the SRS program moved into ten additional sites at the end of December and is now located in 47 FCPS locations. With the School Board's recent decision to begin the hybrid model, SRS has adapted program services in order to best serve children and families.
The following SRS program options will support the transition of children to in-person instruction and continue to meet the needs of families for virtual learning support and before and after school programming:
- Cohort 1: In-person learning four days per week with before and/or after school services and one full day SRS.
- February 16, 2021 for children and youth attending adapted curriculum programs; and Key Center, Kilmer Center and Burke School.
- Cohort 2A and 2B: In-person learning two days per week with before and/or after school services and three full days SRS.
- February 23, 2021 for Kindergarteners
- March 9,2021 for children in Grades 1-2
- March 16, 2021 for children in Grades 3-6
- Full Time Virtual Learning: Children continue five full days SRS.
SRS Registration has been enrolling families at SRS Centers where space is available to accommodate the participation of additional children. Enrollment of families with the greatest need for services continues to be the SRS program's priority. Once all cohorts have returned to in-person instruction, the SRS program will evaluate service options based on family and staff feedback and adapt program offerings as needed.
SRS Health and Safety Protocols
SRS staff continue to work closely with the Fairfax County Health Department for ongoing guidance and feedback on SRS health and safety protocols. In December, SRS staff participated in focus groups on health and safety strategies to support children's transition to in-person instruction. The successful transition to the hybrid model for in-person instruction requires consistent implementation and compliance with all health and safety protocols and rigorous adherence to required mitigating strategies both in and out of the SRS program and in partnership with families, FCPS, and the community.
School Buildings / Safety Protocols
FCPS will no longer be requiring daily temperature checks at bus stops and upon arrival in FCPS facilities. Student, staff visitor temperatures are no longer required based the following reasons:
- CDC does not currently recommend schools conduct symptom screening for all students (PK-12) on a routine (e.g. daily) basis.
- Symptom screening will identify only that a person might be sick, not that the person necessarily has COVID-19.
- Accuracy off thermometers is limited in extreme temperatures.
Students, staff, and visitors will still be required to continue to compete a daily health screening. The health screening tool is available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Health screenings are to be completed each day before coming to school or work. Anyone demonstrating symptoms of illness should stay home. Daily health screenings are completed on an honor basis and are not required to be submitted to the school.
FCPS cleaning personnel clean and sanitize the school building regularly. Custodians use EPA-approved, hospital grade disinfectant and sanitizing products every day. The following steps are performed to maximize our sanitizing efforts:
- Sanitizing and disinfecting restrooms more frequently, including thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing all surfaces, doors, toilets, and handles, and ensuring that all supplies are fully stocked.
- Increased cleaning to high-touch surfaces/points such as door handles, glass, elevator buttons, doors, tables, chairs, and light switches. Daytime custodians have been instructed to continuously disinfect and sanitize all touch points throughout the day.
FCPS has updated health and safety guidance for air ventilation in schools. A comprehensive review of school ventilation systems was performed to ensure facilities are operating in accordance with CDC and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers guidance and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Assessments and improvements include:
- Ensured all schools and offices have sufficient air ventilation
- Upgrading school HVAC systems to MERV 13 air filters
- Using HEPA filters and air purifiers in select areas
- Reviewing the use of UV-C lighting in classrooms and ventilation systems and its best application
- Third-party health and safety verification for all buildings
FCPS offers grab and go meals for all students. For students participating in virtual learning, grab and go meals are available at school sites and on bus routes.
It is recommended that students attending in-person remain in the classroom whenever possible to eat lunch. If this is not possible, and it is necessary for students to eat in the cafeteria, the following is recommended:
If there are several classes to be accommodated, groups should be placed in opposite corners of the cafeteria.
- Students at the table, in their own cohort, will be at least six (6) feet apart from one another. Ten (10) feet apart is optimal, when possible.
- If it is necessary to mix cohorts in the cafeteria, they must be at least ten (10) feet from one another.
- Students must be facing the same direction
- Assigned seats (same person/same seat/each day) will help with contract tracing, if needed (in the case of children moving about and possibly coming closer than 6-feet of each other).
FCPS cleaning personnel will be sanitizing and disinfecting restrooms more frequently. Their cleaning protocol will include thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing all surfaces, doors, toilets, and handles, and ensuring that all supplies are fully stocked.
School librarians will provide library services and instruction for students virtually, in their classrooms, or in the library following social distancing and safety guidelines. Library staff will assist students in PreK through grade 2 with book checkout. Students in grades 3 through 12 may use self-checkout stations that limit contact. Schools have the option to provide curbside checkout to students not attending school in person.
Books that are returned to the library will have a 7-day isolation period before they are available again to students. School staff will communicate how virtual students can check out books.
Support to students in the Health Room will continue to be provided by the School Health Aide.
FCPS personnel will staff the Care Room. The care room is a designated location for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 while at school. It is separate from the Health Room and is necessary due to the requirement for social distancing and room capacity. A designated staff member will be assigned to supervise students in the care room while waiting for the parent to pick up the student.
Students with Individualized Health or Action Plans who require specialized care, medication administration and emergency care will be seen in the Health Room. Parents will be required to bring in medications needed to support their student during the school day prior to or on the first day of school.
Per the Health Department, playground structures (large structural equipment, swings, jungle gym, etc.) are NOT approved. Schools will be notified when this restriction has been lifted by the Health Department and Environmental Services.
School staff will encourage students to play games or activities that minimize close physical contact and allow for social distancing unless otherwise directed by an FCPS staff member. Students must wear face covering/mask at all times because occasional close contact is expected during play. Students are to wash hands before going to playground areas and immediately following with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol easily accessible in playground areas for students and staff.
Guidance for Social Distancing on the Playground
- Social distancing (10 feet of separation) should be maintained in all areas of the playground due to increased respiration during activity.
- Limit the numbers of students and staff on the playground at one time to avoid overcrowding and in order to maintain social distancing.
- Schools should have designated entrance and exit doors for the playground. (Handicapped access doors are helpful for entering the building to eliminate the need to touch doors and handles.)
Student and Family Safety Protocols
All parents/guardians who selected in-person instruction for their child will be required to complete and return to school a Parent/Guardian Health Screening Commitment form as students are phased back into in-person learning. The document indicates the parental/guardian’s agreement and commitment to completing a daily health screening prior to sending the student to school and also to keep ill students at home. The form may be returned electronically or via hardcopy.
A daily health screening will be required for all students attending in-person instruction. The health screening tool is available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Daily health screenings are completed on an honor basis and are not required to be submitted to the school each day.
All students who are two years of age and older are required to wear face coverings/masks (cloth or disposable) while on school property (including inside FCPS facilities, during FCPS-provided transportation and school sponsored activities). Disposable masks will be provided to students unable to provide their own. Any student requesting an exemption to wearing a
face covering/mask due to a medical exemption will provide the school a written statement from his or her physician confirming that not wearing a face covering/mask is medically necessary. As a matter of public health, an exemption from the face covering/mask requirement may alter or preclude access to face-to-face instructional programming. Regulation 2109
RECOMMENDED face coverings/masks include:
Non-medical disposable face coverings/masks:
- Face coverings/masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face).
- Face coverings/masks with nose wire
- A description indicating multiple layers of nonwoven material
- For better fit and extra protection:
- Wear two masks (Disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top) OR
- A cloth mask can be combined with a fitter or brace
Cloth face coverings/masks:
- Cloth face coverings/masks made with breathable fabric (such as cotton).
- Cloth face coverings/masks made with tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light).
- Cloth face coverings/masks with two or three layers.
- Cloth face coverings/masks with nose wire
- For better fit and extra protection:
- Wear two masks (Disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top) OR
- A cloth mask can be combined with a fitter or brace
- Cloth face coverings/masks with inner filter pockets.
- Wear a gaiter with two layers or fold it to make two layers.
Face coverings/masks that are NOT recommended:
- Face coverings/masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose or too tight).
- Masks that are wet or dirty
- Face coverings/masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through (such as plastic or leather).
- Face coverings/masks made from loosely woven fabric or that are knitted, i.e., fabrics that let light pass through.
- Face coverings/masks with one layer.
- Face coverings/masks with exhalation valves or vents.
- Wearing a scarf or using ski masks as a mask.
- Single layer gaiters
Schools will be sending bus transportation information to parents before the start of in-person learning. Seating capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing.
- Schools will be sending bus transportation information to parents before the start of in-person learning. Seating capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing. Students are reminded to wear a face covering/mask when riding the school bus.
- Students will be required to sit in seats as marked on the school bus.
- Students should load the bus from back-to-front and unload from front-to-back.
- Students are to be seated one per seat and closest to the window unless they are siblings coming from the same household.
- The first seat located behind the driver must remain empty except for the driver’s own children/grandchildren.
- Bus stop information will be available at the school and in ParentVUE.
- Here Comes the Bus app is available and provides school bus arrival information.
Beginning February 16, schools will operate on the revised 2020-21 bell schedule (check your school website for the bell schedule). The bell schedule adjustment is necessary due to social distancing requirements which limit capacity on school buses. The bell schedule change applies to students who selected in-person learning as well as students who selected full-time virtual learning.
Each school has an updated arrival and dismissal process. Bus transportation students will not arrive and depart from the same areas as walking students, carpool, kiss and ride, and before/after school private providers. Some schools have two arrival and departure areas. Please check with your school to be aware of their process for arrival and dismissal.
Social distancing should be maintained as much as possible. In limited cases, exceptions may occur when a student requires support for activities of daily living that may make staff unable to maintain a distance of six feet or caring for infants. In all other cases, six feet of social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.
- Six foot separation wherever possible; limited mixing among student groups.
- Social distancing on buses in accordance with health and safety protocols.
- Desks/seats will be separated by up to a six feet distance, facing same direction.
- Students will eat meals in classrooms whenever possible. Each school will determine their best meal distribution process.
- Student traffic patterns in hallways will be set up to maintain social distancing, including during arrival and dismissal.
- Students transitioning to after school care will also follow traffic patterns in the hallways to maintain social distance.
Please discuss the importance of maintaining social distance with your child. It is important for children to understand that common interactions (holding hands, hugs, high-fives, sitting close to other students) are not allowed when social distancing. School officials also will do their best to remind students of the need to maintain social distancing. That said, parents should recognize that maintaining social distancing will be challenging for many students and that mishaps are likely to occur among students when school officials are not present.
Students will wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; before eating, and upon entering classrooms. There will be breaks provided during the day for handwashing. Automatic hand sanitizer dispensing stands have been placed at school entrances and 1-gallon pump containers of hand sanitizer are available in all classrooms.
Students will be required to label and maintain their own personal set of required classroom supplies, keep supplies in their backpack and take them to and from school each day. Middle and high school students will not be using lockers.
Electronic devices, toys, books, games or learning aids are not to be shared unless they can be cleaned or disinfected.
Students should bring their own water bottle for use during the day. Water fountains can be used to refill water bottles if practical, but students and staff should not be drinking directly from any water fixtures; individual water bottles should be used instead.
Whenever possible, and when developmentally appropriate, supplies/school materials should be placed directly into backpacks by students.
Students returning for in-person school should plan to bring their FCPS-assigned laptop and charger with them to school and take that laptop and charger back home each day. Students will need their laptops to support digital learning activities in school, as assigned by their teacher, and extra laptops may not be available in all classrooms. The laptop should be fully charged before coming to school each morning to ensure it is ready to use when the student gets into the classroom. This practice will allow your student to continue to use the same assigned laptop at home and at school in order to limit the number of shared surfaces among students.
Parents may gently clean the laptop when necessary by using an alcohol wipe or disinfectant wipe to wipe down the keyboard and external surfaces. Do not spray disinfectant spray on the device or apply hand sanitizer directly on the device as it may damage the electronics.
Students who are learning from home should continue to use their FCPS laptop as they have throughout the year, and students or parents may submit a support request ticket (https://itweb.fcps.edu/itsupport/) if technical assistance is needed. To maintain overall laptop health, all students should shutdown their FCPS laptop completely at the end of each day. Note that due to the unknown and unpredictable security and support risks of exposing FCPS student laptops to foreign networks, out-of-country travel with an FCPS student laptop is not permitted.
When possible (unless an emergency) visitors must schedule appointments prior to visiting a school by contacting the main office. All visitors will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to entering the building. All visitors are required to wear a face covering/mask (cloth or disposable) while on school property and inside FCPS facilities. Visitors who do not have face covering/mask will be provided a disposable mask upon entering a school. Visitor access should be limited to essential activities.
If Sick at School or Home
Students demonstrating any of the following symptoms will be sent home from school:
- Fever (100.4 or greater)
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste/smell
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Runny Nose/Congestion
The parent/guardian will be notified and Sick Student Notification and Return to School Forms will be sent home.
If a student becomes ill during the school day, FCPS follows protocols provided by the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD). Each case will be handled individually in accordance with the FCHD established communicable disease and contact tracing protocols. FCPS will follow established guidelines for communicating information to parents/guardians. For more information visit www.vdh.virginia.gov.
If a student becomes ill at home, the student should stay home from school. Parents need to contact the school and report the reason for their child’s absence. Parents will need to follow established procedures when contacting the school regarding student illness. Parents/guardians will be required to complete and return the Permission to Return to School/Child Care Form (page 2) when the student returns. The form will be completed by the health care provider and will indicate to the school when the student may safely return.
Families will receive guidance from the FCHD Public Health Nurses (PHNs) and School Health Aides (SHAs), identified as the school health team, as to when their student can return to in-person learning.
Students who are showing signs of COVID-like illness may not return to school until:
- Student has tested negative for COVID-19 OR
- A healthcare provider has seen the student and documented a reason for the symptoms other than COVID-19 OR
- All of these are true:
- at least 10 days since the start of symptoms AND
- fever free off anti-fever medicines for 24 hours AND
- symptoms are getting better
Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, may not return until:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started AND
- The student has had no fever or anti-fever medicines (ex: Tylenol, Ibuprofen) for 24 hours AND
- The student’s symptoms are getting better
Students who have been exposed to COVID-19:
If someone in the household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or the student is exposed, the student must remain home for 14 days after their last exposure to the household member.
With one confirmed case of COVID, the classroom will transition to 100% virtual learning for up to 14 days from the date of onset. FCHD Public Health Nurses (PHNs) and School Health Aides (SHAs), identified as the school health team, will support the contact tracing process in our schools during this time. School staff, students and additional staff, such as transportation staff and related services providers, that are identified by the PHN will be transitioned to distance learning or teleworking as part of this cohort. These individuals will receive notification, as directed by the FCHD. The staff and community will also be notified that a COVID case has occurred in a cohort and the contact tracing process has been initiated.
Upon the conclusion of contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfecting have been performed, students and staff in the cohort will be notified as to when they will return to in-person learning. The length of time for this process may be shorter than 14 days based on results of contact investigation and tracing by the FCHD. The staff and community will also be notified that the contacting tracing has been completed and of any further recommendations.
As related to school closure, FCPS will work closely with the FCHD to make the determination as to whether or not an entire school will be required to transition to distance learning based on contact tracing. Should multiple linked cases occur, the community will receive immediate communication of an outbreak and all students would be transitioned to distance learning for a period of time. A follow up communication will go out to the staff and community when in-person learning may resume, as recommended by the FCHD.
Transitioning to Virtual Learning May Be Impacted by Staff Capacity
Staff capacity is the ability for a school to maintain adequate staff for teaching, facility operations, transportation, and administrative functions. When there are higher numbers of staff unable to report to work due to COVID-19 symptoms or they have been directed to quarantine as a result of contact tracing, schools may be temporarily unable to offer in-person instruction for a period of time. When this occurs, FCPS will communicate with families as soon as possible regarding the need to transition to distance learning.
All children and youth face challenges from time to time managing emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, or worried. As students prepare to return to in-person learning, these emotions may be heightened. School counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are available to support all students as they transition back to their school buildings. Every school in FCPS has at least one counselor, psychologist, and social worker. These professionals can provide guidance for families and support for students who may be struggling with anxiety, mood, behavior, or peer or family interactions. They can also connect students and families with available community resources.
Contact information for your child’s school counselor, school social worker, and school psychologist can be found by visiting your school’s website.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health crisis, or if you believe there may be a mental health emergency, call 911. Additional resources are available.
Many resources have been developed to support students and families with learning this year.
Concurrent Instruction (small group instruction)
FCPS Health and Safety Guidance Document (updated weekly)