Superintendent Message on Expanded Opportunities - Questions Answered

Details on eligibility, social distancing, lunch, and future plans are available.

Updated CDC guidance (March 12, 2021) allows schools the opportunity to transition from 6’ to 3’ social distancing in circumstances where staffing and space capacity allow and in adherence with CDC community transmission rates.

FCPS will be expanding opportunities for four days of in-person learning for identified PreK-12 students during the month of April where staffing and space capacity allow.

As long as students are wearing masks and adhering to all CDC layered prevention strategies, evidence suggests that 3 feet is a sufficient physical distance for students to stay healthy and lessen risk of virus transmission in most circumstances. 

Three foot distancing allows for much more flexibility in terms of classroom size and layout and will enable capacity to expand. 

FCPS staff will do their best to support this distance. However, there may be times where this distance requirement will not be met 100 percent of the day (for example, tying a child’s shoe).



FCPS will be offering four days of in-person instruction to students who are experiencing the greatest learning challenges, as identified by school personnel using the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) starting the weeks of April 6 and April 13. 

Starting the week of April 20, FCPS will be offering four days of in-person instruction to students already attending two-days in-person (PreK-12) where staffing and space capacity allow. 

The families of all students eligible to return under either of the above scenarios will be contacted by the school. No action is required by parents/guardians. Please do not reach out to the school. 

Schools will be determining availability based on each school’s staffing and space capacity. This will look different in every school. 

Transition circumstances are based on community transmission rates, school capacity and staffing. Circumstances may vary between schools. Some challenges include:

  • In-person attendance already varies widely from school to school, ranging from 20% to 80%.
  • Schools have different numbers of students identified through the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.
  • Space challenges vary, including current occupancy, size of classrooms, furniture, and lunchroom space.
  • Schools need sufficient space for all students to eat lunch without a mask, 6’ apart, and all facing the same direction. 
  • Implementation may impact some school schedules.
  • There is the possibility that some bus routes will increase capacity from one student per seat to two students per seat while others may not. 
  • Staffing levels may not be sufficient if staff need to quarantine.

Expanded bus transportation will be provided to eligible students. Any decisions about how space is used, both indoor and outdoor, is done on a school-by-school basis. 

We understand that this can be a challenge for families. However, we believe it is appropriate to focus on students with the greatest needs at this time. Each school, each grade and each classroom will have unique challenges and opportunities to return students.


Return to Virtual Learning

Fairfax County Public Schools continues to follow CDC guidance for layered prevention strategies and will adjust as necessary. FCPS will also continue to monitor county health data and guidance from the State. We will need to be flexible in line with Community Transmission Rates.

Currently, Fairfax County is listed under “Red” or “High” community transmission. Under “High” community transmission: 

  • When community transmission is “high,” CDC guidance indicates that 3’ social distancing is appropriate in elementary classrooms where mask use is universal, but 6’ if the student is not wearing their mask, such as when eating lunch.
  • Per current data (3/30) middle and high schools will expand capacity for in-person instruction but will remain at 6’ social distancing until Fairfax County moves out of the “high” designation for community transmission.


Returning to virtual can be done at any time, after speaking with your school’s leadership. If you do so at this time, your student will need to stay virtual for the remainder of the school year. This does not apply for short-term returns to virtual that are the result of a quarantine or illness.



This change in the CDC guidance applies to the space between some students at schools with capacity. For now, staff-to-student and staff-to-staff spacing will remain at 6’.



Decisions will be made by each individual school. Some options include splitting students between classrooms and the cafeteria, using additional school spaces and/or eating outside. 


Future Plans

FCPS will offer in-person learning for summer for identified students. FCPS expects to welcome all students back for five days of in-person learning for Fall 2021. Limited virtual options will be available.

Contact Tracing


As of March 19, 37 of Virginia’s 132 divisions were offering in-person instruction four days a week to all students while four divisions remained fully remote. The remaining 91 divisions were offering a range of partial hybrid, hybrid for all grade levels, or hybrid with some students attending 4 days a week.