Reopening Schools Plan - State Submission

Information submitted to the state about the FCPS Reopening Schools Plan

As required by the Virginia Department of Education, FCPS has developed and submitted plan updates throughout the 2020-21 year to reflect plans for reopening schools and ongoing operations.

Use links and expandable sections below to view printable PDFs of current and past plan submissions or to view the full text of the most recent plan submitted to the state.

View PDF of Current Reopening Plan Submitted to the State

Full Text of the Current Reopening Schools Plan

Current Plan - Chapter 1 - Introduction

Introduction to the Reopening Schools Plan

On June 9, Governor Northam announced a phased reopening for Virginia public schools outlining guidance on instructional and service delivery for the 2020-21 school year. This document is intended to communicate specific components of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) plans and preparations for reopening schools in fall 2020. Based on lessons learned from spring 2020, review of state guidance, and reflection on stakeholder input, FCPS has refined its approach to flexible educational delivery. Expanded options reflect the needs and concerns of families and staff while maintaining priorities for health, safety, robust instruction, and support services.

Reopening Schools Task Force

Following the May 11 Fairfax County School Board work session, where the Board considered initial fall reopening challenges, the superintendent and deputy established a new task force structure to prioritize and expedite information-gathering and development of recommendations for reopening school. The task force is charged with developing specific action plans to address two reopening models: full-time online instruction and an in-person operational continuum with social distancing in FCPS schools.  

Task force membership reflects diverse perspectives to actively involve stakeholders in the planning process. The following perspectives ensure a range of community, staff, and student needs are considered as plans as established:

  • Staff representing classroom teachers and FCPS professional organizations, including Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Fairfax Education Association, Association of Fairfax Professional Educators, and Support Services Employees’ Advisory Council;
  • Student representatives; 
  • Parent representatives from Fairfax County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, Special Education Parent Teacher Association, Parents of Autistic Children, and Title I Parent Advisory Council;
  • Members of the Fairfax County School Board;
  • Representatives from School Board advisory groups, including Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee, and Advisory Council for Students with Disabilities;
  • Staff from the Fairfax County Health Department;
  • Department staff from communications and community relations, facilities and transportation services, financial services, human resources, information technology, instructional services, professional learning and family engagement, school support, special services; and 
  • Region and school leadership, including principal representatives from each level. 

The task force was formed to address six key action areas: Facilities and School Operations, Instruction. Technology, Communication, Community Partnerships, and Human Resources. The superintendent and deputy assigned division leaders to oversee the work of each of these action teams. Action teams meet regularly and include additional members who bring direct knowledge and skills for identifying specific issues and generating a plan to address each of the identified critical actions. 

Guiding Principles for Reopening 

FCPS has identified five principles to guide all planning for school reopening. 

  1. Ensure safe learning and working environments for students and staff.
    1. Prioritize safety in decision-making.
    2. Provide explicit health and safety protocols.
  2. Provide family choice in student learning format (full-time online learning for the year or in-person instruction, as available, through the FCPS operational levels).
  3. Ensure all students receive instruction that meets state and federal standards and have the necessary supports for success, including:
    1. Access to technology and connectivity;
    2. Social-emotional wellness and health supports; and
    3. Additional supports to meet needs of special populations.
  4. Provide training, time, support, and flexibility necessary for staff to prepare for successful reopening and transition to in-person instruction. 
  5. Provide proactive, clear communication (with translations) to all families and staff.

Current Plan - Chapter 2 - FCPS Approach

FCPS Operational Approach

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. With revised bell schedules effective the week of February 15, 2021, expectations for daily instructional time are as follows.

Instructional Time Commitments

  • Monday: Independent (asynchronous) learning for all, plus supplemental specialized morning instruction for identified students; office hours, related services, assessments, and extracurricular activities may also be offered for students
    • Elementary: Minimum of 2.5 hours of learning, with an average of 2 hours in the core academic disciplines of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary activities.
    • Middle and High: Minimum of 5 hours of learning, with an average of 3.5 hours in the core academic disciplines of English, mathematics, science, and social studies, including cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary activities.
  • Tuesday-Friday: Four days weekly of concurrent teacher-directed interactive (synchronous) instruction, with the format defined by family choices and operational conditions.
    • Elementary: Minimum of 5 hours and 52 minutes of learning, with an average of 4 hours and 5 minutes per day in the core academic disciplines of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary activities.
    • Middle and High: Minimum of 5 hours and 8 minutes of learning; at middle school, with an average of 3 hours and 13 minutes per day in the core academic disciplines of English, mathematics, science, and social studies, including cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary activities. 

Instructional Time Compliance

Due to the shift to the start of the school year and the need for a schedule that provides flexibility to adjust the instructional delivery model throughout the year as health and operational conditions dictate, FCPS will not meet the normal requirements for the length of the school term (180 days/990 hours) or average length of the school day (5.5 hours). 

  • Length of School Term: FCPS will utilize flexibility offered from the Virginia Department of Education this year, with approximately 170 total instructional days, approximately 890 total instructional hours at elementary school, and approximately 870 total instructional hours at middle and high school. The average school day will be 5.2 hours for elementary and 5.1 hours for middle and high school.  
  • Core Academic Time: : FCPS will meet the required time allocations for instruction supporting the four academic disciplines of English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, with a minimum of 680 hours at elementary school and a minimum of 560 hours at middle school.

History of Division Operational Levels 

Beginning with the governor's school closure in March 2020, FCPS has progressively worked toward reopening status. The FCPS operational levels were designed to allow the level of in-person service to reflect what the division and community could support and maintain a safe learning and working environment.

table of historical operational levels

In-Person Decision-Making 

At the heart of the FCPS model 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. Information on health mitigation strategies is available in the February 2, 2021, School Board report. 

  • Consistent and correct use of masks or face coverings
  • Social distancing to the largest extent possible
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department 

Mitigation strategies together with health metrics inform decisions about ongoing in-person learning access within individual schools. Detailed information about the decision-making protocol can be found in the February 2, 2021, School Board report. .

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 allowed 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 opened the school year in Operational Level 1, with virtual learning for all. This change meant 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. 

Under Operational Level 1, 100 percent virtual learning, 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 ensures FCPS students are able to access high-quality, rigorous instruction in this temporary model and across all operational levels throughout the year. FCPS provides additional professional development for staff and resources for families to prepare for a successful start to the school year under a model of 100 percent virtual learning. 

FCPS leadership is actively forming plans to transition to Operational Level 2, cohort learning, as soon as possible in the fall to resume limited in-person assessment and to begin inviting prioritized students groups to access part-time in-person academic and social-emotional supports. 

Family Choices 

Within the  FCPS model, families have a choice between two options to meet their children’s educational needs. This choice becomes active for families as the division begins dialing in to Operational Level 2 through Level 4, to provide in-person instruction with social distancing in FCPS school buildings.

table of family choices

Concurrent Instructional Model 

To maximize teacher-directed instructional time across operational levels and staffing structures, FCPS is using a concurrent instructional model Tuesday through Friday. Concurrent instruction is a model in which teachers support learning for students who are attending in-person in the classroom as well as those who are attending virtually. During operational levels 2-3, each student whose family has elected the in-person operational continuum receives 2 days per week with the teacher at school and 2 days per week of synchronous online teacher support. Within the concurrent instruction model, teachers are responsible for direct support to all their assigned students every day, with some support delivered in-person and some support delivered virtually. Mondays are reserved for independent asynchronous student work and teacher preparation. 

The concurrent instructional model is designed to provide stability for student and staff schedules when the division transitions between operational levels throughout the school year. While the frequency of in-person learning will shift with the operational level at any given time, students can consistently expect 4 days weekly of teacher-directed learning via online and/or in-person services. The model allows in-person students to maintain pace with students whose parents elect to remain full-time online for the year. Additionally, it allows teachers to plan just one differentiated lesson per daily class period, rather than needing to prepare separate independent tasks for days when students’ schedules have them attending virtually.

Specialized professional learning is designed to assist teachers in adjusting classroom management structures, strengthening social-emotional learning skills and relationships, enhancing differentiated instructional techniques, leveraging co-teaching and collaboration practices, and providing meaningful feedback. Technology upgrades have increased internet bandwidth within schools, provided classroom cameras to enhance engagement for online learners, and created audio/visual classroom technology bundles. 

image of concurrent model

Current Plan - Chapter 3 - Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned from Spring 2020

The impact of the school closures on student achievement and well-being has been studied by various organizations around the world.  Building a reopening plan that takes into account common lessons learned within FCPS and beyond helps to create an infrastructure aligned to student, family, and staff needs. Documenting the successes and missteps in the spring 2020 distance learning implementation informs decisions and planning for the reopening of schools in the fall 2020. Six key areas of learning have been documented by FCPS staff from analysis of our own experiences and review of recent articles and studies. 

Instructional Model

  • Consistent implementation of a divisionwide instructional schedule is needed to promote equity. 
  • More synchronous student learning (live, interactive learning) is preferred. Increased access to live teaching experiences is needed to reduce the family burden to support student learning. 
  • Increased social emotional learning (SEL) opportunities are needed in a virtual environment.

Equity Concerns

  • Technology and connectivity must be provided by the division to ensure that all students can participate equitably in online instruction. 
  • Division plans must account for the disproportionate health and economic impact of COVID-19 on certain communities, including how this affects students’ ability to equitably participate in online learning, potentially widening achievement gaps.


  • Opportunities for two-way conversations with all stakeholders is vitally important when generating plans and monitoring implementation.
  • Frequent and consistent messaging from the school division are needed, with safeguards to ensure communication reaches all families.
  • Verbal interpretations and written translations must be available for all families who require them.
  • Return to school success stories should be shared with stakeholders through social media, newsletters, news releases, and media outlets.

Instructional Practices 

  • Staff need dedicated time to plan and work in collaborative teams.
  • Ongoing professional development is needed to strengthen virtual teaching strategies.
  • Digital citizenship concepts and skills should be integrated into lessons.
  • Consistent inclusion of “specials” classes in elementary school and electives in middle schools is needed to support the whole child.
  • Grading policies should be carefully crafted to appropriately motivate student engagement.

Technology and Infrastructure

  • Timely distribution of laptops and MiFi devices must be further strengthened to support student access to online instruction.
  • Learning platforms and video conferencing must be able to support consistent access by FCPS students and staff.
  • Students must have secure ways to access synchronous learning.
  • Honoring students’ individuality while maintaining security is critical, such as by reflecting preferred names within digital platforms.

Staff Support

  • Staff access to childcare is needed to meet the demands of virtual instruction and telework. 
  • Administrators, teachers, and support staff should receive sustained professional development on a range of crisis-related issues, self-care, and productivity tools. 
  • The division must ensure that all staff have consistent access to internet connectivity so they may effectively support students, families, and the school system. 

image of spring/summer 2020 distance learning plan

Current Plan - Chapter 4 - Elements Across Models

Elements Present Across Operational Models

Some elements support continuity of learning across FCPS for students instructed under all operational models. 

Technology and Connectivity

In May, the School Board approved expanding the FCPSOn initiative to include all middle schools. This expansion is on top of current implementation at all high schools and means that every FCPS student in grades 7-12 have access to a personally assigned FCPS-provided laptop for use at home and at school. New and redeployed laptops are also available for elementary school students in grades PreK-6. With these enhancements, all students PreK-12 are provided with laptop computers, as needed, to support learning in-person and online. Additionally, the division has purchased additional MiFi devices for distribution to families, when reliable home internet access is not available.

With guidance and support from the Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council, FCPS is reviewing video-conference contracts and service level agreements. Priority is to ensure reliable vendor performance and a safe and secure virtual learning platform to support enhanced online instruction in 2020-21. FCPS also continues to partner with internet service providers to expand free and low-cost home service options in communities. 


The focus for student assessments within all reopening plans is to help staff identify students’ learning needs and plan for upcoming instruction. Assessments geared to this purpose are prioritized in the division assessment program. This includes use of measures for division-level analysis of learning loss that can be attributed to extended school closures. Resources and professional development are provided for staff to support effective and appropriate assessment practices in an online learning environment, including limitations tied to test security in some cases. 

Most standardized assessments are required to be administered in-person with strict test security measures in place. With a virtual start to the school year, most standardized assessments traditionally provided in the fall were canceled for 2020-21. Alternative data sources and methods are being used in some cases for instructional and programmatic decisions, when prior assessment data are not available. As in-person instruction resumes with operational levels 2-3, standardized assessments also resume with specific health and safety assessment protocols. A new system of assessment by appointment has been implemented to ensure students participating in full-time online instruction can still access standardized assessments, such as federally required Standards of Learning (SOL) and English language proficiency exams.

Curriculum and Instruction

Recognizing learning challenges and limitations many students may have experienced during spring 2020, 

FCPS has revised curriculum guides at elementary, middle, and high school levels. Revised curriculum highlights essential standards for the grade level or course, as well as the prerequisite knowledge and skills learners need in order to be successful with new content. Updated pacing guides and resources ensure both the essential standards and prerequisite skills are fully addressed and offer strategies for staff to support learners with differing needs. Explicit resources are provided to support advanced learners, English learners, students with disabilities, and PreK learners. In addition to resources embedded in curriculum guides, specific strategies to support vulnerable learners, including economically disadvantaged students, are available. These include cultural responsiveness, digital citizenship, creating family partnerships, and using thinking routines. Additionally, health and safety protocols have been defined for specific curricular areas, including choral and instrumental music, dance and theatre arts, health and physical education, etc.

Professional learning is provided for teachers to prepare for changes to teaching practices that are necessary for online instruction and for concurrent instruction with social distancing for in-person students. Best practices, samples, and guides support teachers to plan for an effective and engaging online classroom experience for the virtual launch. Additional best practices, samples, and guides are published throughout the fall to assist staff in preparing to dial in for in-person concurrent instruction. Throughout these resources is a focus on building community, social-emotional learning, and establishing appropriate routines and procedures that maintain safe and healthy practices, such as attention to screen time, hand hygiene, and social distancing.  

Instructional schedules in 2020-21 provide significantly more student-teacher interactions for all students than in spring 2020. All FCPS instructional models ensure students can reliably access all courses and programs required under the Virginia standards of learning. However, restrictions with online models necessitate adjustments to some course offerings, such as those requiring hands-on experiences. General classroom instruction at all levels features whole group, small group, and individual support for students. 

Attendance and Grading

FCPS provides a 5-day educational program, and students are required to attend each day. Attendance is monitored daily for students participating in-person with social distancing, synchronously online, and independently/asynchronously. An electronic attendance notification is sent to caregivers for any students who are reported to be absent from class. Under the 2020-21 virtual launch for all, some students and families are in a position where they are unable to reliably attend online classes during normal school hours. A system allows schools to document which students require an adjusted schedule for classes. Schools monitor attendance patterns for all students to plan for intervention or supports, as needed. 

New instruction delivered in the 2020-21 school year is graded at both the elementary and secondary levels. Staff will use standard grading practices following the established FCPS grading and reporting policy. Resources are available to assist teachers in ensuring fair and equitable grading for virtual classroom assessments. This includes application of an honor code and resources to support use of a cumulative gradebook model at middle and high school to account for students attending on different schedules and with different instructional models throughout the year. Flexibility is also expanded for course decisions, such as choosing a pass/fail option.  

Digital Resources

Whether learning takes place primarily in an online environment or face-to-face, expanded digital resources ensure students have consistent access to high quality learning tools. Staff continue to receive training and support in applying blended learning strategies, which involve a mix of teacher-directed and self-directed learning. Expanded digital reading materials and intervention resources at the elementary and middle school levels enable students at these grades to benefit from supplemental learning tools beyond what their teachers provide on a daily basis. 

Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health

The direct and indirect impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic are expected to have a lasting effect on students and staff. FCPS continues to reinforce and enhance curriculum and supports focused on social-emotional learning, relationship- building, and successful transitions to new schools, classrooms, and environments, whether in-person, concurrent, or online only. Instructional staff participate in a series of professional learning modules on social-emotional learning and mental health supports within reopening. A new wellness screener and improvements to mental health resources and partnerships within schools and the county offer another critical layer of support for students, families, and staff. 

Specific strategies include:

  • Morning meetings or check-ins, intervention blocks, and advisory periods used to provide instruction in social-emotional learning and relationship building.
  • Clinical and counseling staff providing mental health support and resources, including group or individual counseling and consultation for students and families, as needed. 
  • Behavior intervention teachers, applied behavior analysis coaches, and school psychologists supporting students and caregivers with additional interventions and resources. 

Intervention Services

All learners continue to require flexible and responsive support for their academic, behavioral, and wellness needs. FCPS has committed significant resources to support ongoing intervention services across 2020-21. Classroom teachers and support staff receive professional development to plan and implement a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) reaching across synchronous and asynchronous instruction, in-person and online. Academic supports provide focus and review of essential standards through whole-group and small-group instruction (Tier 1) and individual student intervention (Tiers 2 and 3). Schools leverage resources and tools for systematic data collection, ongoing progress monitoring, and timely intervention. Support staff and resource teachers, including school counselors, psychologists, and social workers, work flexibly across the school to address student needs. Students identified for intervention supports may be selected to receive supplemental teacher-directed specialized instruction on Monday mornings, outside their regular class schedule. This supplemental service could be provided through interactive online instruction or, when safety indicators allow, in-person at the school site

Current Plan - Chapter 5 - Supports for Special Populations

Supports for Special Populations

Students with disabilities and English learners are given special consideration to ensure appropriate instruction while complying with federal and state requirements. Under the operational levels for in-person instruction, students from these special populations are offered cohort learning under level 2 before other students. Additionally, students within these special populations may be invited to participate in supplemental teacher-directed specialized instruction on Monday mornings, outside their regular class schedule, either through interactive online instruction or, when safety indicators allow, in-person at the school site.

Students with Disabilities

Special education services for students with disabilities include increased time for synchronous instruction and explicit expectations for greater consistency. Instructional delivery is designed to ensure the least restrictive environment (LRE) as required by their IEP. As needed based on IEP goals, this includes in-person specialized instruction. Students continue to receive access to instructional materials for use at home, as needed, including assistive technology tools. The student support model is complemented by enhanced professional development for staff and training for caregivers. When necessary, virtual meetings are used to convene special education procedural meetings, such as local screening committee, reevaluation, eligibility, IEP teams, etc. Descriptions of the 2020-21 FCPS service models to support students with disabilities are available.

Under Operational Level 2 cohort learning, students accessing an adapted curriculum and those attending FCPS public day schools receive up to four days per week of in-person learning at school, unless their families have opted for full-time online instruction. As the division transitions to cohort learning, Temporary Learning Plans are discontinued, and teams work to amend IEP goals, accommodations, and services, as appropriate, to reflect the student’s instructional delivery model for 2020-21, whether in-person or online. 

English Learners (ELs)

ESOL services for English learners include a defined minimum time allocation for English language development (ELD) instruction within the student’s schedule. Additional opportunities for extended instructional time are provided to recently arrived ELs, students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE), and ELs identified for interventions. Students from these same EL groups have access to in-person learning opportunities under operational level 2 cohort learning, unless their families have opted for full-time online instruction. The amount of in-person cohort learning varies by student need and school operational capacity. 

Formative ELD assessments have been created to assist monitoring of student progress in development of reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Bilingual counseling, social work services, and psychology services are available to support students’ social-emotional needs and academic advising. Family outreach and education are  provided to support families’ understanding of distance learning models and how to support their children’s learning. 

image of students learning with supports

Current Plan - Chapter 6 - In-Person Learning

In-Person Learning

As noted in the chapter on the FCPS operational approach for 2020-21, the operational levels are designed with the overarching aim to provide safe in-person learning for all FCPS students

Cohort Learning Groups 

Operational level 2, cohort learning, is designed to safely serve students in-person on a limited basis to meet critical needs for instruction, assessment, and related services. Within operational level 2, the level of service provided varies based on division readiness metrics and student needs across schools. Three primary formats are used when implementing level 2 cohort learning, and these formats may be leveraged independently or together. All three formats have been applied August 2020 to February 2021.  

Assessment and evaluation by appointment, including:

  • Individual students based on need
  • Groups of students for prioritized assessments, such as college entrance exams, abilities tests, and state-mandated assessments

Half-day Monday opportunities for cohorted groups of students to supplement virtual learning, including:

  • Intervention/supports for students disconnected from virtual learning in the previous or current school year
  • Students identified through the MTSS process needing additional academic or sociaI-emotional supports
  • Specialized high school courses that require in-person access to equipment and experiences

Small group in-person learning throughout the week for students likely to experience challenges with virtual learning, including:

  • Students with disabilities: Preschool autism, preschool special education, private day schools, adapted curriculum, comprehensive services
  • English learners: Students with limited or interrupted formal education, newcomer ELs
  • Specialized courses requiring hands-on experiences: Behind the wheel, in-person requirements defined by external regulatory boards, content requiring hand-on learning, such as career and technical education

Learning Schedules  

The 5-day instructional week provides guaranteed services for students by level. Sample daily schedules provide a snapshot of how instructional content is delivered within the bell schedule. Actual schedules are established at each school according to division guidelines. As illustrated in the table below, FCPS students experience a range of learning models as the division dials in and out among operational levels. 

Monday: Students access independent, asynchronous learning. Certain students may be identified to receive specialized services to meet program needs, such as IEP goals or assessment requirements. Students may also have opportunities to access extra-curricular activities, when available. Teachers engage in professional development and prepare for upcoming student instruction. 

Tuesday-Friday: Students receive teacher-directed instruction 4 days weekly. Depending on the operational level and student group, students may be served in-person 0 to 4 days per week (see table below). On days for which a student is not scheduled to attend in-person, instruction is delivered synchronously online.

  • Elementary School: Students participate in all core academic classes daily. Specials classes vary by day, with weekly access to learning in art, music, and health and physical education. 
  • Middle and High School:  Students participate on a block schedule with odd-numbered class periods on Tuesday and Thursday and even-numbered class periods on Wednesday and Friday.

table of full-time virtual schedule

table of in-person concurrent schedule

Health Protocols and Social Distancing

In-person instruction within the FCPS model requires continuous monitoring and safety measures to mitigate health risk. All health monitoring protocols and social distancing are implemented in accordance with CDC and VDH guidance, as detailed in the chapter on health mitigation strategies. This includes required use of masks, daily health screening questions, frequent sanitation of high-touch points, and visitor restrictions. Six-foot separation is maintained whenever possible for both staff and students, with new capacity limits and seating guidelines for classrooms and school buses. In rare cases when 6-foot distancing cannot be attained, additional mitigation strategies are employed, such as staff use of PPE to protect students requiring close interaction for special education services.

Customized health mitigation strategies may be established to address periods of potential increased transmission risk, such as during the initial phase-in for new student groups under operational levels 2-3. Such customized expectations are highlighted within the student health and safety guidance document and in staff and family communication. One example of such a customized strategy is a requirement to check all students’ temperatures before they may enter the school building.

image of desk social distance arrangement

image of bus social distance seating

Current Plan - Chapter 7 - Additional Considerations

Additional Considerations for Reopening

As the division prepares for reopening schools, we recognize that are additional considerations that must be addressed to ensure students, families, and staff are well supported in the upcoming transitions. 

Supports for Staff

One goal of the FCPS Reopening Schools Plan is to ensure that all staff—instructional, clinical, operational, and administrative—have the resources to feel safe and comfortable returning to the workplace. Elements of this staff support model include the following. 

Flexible Work and Leave Options

Provide updated resources and procedures, including:

  • An updated telework regulation;
  • Support accessing emergency leave, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other related benefits; 
  • Support applying for and negotiating ADA accommodations;
  • Opportunity to request a full-time online teaching assignment, with placement contingent on student enrollment numbers in the full-time online program and tiering by need; and
  • Flexibility to resign, retire, or apply for unpaid leave of absence (LOA) without prejudice.

Personal Protective Equipment

Ensure staff have the necessary personal protective resources, as appropriate for their risk exposure, such as masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, etc. 

Health and Wellness

Provide staff with support and resources to address any personal health and wellness needs.

Professional Development

Provide staff with the information, guidance, and professional learning necessary to support virtual instructional practices, health, and safety.


When a staff member who directly serves students in FCPS schools is required to return in-person to support cohort or hybrid learning in operational levels 2-3, they may request 4 days of in-school service (Tuesday-Friday) for their children enrolled in FCPS grades K-6. On Mondays, the staff member may take school-aged children with them to their school of employment, so long as the student is able to work with limited supervision and the arrangement does not impact the employee’s ability to perform his or her work duties. Examples of staff eligible for this option include teachers, instructional assistants, administrative staff, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, school psychologists, school social workers.  

Supports for Families

Another goal of the FCPS Reopening Schools Plan is to ensure that all families have the tools, resources, and supports to feel safe and comfortable as their children return to school. A Family Guide for Return to School provides key timelines and summarizes critical information for caregivers as they plan for students resuming in-person instruction. Elements of this family support model include the following. 

Flexible Schooling Options

Provide families the opportunity to choose full-time online instruction or the in-person operational continuum. Caregivers are encouraged to make choices based on health and safety concerns rather than course or program availability. If no preference is received for a student by the deadline, the student is automatically enrolled for the in-person operational levels.

Food Services

Continue to provide meal services to students unable to attend school in person. 

Language Services

Provide written translations of documents and communications in the eight most frequently spoken home languages in FCPS, and provide oral interpretation for any family who needs this service. Provide consistent access to translation resources, including United Language, Talking Points application, phone line responders, and bilingual parent liaisons.

Training and Support

Provide resources and training to help caregivers understand their roles in supporting students’ academic success, including  ongoing workshops and free consultations with the Parent Resource Center.

Technology Support

Expand laptop and MiFi distribution to ensure families have access to reliable technology and internet services to support their children’s learning outside of school. Provide an online help desk to support students and caregivers with computer troubleshooting. Additional technology information and supports are also available for families. 

Family-School Engagement

Engage in regular two-way communication between families and their children’s teachers and schools, with support from parent liaisons.

Athletics and Activities

Athletics and extracurricular activities support the goal of providing a well-rounded educational experience for students within the reopening process. FCPS follows all CDC, VDH, and FCHD guidance for physical and social distancing, restricting the size of gatherings for indoor and outdoor spaces, disinfecting equipment, and other health and safety precautions. Virginia High School League (VHSL) phase guidance is applied throughout reopening. Additional details are found within the activities and athletics webpage

  • State guidance allowed community use of FCPS fields and facilities to resume, effective June 12, 2020. 
  • FCPS athletics conditioning and agility sessions began on June 22, 2020. All coaches completed mandatory training before conducting any sessions, and all sessions are held at outdoor fields and facilities. Practice sessions are limited to individual work, with no group or scrimmage activities. The fall competitive athletics season was postponed. Adjustments have been made to the winter and spring athletics seasons to accommodate the fall sports later in the year with guidance from the VHSL. 
  • Clubs may meet both in person and in a virtual setting at the completion of the regular school day. Appropriate protocols and proper accommodations are available to allow clubs to remain active. 
  • The Middle School After School Program follows appropriate protocols to allow for continuity of programming. 
  • The marching band season has been postponed until later in the school year. Schools offer in-person marching band experiences whenever possible and may provide small group marching band practices prior to the start of the school year with proper health and safety modifications. 

Communication Strategies

Multi-faceted communication strategies allow the division to attain its goal to include stakeholders’ input in reopening decisions and to reinforce trust and confidence in FCPS. Family and staff survey data are used to inform the development and refinement of implementation plans for the two operational models. Survey data reflect: 

  • Family opinions about each of the FCPS reopening models;
  • Staff comfort levels in returning to work and the supports they need to be successful; and 
  • Staff and family perceptions on the effectiveness of spring 2020 distance learning.

Division communication strategies are designed to engage all stakeholders through ongoing and up-to-date information about the decision-making process and reopening plans. These strategies include:

  • Clear and straightforward information to ease understanding about options, decisions, and timelines for fall; 
  • Direct communication via mailings, email, and video messages; 
  • Website and social media postings;
  • Town hall events; 
  • Guaranteed translation services in eight most frequently spoken home languages; 
  • Ongoing support for school-based outreach and communication tools; and
  • Collaboration with stakeholder groups, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and businesses to help get the message to families and staff.

Current Plan - Chapter 8 - Decision Timelines

Timelines for Key Decisions and Actions

All decisions and actions are led by the Fairfax County School Board and senior leadership team. Decisions and actions are based on the most recent public health data and guidance from the CDC as well as state and county health department. FCPS utilizes a series of scheduled School Board work sessions, town hall meetings, family and staff surveys, and recommendations from the Reopening Schools Task Force to gather and process information about community needs and the best available approach for serving FCPS students, families, and staff under difficult and evolving circumstances. Return to School Updates give a complete timeline of School Board meetings, town hall meetings, newsletter publications, and messages from the superintendent.

By June 26, 2020

  • Communicate an initial decision on the operational models  available for the first day of the 2020-21 school year. 
  • Communicate timeline for families to indicate their preference to return with full-time online instruction or return for in-person instruction with social distancing in FCPS schools. 

By July 9, 2020

  • Finalize the date for the first day of the 2020-21 school year.

By July 15, 2020

  • Parents should respond to the enrollment letter to indicate their preferred instructional model for each of their children. This deadline enables FCPS to plan class schedules for full-time online and in-person instruction. 

By July 20, 2020

  • Staff should submit their requests for school-aged childcare under the opportunity available for employees providing direct support to students. 

By July 21, 2020

  • Decide on the beginning-of-year initial operational level for in-school instruction. This allows families who chose in-person instruction for 2020-21 to know what their children’s instructional model will look like for the start of the school year. This decision is subject to continuous analysis to determine when the operational level may be dialed in.

By August 17, 2020

  • Laptop distribution begins. Each school develops a safe and efficient laptop distribution process.

By September 2, 2020

  • Communicate individual student schedules and teacher/course assignments. 

By October 14, 2020 

  • Communicate updates on FCPS operational levels, FCPS in-person readiness metrics, tentative phase-in schedules for operational level 2 cohort learning, and the concurrent instructional model. 

By October 26, 2020 

  • Begin cohort learning for select English learners, career preparation classes, and students with disabilities served through a classroom-based adapted curriculum, comprehensive services site, or FCPS public day school. 

By February 23, 2021

  • Begin grade-level cohort learning for Early Head Start, prekindergarten, and kindergarten. 
  • Expand cohort learning for additional students with disabilities receiving at least 50 percent modified curriculum or specialized center-based services, such as vision programs and deaf/hard-of-hearing programs. 

Tentative dates for further phase-in of operational level 2 and operational level 3 groups are posted and updated as dictated by FCPS readiness metrics.

Historical Reference

Find more resources for return to school

See Return to School resources

Learn more about summer learning programs

See Summer Learning resources