Return to School - Frequently Asked Questions for Families

Questions and answers about the Fall 2020 Return to School Plan

Overview of Plan (6/28/20)

At their June 23 meeting, the School Board reached consensus on a plan to offer students a choice in how they return to school in August for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The plan offers families two choices: 

One day each week will be set aside for teacher planning and intervention support for some students in either scenario. The plan includes increased in-person or synchronous instruction for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.  New instructional content will be offered to all students and student work will be graded.  Attendance will be required.     

If there is a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus that requires a closure of schools or an individual school, all students would participate in online distance learning. Students would receive four days of synchronous instruction and one day of asynchronous learning with this model.

State, CDC, and Fairfax County Health Department guidance will inform future changes that allow for additional student capacity and changes to health and safety protocols as social distancing requirements are eased. 

Will families have the option of changing their child’s placement from face-to-face to online or vice versa at any point during the year? (6/28/20)

Parents and caregivers need to choose one of these options for the entire 2020-21 school year for each child. If health conditions improve that would allow FCPS to resume in-person instruction for all students, we would reassess FCPS’s operating status at that time.


Health, Safety, and Mental Health

What measures are being put into place to protect student and staff health and safety?

FCPS is working closely with Fairfax County Health officials to address student and staff health and safety. FCPS will use a daily health screening process that requires parents to self-report their child is asymptomatic and has not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. All staff will be required to self-report being asymptomatic and without exposure to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms when reporting to worksites.

Cloth face coverings will be worn by staff and students (where developmentally appropriate). Cloth face coverings will be provided to students as needed and FCPS will ensure all staff has the necessary equipment based on their role (ex: masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, etc).

Schools will ensure student and staff groupings are as static as possible. Desks will be separated by up to a six feet distance and will face the same direction and students will eat meals in classrooms whenever possible.

Cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be intensified. There will be daily sanitizing of high touch areas (doorknobs, handles, fixtures, etc.) with medical grade sanitizing solution. In addition, there will be more frequent monitoring and cleaning of restrooms throughout the day and contracted cleaning services will be available as needed. Additional breaks will be provided for hand washing to ensure students wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; before eating; and upon entering classrooms. If soap and water are not readily available, sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will be provided.

FCPS will limit building access, including, restricted building access for visitors. 

FCPS continues to partner with Fairfax County Health Department to further develop and refine daily health screening protocols for students and staff including the use of temperature checks.

Will there be temperature checks for students before they get on the bus and for students and staff each day? (6/28/20)

FCPS has convened a work group to determine the best way to screen students and staff each day. FCPS continues to work closely with the Fairfax County Health Department and Virginia Department of Health to develop a screening tool. The screening tool may include temperature checks. 

Will there be any facility enhancements in schools or on buses to support social distancing and student and staff health? (6/29/20) 

Bus seats will be labeled for students to easily identify seating arrangements/ assignments on the school bus.  Bus drivers and attendants will be supplied with a face mask, face shield, gloves and gowns (for students requiring more hands-on support).  Student bus riders will be expected to wear a face mask as developmentally appropriate. The bus driver will supply students with a mask if they do not have one.  The bus will be cleaned daily with frequently touched surfaces wiped after each school served.

FCPS is implementing interim changes to key aspects of our facilities.  Among them are the addition of Health Department approved sneeze guards at customer service counters to provide an extra level of protection for the public and staff.  Public health signage will also be posted throughout schools and facilities, including special provisions for entryways and elevator capacity.

How will rooms be configured for social distancing? (7/1/20)
Consistent with CDC guidance, Desks will need to be placed so seating is 6 feet apart and facing the same direction. Tables can be used by seating students only on one side of tables, spacing seating 6 feet apart.
What is FCPS doing to ensure clean air circulation in FCPS buildings? (7/2/20)
FCPS follows CDC and Virginia Health Department guidance to reduce the risk for exposure to coronavirus. Schools are designed to ventilate outdoor air throughout the day to reduce the buildup of pollutants and odors. Maintenance staff conduct routine and preventative maintenance on all mechanical, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems – including replacing air filters. Custodians and operating engineers conduct building checks to identify where workers might be at risk while at work (e.g., checking exhaust fans in restrooms for proper operation).  In areas where an indoor air quality concern is identified we use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning.   
Do HVAC systems contribute to the spread of COVID? (7/2/20)
FCPS works closely with the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) to communicate the latest health information with our staff and community to better prepare for returning to school. During a June 15, 2020 School Board Work Session, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Director of the FCHD, was asked if there was any possible COVID transmission implications through building ventilation systems.  Dr. Addo-Ayensu discussed that COVID transmission is droplet based, not airborne, and this factor has led to the general guidance of 6 feet socially distancing.  Ventilation systems play more of a role in airborne disease transmission.  

Change in Conditions

If the health conditions worsen, how will things change?

Students may have to move from in-person learning to online learning at some point in the year if health data and recommendations from the Fairfax County Health Department necessitate closing an individual school or multiple schools.

FCPS will regularly monitor developments with Fairfax County Health Department authorities regarding cases, exposures, and hospitalizations that might require a change in school operating status.

If there is a diagnosis of COVID-19 in a school building, what will happen?

FCPS will work closely with the Fairfax County Health Department to determine the appropriate next steps if there is a COVID-19 diagnosis in a school. The response to an individual case will depend largely on the circumstances surrounding the case and contact(s) the individual had within the school setting.

If the health conditions improve, how will things change? (6/28/20)

State, CDC, and Fairfax County Health Department guidance will inform future changes that allow for additional student capacity and changes to health and safety protocols as social distancing requirements are eased.  If health conditions improve that would allow FCPS to resume in-person instruction for all students, we would reassess FCPS’s operating status at that time. 


Will the use of masks be required?

Students (where developmentally appropriate) and staff will be required to wear cloth face coverings including on bus transportation to and from school.

Mental Health

Given the impact school closures have had on the well-being of students, what resources will be available this year to support their mental health?

Social emotional and mental health resources will be available to support students this fall. Schools may use morning meetings/ check-ins, intervention blocks, or advisory periods to provide instruction on social emotional topics using new and existing curriculum. FCPS instructional staff will have required professional development that focuses on understanding mental wellness and appropriate tools to support students.  

Clinical and counseling staff will provide mental health support and resources, including group counseling and consultation for students and families as needed as well as individual counseling with students and related consultation with families and staff.


In-Person and Full-Time Online Instruction

How are the full-time online instruction and in-person instructional programs similar and different? (6/28/20) 


Full-Time Online Instruction

In-Person Instruction in FCPS School Building with Social Distancing 


All Grade Levels: Four days of direct/interactive instruction (synchronous) per week and one day of independent learning (asynchronous) per week.

Elementary School students receive approximately 2.5 - 3.5 hours per day of direct/interactive instruction (synchronous). Students also receive specialized instruction, as needed, such as ESOL or special education services. The amount of special education service will be determined by IEP teams. Considerations will be given to individualized student needs.

Middle and High School students will follow the school’s daily bell schedule.

All Grade Levels: At least two full days of instruction in person at school each week. More in-person instruction is possible based on the number of students who choose full-time virtual or if community health conditions and guidance change. 


Students will be engaged in independent (asynchronous) learning on the days they are not in the school building.


  1. All courses required by Virginia standards of learning are offered.
  2. There is no guarantee that all programs or elective courses will be available.
  3. General classroom instruction at all levels will feature whole group, small group, and individual support.
  4. Specialized instruction will be provided, as appropriate, such as ESOL or special education services required by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities.
  5. Eligible students will have access to the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Level IV curriculum.
  1. All courses required by Virginia standards of learning are offered.
  2. There is no guarantee that all programs or elective courses will be available.
  3. General classroom instruction at all levels will feature whole group, small group, and individual support.
  4. Specialized instruction will be provided, as appropriate, such as ESOL or special education services required by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities.
  5. Eligible students will have access to the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Level IV curriculum.

Food Services

Meal service options are under development and an announcement will follow.

Meals will be available during the week. Grab and go meals will be available on days that students are not in school.


Not applicable

Transportation will be available.

Health Protocols

Not applicable

Staff will guide students on health and safety protocols, following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. All staff and students must wear face coverings (as developmentally appropriate) in accordance with CDC guidelines. Schools will provide masks to students unable to provide their own. Six feet of social distancing will be maintained whenever possible.

How do families notify FCPS of their choice for full-time online or in-person instruction for their child(ren) for the 2020-21 school year? (6/29/20)

Communication will be sent home for all parents/guardians via email and a mailed letter will be sent to the address in SIS for the enrolling parent. Translated letters in the top eight languages will be mailed home as appropriate based on the home language in SIS. Parents will complete the enrollment form and select the program option that works best for their child or children. Parents may access the form by visiting If a parent does not have access to the internet, the letter will instruct the parent to call their child’s school.

This form is accessible through mobile devices. Translations of the form are available using the language selection option on the web page. 

Directions for parents to select the option that best fits their student’s health and welfare concerns are below:

STEP 1: Access the online form at: 

STEP 2: Login with your child’s Student ID and either the enrolling parent’s email address or phone number on file in the FCPS Student Information System (SIS).

STEP 3: Make your selections and finish by clicking the “Submit Form” button at the bottom of the form. 

STEP 4: Check your email receipt of your intent with additional information about the enrollment process and a link to change your selection if desired.

STEP 5 Repeat this process for each of your children attending school in FCPS for school year 2020-21.

The deadline to complete the form is July 10, 2020. 

What should a family do if they do not know their child’s Student ID number to fill out the school enrollment option form? (7/2/20)
Parents should contact the school their child will be attending for help with obtaining their child’s Student ID number from the Student Information System(SIS). 


Class Size

How many students will be in a classroom in the fall in the in-person model?

It depends on the physical size of the classroom and ability to socially distance based on Health Department and CDC guidance (currently 6 feet). While an average size classroom may be able to accommodate 12-15 students with social distancing in place, classroom sizes vary and some classes will have fewer students while others may have a greater number of students.

How will schools split their student population for in-person learning days? (6/28/20)

In order to support families’ childcare needs, FCPS will work to provide families with children in different grades and different schools with consistent schedules for in-school and at-home learning days. For in-person instruction, the school’s population will be split based on alphabet by last name to the greatest extent possible. For siblings at different schools and/or with different last names, adjustments will be made to allow families to have the same schedule for their children’s in-school attendance, whenever possible. At the elementary level, further consideration outside of alphabet by last name may be given to class assignments to meet the needs of individual students and create balanced classes.


Will there be any changes to the curriculum for 2020-21?

Yes, FCPS will provide teachers with streamlined curriculum guidance and resources that recognize the impact of school closures on all students, potential content gaps, and readiness for new curriculum.

Will the online curriculum be the same as the in-person curriculum? (6/29/20)

FCPS is currently revising curriculum guidance to teachers to address the current teaching and learning conditions.  It is expected that all students enrolled in the same grade level/course will learn the same identified essential standards during SY2020-2021. There will be learning tasks that take different forms due to students learning in a variety of settings: in-person, at home direct/synchronous instruction, and independent/asynchronous instruction but the expected outcome will be the same. 

Will students have to change elective course selections? (6/29/20)

While we will do our best to honor student course requests, there may be circumstances where it is not possible to offer a student a specific elective course based on the teacher availability in an online or face-to-face setting and/or other hard schedule conflicts. 

How will immersion classes be organized? (6/28/20)

Students enrolled in immersion classes will receive their English language classes and their world language classes each day that they are in-person and will work asynchronously on the days they are learning at home.


Distance Learning

What are the options for parents if they do not want their child to return to a building this fall?

Parents have the option of enrolling their child in distance learning full-time for the 2020-2021 school year. This can be done if there is a medical need for the student, a health need for someone in the household, or based on parent preference. Under this model, students will receive four days of synchronous instruction from home and one day of asynchronous instruction.

Programs and course offerings in this model may be limited and FCPS cannot guarantee the availability of all programs due to scheduling constraints. The full-time online program may also include larger class sizes to maximize student course selections and to maximize the number of students able to attend in-school instruction under social distancing guidelines.

To appropriately staff schools and create schedules for students, parents must make this election by July 10.

How will distance learning be different in 2020-2021 compared to what FCPS offered in the spring of 2020?

If a parent elects to have their child enrolled in full-time online learning or health circumstances require a school or schools to convert to distance learning during the school year, the experience for students will look different than it did during the spring of 2020.

The major changes for 2020-2021 include more time in synchronous learning, online attendance, grading of assignments and assessments, and laptop access for all students. 

How should parents notify their child’s school if they want to attend the in-school or online program for the 2020-21 school year?

All FCPS parents will be asked to submit an intent form to indicate their desire for their child to participate in the in-school or full-time online program by July 10, 2020. If the intent form is not returned, the student will be automatically be enrolled for in-person instruction for the year. 

Will newly registering families have the option of selecting between online and face-to-face instruction? (6/28/20) 

Parents of new students (PreK/Preschool/K-12, and rising kindergarten) will receive information about the plans for next year during the week of June 29 using addresses that were pulled June 25.  Families that enroll after June 25, 2020 will need to be provided with information on the two options as part of the school registration process so that students may be assigned to appropriate classes. 

What platform(s) will be used to provide distance learning and will schools/teachers have a choice in what they use? (7/2/20)
Teachers may choose to use FCPS 24-7 Learning (Blackboard) or Google Classroom as their Learning Management System (LMS). There are seventeen schools who will be piloting Schoology during SY2020-21. Teachers at those schools will use Schoology as their LMS and may choose to integrate Google within that system.

Will teachers and students be assigned to different schools under this model (virtually or in person)? (7/2/20)
One of the primary goals in the FCPS Reopening School Plan is to provide students with choice in learning format (in-person or online). The default rule will be to have students receive instruction at their base schools (either in-person or online). In select instances where student preferences cannot be met at their base schools, we may explore coordinating scheduling across schools in the division. However, no definitive plans have been developed for this yet and any decision to move forward with this approach would only be taken after the first phase of base school scheduling has been completed.  




If I decide to homeschool my child, what do I need to do?

Parents may elect to provide home instruction for their school-aged child in lieu of attendance. Parents/guardians must provide notice of intent to homeschool for the 2020-21 school year by August 15, 2020. Additional information about home instruction is available at:


Will school lunches be available to students on days when they are not physically in the building?

If our waiver to provide students take home meals for the next day is approved by the State, students attending the in-person instruction will have the option of picking up “grab and go” meals on the days they attend school, for the next day, so they can have a school breakfast and lunch five days a week. Food & Nutrition Services staff is exploring options to provide a “grab and go” meal distribution to students that opt for all online learning.

Where will students be eating meals? (7/2/20)
Food and Nutrition Services is currently exploring meal service options in collaboration with school administrators.  School populations and their participation will be the main drivers of our meal service possibilities - impacting how meals are served and where meals are consumed.  



Multiple Children

I have children in multiple schools. If I opt for the in-person option, will they be attending school on the same days?

Student schedules will be assigned alphabetically to support families with students in multiple grades. For any individual situations (example: siblings with different last names) please contact your child’s school who will work with you to address the scheduling conflict.

Am I able to request a change to the in-person day(s) that my child is assigned to attend school (my child was assigned to the Tuesday/ Thursday group but I need them to go to school on Wednesdays and Fridays)?

Parents with hardships will be addressed on a case-by-case basis at the school level, whenever possible. FCPS cannot guarantee individual requests (beyond ensuring students in the same family have the same schedule) can be accommodated given the strict capacity issues for classrooms and buses. 

SACC or Childcare

Will SACC or other childcare programs be available to my student on days when they are not attending FCPS?

Fairfax County is working with regulated providers to expand childcare services to school aged children. Families can find licensed community childcare through the Fairfax County Office for Children’s Child Care search: The plan for SACC has not yet been finalized and will be communicated at a later date.


Will technology access be provided to students this year?

All FCPS middle and high school students will have access to a laptop through FCPSOn. Elementary students will receive laptops as needed. To ensure all students have internet access in the fall, additional MiFis have been purchased and partnerships have been established to provide free and low-cost internet to all families who need it.


How will buses to and from school be addressed with social distancing in place?

Whenever possible, we ask parents to provide transportation for their student to and from school. Bus capacity will be significantly reduced to ensure social distancing measures are in place. Students will board the bus according to a seat assignment. Students (as developmentally appropriate) and staff will be required to wear a face covering while on the bus. Cloth face coverings will be provided to students if they are needed. Bus drivers and attendants will also wear cloth face coverings or face shields. Bus drivers will perform wipe downs of all frequently touched surfaces following every school delivery.

Athletics and Activities

Will students selecting the full-time online option be able to participate in athletics and other Virginia High School League (VHSL) activities? (7/2/20)
Under Virginia High School League rule students who access the full-time online option through FCPS will remain eligible to participate in VHSL activities and athletics.  
What is the plan for fall sports?  (7/2/20)
The VA Department of Education is working with the Virginia High School League (VHSL) and individual school districts on specific return to play plans.  The VHSL provided an update on June 25th that stated no decision has been made regarding fall sports.  FCPS has worked with the VHSL on contingency plans for return to play.  These will be dependent on final guidance from the state as well as the VHSL.