Safety - Your Questions Answered

Everything you need to know about return to school

With respect to Fall 2021 Health and Safety practices, FCPS will continue to follow the guidance put forth by clinical researchers and medical providers from the Centers for Disease Control, Virginia Department of Health, and the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure the safest classrooms possible. Following are some commonly asked questions and answers.  

Athletics

What safety measures are in place?

Vaccinations

Beginning November 8, FCPS will require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League (VHSL) winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will also be required for participation in any other activity that requires a physical. This includes dance team and step team, as well as out-of-season practices and workouts.  Find out more about COVID-19 testing

Masks

  • Outdoor activities – masks not required
  • Indoor activities – masks required for coaches and all players who are not participating in the activity
    • This applies to all practices, games and outdoor sports coming indoors for practices
    • This applies to students and staff
  • Masks are currently being worn while on a school bus; that practice will follow transportation guidelines.
  • Complete details.

Water

Students and coaches will provide their own water in individual containers. Each will need to have a minimum of 32 ounces; more is recommended based on individual need and the demands of the sport.

Screening

Pre-activity screening is required for students and coaches using the Google screening mechanism.

Equipment

Cleaning and disinfection protocols will be the same as in the previous sports season.

Illness/COVID Case Reporting

Find out what happens when a COVID-19 case is reported.  

Contact Tracing

What do students need to do while contact tracing occurs?

Students will be paused for a short period of time while FCPS and the health department investigate and determine the safest way to address a positive case in our school community. Read more about the process.  View the Guidance for Parents of School-aged Children provided by the Fairfax County Health Department.  

When contact tracing, how will those involved know if students were engaged in consistent and correct usage of well-fitting masks?

Find out what happens when a COVID-19 case is reported.  

Consistent and correct mask use is an important prevention strategy in the fight against COVID-19. Our staff and students are provided training on how to correctly wear a mask. Our training video is available to the public, and we encourage parents to review our mask training video with their students before school starts. Confirming the proper use of masks in the classroom is important for the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) during contact tracing and investigation. FCPS provides the FCHD with a variety of information sources, and the FCHD conducts interviews with multiple employees and students to confirm the accuracy of the information provided. See the question below for more details about an exception for contact tracing in the K–12 setting.  

What is the new exception for close contacts in a K-12 school?

A close contact is any person, regardless of vaccination status, who is within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. However, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) provides for a K-12 Exception. According to the VDH guideline, close contact applies to students wearing masks who were within 3 feet or less of a student COVID case in the indoor or outdoor K-12 classroom setting for a cumulative amount of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours. 

This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor/outdoor classroom setting.

View this short video for a complete description of a close contact. View the video en español - Terminos de COVID: Contacto cercano. (Note: After the videos were produced,  FCPS began following the new VDH guideline for the K-12 Exception that includes  "outdoors in the K-12 setting," in addition to the classroom setting. 

View this short video for a complete description of a close contact. View the video en español - Terminos de COVID: Contacto cercano. (Note: After the videos were produced,  FCPS began following the new VDH guideline for the K-12 Exception that includes "outdoors in the K-12 setting," in addition to the classroom setting. 

COVID-19 Closures

When will FCPS consider closing schools?

FCPS, like every school division in Virginia, is mandated to provide in-person learning this fall. This approach is supported by the Fairfax County Board. We continue to believe that all students do better in person in school. 

FCPS has plans in place to ensure continuity of learning in the event health authorities or an Executive Order require a temporary closure to protect the health of students, staff, and the community.

Mask Guidance

When are masks required?

  • FCPS will now require everyone to wear a mask indoors.  See Guidance for Wearing Masks.
  • ALL staff, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a face mask indoors, unless you are alone in an office or room.
  • Outdoor masking is recommended for anyone who is not fully vaccinated in crowded settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with others. 
  • There are some situations in school when students and staff are permitted to remove their masks, including:
    • When actively eating or drinking (if eating indoors, individuals are required to put their masks back on when not actually eating or drinking)
    • When outside (e.g., outdoor recess, outdoor physical education, outdoor instructional groups; anyone not fully vaccinated is recommended, but not required, to wear a mask in crowded settings)
  • Complete details.

What accommodations are available for special education/IEP students for whom masks create learning or health challenges?

A small group of students with disabilities and staff who work with them will have access to clear masks (e.g. center-based students with hearing impairments, teachers of deaf/hard-of-hearing, speech language pathologists, and some students receiving speech services as needed).

Do vaccinated students have to wear masks?

The CDC issued revised guidance on July 27 that included universal masking in K-12 schools. FCPS follows the guidance of the CDC and other national, state, and local health experts. 

Can vaccinated students show proof of vaccination and be exempt from the mask policy?

No, the mask policy is part of a layered prevention strategy necessary at this time. The latest data on the Delta variant shows that vaccinated individuals may be able to transmit the virus, even when symptom-free. The extra layer of protection that masks provide protects all students, especially those who are not eligible for vaccination at this time.

Why are masks not required when outdoors?

In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. However, particularly in areas of substantial to high transmission, CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

Will students need to maintain a distance of 6 or more feet when unmasked outdoors?

In general, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower when playing outdoors than in indoor settings. People do not need to wear masks when outdoors (e.g., participating in outdoor play, recess, and physical education activities). However, particularly in areas of substantial to high transmission levels, people who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated. When physical education activities or recess are held indoors, it is particularly important for people who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks and maximize distance when possible.

Where can I find information about mask exemptions for my child?

Aligned with guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has established procedures for the use of face coverings/masks (cloth or disposable) for students, staff, and visitors designed to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and other identified infectious diseases during a health crisis. These requirements are outlined in Regulation 2109 (R2109), Face Coverings to Mitigate the Spread of Infectious Disease 

Can I request my child wears their mask during outdoor recess?

Parents who have specific requests for their child can contact their school. Schools will make the best possible effort to ensure the parent’s request is followed when possible. Please understand schools cannot guarantee all requests will be able to be met.

School Meals

FCPS is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our staff and students throughout the entire school day, including lunchtime, when students will not be able to wear masks while eating. Hot lunches via serving lines are available, however we are unable to offer salad bars.

We know that the situation at lunchtime will look different when comparing schools, but we are committed to making sure the structure of lunchtime works at every school. 

  • Elementary Students Only  - Elementary schools are to provide seating charts to minimize the number of potential close contacts while masks are removed. This is a NEW prevention strategy for elementary given elementary students are generally not age-eligible for the vaccine.
  • Students will be required to wear masks in the cafeteria when not actively eating and drinking.
  • Students will need to wear their masks while going through the serving line. 
  • Students will put their masks back on when they finish their meals. 
  • Cafeteria spaces will be regularly and thoroughly cleaned with a sanitizing solution. 
  • It is recommended that students wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after eating.
  • FCPS Food Nutrition Services works closely with the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure proper food safety and sanitation. 

All students will be offered no cost breakfast and lunch for the entire school year. Menus are available online. 

Why Will Lunch Look Different at Every School?


The size of every school cafeteria is different and the number of students at each school is different. Because most students (99.5%) will be back for in-person learning, physical distancing will not be possible in most classrooms, hallways or cafeterias. Schools will do their best to physically distance where space allows and when it does not disrupt normal operations.

The physical layout of each cafeteria varies from school to school depending on size and student enrollment. Some schools (but not all) will have outdoor cafeteria spaces or options. These may be used on days when the weather is good. 

Students will not be required to face the same direction when eating lunch, as was the requirement last year. This kind of layout will simply not allow most cafeterias to accommodate all students without disrupting normal operations.

Some of our students may be a bit nervous about how to navigate breakfast and lunch at school. For some younger students, this may be their first school meal experience. Teachers and Food Nutrition Services team members will be there to answer questions and guide students through the process so they can enjoy a healthy and tasty school meal.

How will the Free and Reduced Meals Program work this school year?

Enrolled students will be offered a nutritious meal for breakfast and lunch each day at no charge to the household. Households will not be required to submit a meal application form to receive meals at no charge; however other benefits may be connected to eligibility.  Applications are available online.

Is there anything families can do to prepare for school meals?

A la carte items will be phased in as capacity allows, but you can prepare in advance. Set up your student’s MySchoolBucks account and help them memorize their pin. If you have questions about MySchoolBucks, your school’s front office staff can help.

Screening and Testing

Will regular testing be a layered prevention strategy?

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) COVID-19 screening testing program provides testing to students and staff. For students, parental consent is required.  Read more about the testing program. 

Symptom Assessment/Staying Home When Sick

My child has the sniffles, but no fever, should I send them to school?

Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.

 


 

Vaccinations

Will FCPS require proof of vaccination for students?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not a required immunization, therefore FCPS cannot require proof of vaccination.  Beginning November 8, FCPS will require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League (VHSL) winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will also be required for participation in any other activity that requires a physical. This includes dance team and step team, as well as out-of-season practices and workouts.

Are FCPS staff required to be vaccinated?

By late October, all FCPS employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to routine negative COVID-19 tests, a move that reinforces existing layered prevention strategies and the division’s commitment to safety. Chaperones attending field trips are required to be vaccinated and adhere to wearing a mask.  

Virtual Program

Can I enroll my student in FCPS' Virtual Program?

FCPS is excited to have all staff and students return in the fall for five days of in-person instruction. We believe that in-person learning is the best approach, and are focused on providing a safe and positive learning experience for all students. 

Eligibility for the Virtual Program is LIMITED and based on a documented COVID-19 related health/medical need of the student that is aligned to the CDC recommended criteria. Applications should be submitted with evidence of a documented medical need.

Students New to FCPS

  • Eligibility for the Virtual Program is LIMITED and will be based on a documented COVID-19 related health/medical need of the student. Family health/medical conditions will not be considered for this program. This eligibility is not extended to siblings or other students in a household.

  • If you have a student new to FCPS with a COVID-19 related health condition who would like to be considered for the Virtual Program, please contact your base school.

Current FCPS Students

  • Eligibility for the Virtual Program is LIMITED and based on a documented COVID-19 related health/medical need of the student that is aligned to the CDC recommended criteria. Applications should be submitted with evidence of a documented medical need.

  • Virtual Virginia is no longer accepting applications and is therefore not an option for virtual learning.

  • If you have a student that was enrolled prior to May 28, 2021 with a health/medical need that prevents attendance from school or concerns with returning to in-person learning, please contact your base school to discuss your options.

Note: Fairfax County Public Schools is not legally obligated to provide virtual instruction to students.