Return to School - Your Questions Answered
Everything you need to know about bus transportation, cleaning, health measures, lockers, meals, mental health, recess, special education, and technology.
Health and Safety Guidance Document
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is providing the following guidance to staff regarding school health practices for students. The guidance is consistent with Governor Northam’s phased reopening plan for Virginia schools and guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Schools should follow all CDC, Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), and the local health department guidance for reopening schools during all phases.
This document is updated frequently and contains the most recent information on health and safety topics.
Athletics and Activities
All VHSL sports and activities will take place in the season where they are currently aligned.
Season 1 (Winter) December 14 – February 20 (First Contest Date – December 28)
- Basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, wrestling
Season 2 (Fall) February 15 – May 1 (First Contest Date – March 1)
- Cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, volleyball
Season 3 (Spring) April 12 – June 26 (First Contest Date – April 26)
- Baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) requires all schools to take attendance during virtual learning this school year. FCPS must take attendance Mondays through Fridays unless there is a student holiday on a Monday. Students aged 5-18 must attend school every day school is in session unless they are excused from school. To support this, parents must report absences to school each time the student may be absent.
For Elementary School: On Mondays, elementary students may check in with their teachers via a morning meeting or other structured activity. When they log in, the teacher will confirm their attendance. Tuesdays through Fridays, students will check in with their teachers the same way. If students are unable to participate on any given school day, parents must report the absence to the school office.
Middle and High School: On Mondays, secondary students may be assigned an advisory or intervention period. That teacher will check their logins and provide attendance information to office personnel. On Tuesdays through Fridays, students will login to their classes, and each teacher will take attendance. Any time a student must be absent for an illness or other reason, parents must contact the school office with that information.
Parents and caregivers can assist with this process by doing the following:
Ensuring that their student(s) logs in to classes on time, and throughout the day.
Calling or emailing the school attendance line if their student(s) are unable to participate.
Communicating any concerns to the school, such as difficulty logging in or having access to FCPS classes.
Reporting any hardship, such as student illness or any issue that might prevent the student from participating regularly.
Returning phone calls or emails when notified that their student(s) did not participate that day.
Ensuring that your student(s) submit activity logs as directed.
If your child is unable to login to live, face-to-face online instruction with their teacher, the teacher will be recording the class and posting the video within Blackboard/Google Classroom so it can be viewed at a different time. The video can also be used to provide review for all students.
If a parent calls and indicates their student will not be there for a certain class period, they are excused for the class period. Accessing the material later will not change the status of the absence.
If there is no parent contact, and the student failed to log in, the student is unverified for that class period. FCPS bases attendance for secondary students on “present” one or more periods of the day, and reports which periods a student did not appear in class.
FCPS staff members will work with parents to ensure that the transition to virtual learning is as smooth as possible. Help us to help you set your students up for success.
Beginning February 16, 2021 all schools will follow the adjusted bell schedule to allow for social distancing on buses and in classrooms. View the bell schedules.
FCPS will continue to provide bus transportation for students identified by school personnel through MTSS for expanded opportunities for in-person learning.
Expanded bus transportation is available for those students already attending in-person two days a week who will be attending four days a week will start the week of April 20.
Seating capacity will continue to be reduced to allow for social distancing. Students are reminded to wear a face coverings when riding the school bus. Students will be required to sit in seats as marked on the school bus.
Bus stop information will be available at the school and in ParentVUE. Here Comes the Bus app is available and provides school bus arrival information. We will be using the new bell schedule beginning February 16. The bell schedule adjustment will be necessary due to social distancing requirements which limit capacity on school buses. A bell schedule change will apply to both in-person learning as well as students who are doing full-time virtual learning.
- Students should load the bus from back-to-front and unload from front-to-back.
- Students are to be seated one per seat and closest to the window unless they are siblings coming from the same household.
- The first seat located behind the driver must remain empty except for the driver’s own children/grandchildren
- Bus stop information will be available at the school and in ParentVUE.
- Here Comes the Bus app is available and provides school bus arrival information.
FCPS personnel will staff the Care Room. The care room is a designated location for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 while at school. It is separate from the Health Room and is necessary due to the requirement for social distancing and room capacity. A designated staff member will be assigned to supervise students in the care room while waiting for the parent or guardian to pick up the student.
Classroom monitors are used when a teacher is instructing virtually from home. If a teacher will be teaching virtually, a classroom monitor will be present to support in-person students in the classroom. The teacher and the students at home will still log into Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU). In-person students will be in the classroom and BBCU or Google Meet will be streamed in to interact with the teacher and engage in learning. The classroom monitor will set up the live session for the class and support in-person students as needed.
FCPS cleaning personnel will be sanitizing and disinfecting more frequently. Their cleaning protocol will include thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing all surfaces, doors, toilets, and handles, and ensuring that all supplies are always fully stocked. FCPS cleaning crews will be sanitizing touch surfaces/points thoroughly such as door handles, glass, elevators buttons, doors, tables, chairs, and light switches. Daytime custodians have been instructed to continuously disinfect and sanitize all touch points throughout the day. In addition, we will be increasing daytime custodian coverage where appropriate, depending on building occupancy.
In collaboration with FCPS, the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) has established a designated phone line for FCPS staff and students who are unable to seek COVID-19 testing elsewhere.
The FCPS principal or designee must ensure that the staff or student meet the following criteria in order to qualify for this service:
The staff or student must be attending school in-person and/or have been in the school building during the time in question.
The staff or student must be symptomatic.
The staff or student are unable to seek COVID-19 testing elsewhere.
Protocol to follow once the qualifying criteria is met:
During the academic day, the principal or designee should contact their assigned PHN.
During the weekends, the principal or designee should call 703-246-8737 to be connected to the School Health Public Health Nurse (PHN) during the hours between 9:00 am-4:00pm.
The FCPS principal or designee are to leave a message if the PHN is not directly available. The call will be returned within 90 minutes.
We are adjusting our grading policy for SY2020-21 to ensure students are not penalized by the challenges brought to us by pandemic learning.
Key options for high school students are:
- Use of No Mark (NM) instead of F grades for all courses
- Final Exam flexibility that ensures an exam can only serve to improve a student’s grade for the year
- Allowing students/families to choose a mark of “P” (pass) instead of passing letter grades (C’s or D’s, for example) as their final mark in up to two courses
Key options for middle school students are:
- Use of No Mark (NM) instead of F grades for all courses
- Students receiving a final mark of D / D+ in any course will be assigned a mark assigned a mark of “P” (pass) on the report card
- Allowing students/families to choose a mark of “P” (pass) instead of passing letter grades (C’s, for example) for any course
Teachers, counselors, and administrators will be communicating with families regarding these grading policy changes as well as any other potential options to best support the student’s final grade. Details of these changes are posted on the FCPS website here and additional details will be provided by schools.
Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to and planning to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021. While our traditional venues (Eagle Bank Arena at George Mason University and DAR – Constitutional Hall) will most likely not be available in June we are actively exploring other venue options to include the use of our high school stadiums and/or other outside entertainment sites.
Governor Northam will be providing new and updated guidance for in-person graduation ceremonies, indoor and outdoor social gatherings, and public health and space restrictions for certain outdoor sports and entertainment venues in the next few weeks. This information will help to inform us about the health and safety requirements and laws for culminating events such as graduation, All Night Grad parties, prom, and end-of-year celebrations for our elementary and secondary students. We will promptly notify school staff, students and parents as soon as we have the additional guidance and plans.
Students will wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; before eating, and upon entering classrooms.
There will be breaks provided during the day for handwashing. Automatic hand sanitizer dispensing stands have been placed at school entrances and 1-gallon pump containers of hand sanitizer are available in all classrooms.
Support to students in the health room will continue to be provided by the School Health Aide.
Students with Individualized Health or Action Plans who require specialized care, medication administration and emergency care will be seen in the health room. Parents will be required to bring in medications needed to support their student during the school day prior to or on the first day of school.
*Reminder that health requirements, including necessary documentation for required immunizations, tuberculosis screenings, physicals and Tdap must be met before a student can return to “in-person” learning.
Parents/guardians who chose in-school instruction for their child will be required to complete a Parent/Guardian Health Screening Commitment form as students are phased back into in-person learning.
The document indicates the parental/guardian’s agreement and commitment to completing a daily health screening prior to sending the student to school and also to keep ill students at home. These health screenings will be done on an honor basis and will not be required to be submitted to the school each day.
Families can complete this form in ParentVue
– OR –
submit the form to your child(ren’s) school.
If a student becomes ill at home, STAY HOME.
- Parents need to contact the school and report the reason for their child’s absence.
- Parents will need to follow established procedures when contacting the school regarding student illness.
Students demonstrating any of the following symptoms will be sent home from school:
- Fever (100.4 or greater)
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste/smell
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Runny Nose/Congestion
The parent/guardian will be notified and Sick Student Notification and Return to School Forms will be sent home. If a student becomes ill during the school day, FCPS follows protocols provided by the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD). Each case will be handled individually in accordance with the FCHD established communicable disease and contact tracing protocols. FCPS will follow established guidelines for communicating information to parents/guardians. For more information visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov.
- School librarians will provide library services and instruction for students virtually, in their classrooms, or in the library following social distancing and safety guidelines.
- Library staff will assist students in PreK through grade 2 with book checkout.
- Students in grades 3 through 12 may use self-checkout stations that limit contact.
- Schools have the option to provide curbside checkout to students not attending school in person.
- Books that are returned to the library will have a 24-hour isolation period before they are available again to students.
- School staff will communicate how virtual students can check out books.
Secondary school students will not be able to use lockers. Students should plan to bring what they need in backpacks and take backpacks home at the end of the day.
FCPS offers grab and go meals for all students. For students participating in virtual learning, grab and go meals are available at school sites and on bus routes.
It is recommended that students attending in person remain in the classroom whenever possible to eat lunch.
The CDC guidance requires all students to wear face covering for the 3ft guidance to be in effect. Each school will need to resolve how they handle students eating lunch to ensure they are 6ft apart when they are not wearing face masks. This will look different in every school.
How will cafeterias be set up for social distancing?
- Maintaining 6ft of social distancing will be required.
- If students use the cafeteria, seating will be assigned and face one direction.
- Masks will be required when not eating.
- If possible, students will eat in classrooms or outside whenever possible.
- FCPS offers no cost grab and go meals for all students through June 30, 2021
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) continues to provide “Grab-and-Go” meals at several school sites and on bus routes throughout Fairfax County. Grab and go meals are offered at no cost to ALL students throughout the county through June 30, 2021. Our goal is to provide every student in FCPS daily access to a healthy breakfast and lunch during the pandemic.
Meals are prepared fresh daily with high quality ingredients by a dedicated team of trained food service professionals. Our grab and go meals are tasty, well-balanced, and contain protein, whole grains, fruits and/or vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free milk. The meals are planned by registered dietitian nutritionists. Check out the menu.
If you submitted an application for Free or Reduced-Price Meals last school year for your child(ren), please remember to submit a new application for this school year.
Apply for free and reduced-price meals by visiting www.MySchoolApps.com. Eligibility may also provide your child(ren) other important benefits. Be sure your child(ren) is approved for the 20-21 school year.
The online application is available in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Tagalog, French, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean. Paper applications are available to complete and submit in English upon request at food distribution sites.
Social emotional and mental health resources are available to support students. 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.
All children and youth face challenges from time to time managing emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, or worried.
As students prepare to return to in-person learning, these emotions may be heightened.
Our school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are available to support all students as they transition back to their school buildings.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health crisis, or if you believe there may be a mental health emergency, call 911. Additional resources are available at www.fcps.edu and search Mental Health Emergency Services.
All students who are two years of age and older are required to wear face coverings/masks (cloth or disposable) while on school property (including inside FCPS facilities, during FCPS-provided transportation and school sponsored activities). Disposable masks will be provided to students unable to provide their own. Any student requesting an exemption to wearing a face covering/mask due to a medical exemption will provide the school a written statement from his or her physician confirming that not wearing a face covering/mask is medically necessary. As a matter of public health, an exemption from the face covering/mask requirement may alter or preclude access to face-to-face instructional programming. Regulation 2109
- Approved types of masks:
- Disposable masks, cloth mask coverings, gaiters, clear masks and cloth masks with clear plastic pan
- All face coverings/masks must meet the following requirements:
- Face coverings/masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face)
- Face covering/mask with two (2) or more layers of non-woven material
- Consider the following for better protection:
- Face covering/masks with nose wire
- Wearing two masks (as long as one mask is double layers)
- Cloth face coverings/masks with inner filter pockets.
- A cloth mask can be combined with a fitter or brace
- Specific guidance regarding what types of PPE are required during in- school instruction can be found at: PPE Strategies: Prevention of Infectious Diseases such as COVID-19
- Face coverings/Masks that are not recommended:
- Face coverings/masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose or too tight).
- Masks that are wet or dirty
- Face coverings/masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through (such as plastic or leather).
- Face coverings/masks made from loosely woven fabric or that are knitted, i.e., fabrics that let light pass through.
- Face coverings/masks with one layer.
- Face coverings/masks with exhalation valves or vents.
- Wearing a scarf or using ski masks as a mask.
- Single layer gaiters
FCPS recognizes that it may be difficult for many students to wear face coverings/masks all day during in-school instruction. School staff may consider building in supervised breaks during the instructional day where students may go outdoors and maintain social distance in order to take a break from wearing face coverings/masks. Students must sanitize hands immediately before and after mask breaks.
These are five mitigation strategies we will be using to keep students and staff safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Consistent use of face coverings
- Daily cleaning and sanitizing, especially those high touch areas.
- Working with the health department on response to any outbreak and implementing health and safety protocols.
- Physical Distancing - we are going to maintain the appropriate separation whenever possible in classrooms, at lunch, recess. We are also going to limit visitors to school buildings. If you need to come to school please contact the office to schedule an appointment.
- Washing hands with soap and water throughout the day. We also have hand sanitizer in every classroom.
Correct and consistent implementation of the mitigation strategies allows FCPS to provide students with in-person instruction even if COVID-19 transmission rates are high in the community. CDC says that as schools re-open for in-person instruction, it is important to have systems in place for monitoring and assessing COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
Playground apparatus (large structural equipment, swings, jungle gym, etc.) is approved for use. The following procedures should be followed when students use this equipment:
- Students are to be properly supervised while using apparatus/equipment to ensure safety and adherence to mitigation strategies.
- Students must sanitize their hands immediately before and after using the apparatus/equipment.
- Students should wear masks while using apparatus/equipment.
- Students should socially distance to the greatest extent possible. It is recommended that a rotation schedule be used to limit the number of students using apparatus and to support social distancing.
- The school will send general notification to the entire school community when a student, staff member, or visitor tests positive for COVID-19. This will let families and staff know that the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) will follow-up with case investigation and contact tracing.
- Based on guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD), FCPS may temporarily pause in-person instruction, athletics or school activities for anyone identified as a potential exposure during the case investigation and contact tracing.
- The FCHD will determine any close contacts and will contact those individuals directly to provide the appropriate guidance, which may include quarantine. A close contact is defined as someone who has spent more than 15 minutes during a 24-hour period within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive. More information on contact investigations is available from the Fairfax County Health Department and the Virginia Department of Health.
- When the FCHD has completed all contact-tracing, FCPS will send out a final notification letting the school community know that the process has been completed.
- FCPS has a dashboard that documents all positive cases at schools.
- A family may decide to return a student to virtual learning at any point if they deem it in the best interest of the child. Students have the ability to return to virtual learning at any time, for any length of time.
FCPS cleaning personnel will be sanitizing and disinfecting restrooms more frequently. Their cleaning protocol will include thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing all surfaces, doors, toilets, and handles, and ensuring that all supplies are fully stocked.
Families will receive guidance from the FCHD Public Health Nurses (PHNs) and School Health Aides (SHAs), identified as the school health team as to when their student can return to in-person learning.
Students who are showing signs of COVID-like illness may not return to school until:
• Student has tested negative for COVID-19 OR
• A healthcare provider has seen the student and
documented a reason for the symptoms other
than COVID-19 OR
• All of these are true:
- at least 10 days since the start of symptoms AND
- fever free off anti-fever medicines for 24 hours AND
- symptoms are getting better
Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, may not return until:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started AND
- The student has had no fever or anti-fever medicines (ex: Tylenol, Ibuprofen) for 24 hours AND
- The student’s symptoms are getting better
Students who have been exposed to COVID-19:
If someone in the household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or the student is exposed, the student must remain home for 14 days after their last exposure to the household member.
- Students will be required to label and maintain their own personal set of required classroom supplies.
- Student will keep their supplies in their backpack and take them to and from school each day.
- Students will not be allowed to share electronic devices, toys, books, games or learning aids unless they can be cleaned or disinfected.
- Students should bring their own water bottle for use during the day.
- Water fountains can be used to refill water bottles if practical, but students and staff should not be drinking directly from any water fixtures; individual water bottles should be used instead.
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.
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.
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’.
Middle and high schools will continue to require 6’ social distancing until community transmission is reduced.
As a reminder:
Social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.
In limited cases, exceptions may occur when a student requires support for activities of daily living that may make staff unable to maintain the appropriate distance. In all other cases, the appropriate social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.
- Three foot separation wherever possible; limited mixing among student groups.
- Middle and high school school students will remain with the 6' guidance until community transmission is reduced.
- Social distancing on buses in accordance with health and safety protocols.
- Desks/seats will be separated by either three or six feet distance, facing same direction, depending on the school level.
- Staff to staff and staff to student distance will remain at 6'.
- Students will eat meals in classrooms whenever possible. Each school will determine their best meal distribution process.
- Student traffic patterns in hallways will be set up to maintain social distancing, including during arrival and dismissal.
- Students transitioning to after school care will also follow traffic patterns in the hallways to maintain social distance.
Please discuss the importance of maintaining social distance with your child. It is important for children to understand that common interactions (holding hands, hugs, high-fives, sitting close to other students) are not allowed when social distancing. School officials will do their best to remind students of the need to maintain social distancing. That said, parents should recognize that maintaining social distancing will be challenging for many students and that mishaps are likely to occur among students when school officials are not present.
Answers to frequent questions about Child Find, evaluations, reevaluations, eligibility, IEPs, 504 Plans, and special education instruction. Find out more.
In preparation for the Fairfax County Public School transition to a hybrid model of in-person and virtual instruction, the SRS program moved into ten additional sites at the end of December and is now located in 47 FCPS locations. With the School Board's recent decision to begin the hybrid model, SRS has adapted program services in order to best serve children and families.
SRS Registration has been enrolling families at SRS Centers where space is available to accommodate the participation of additional children. Enrollment of families with the greatest need for services continues to be the SRS program's priority. Once all cohorts have returned to in-person instruction, the SRS program will evaluate service options based on family and staff feedback and adapt program offerings as needed.
SRS Health and Safety Protocols
SRS staff continue to work closely with the Fairfax County Health Department for ongoing guidance and feedback on SRS health and safety protocols. In December, SRS staff participated in focus groups on health and safety strategies to support children's transition to in-person instruction. The successful transition to the hybrid model for in-person instruction requires consistent implementation and compliance with all health and safety protocols and rigorous adherence to required mitigating strategies both in and out of the SRS program and in partnership with families, FCPS, and the community.
Students returning for in-person school should plan to bring their FCPS-assigned laptop and charger with them to school and take that laptop and charger back home each day. Students will need their laptops to support digital learning activities in school, as assigned by their teacher, and extra laptops may not be available in all classrooms. The laptop should be fully charged before coming to school each morning to ensure it is ready to use when the student gets into the classroom. This practice will allow your student to continue to use the same assigned laptop at home and at school in order to limit the number of shared surfaces among students.
Parents may gently clean the laptop when necessary by using an alcohol wipe or disinfectant wipe to wipe down the keyboard and external surfaces. Do not spray disinfectant spray on the device or apply hand sanitizer directly on the device as it may damage the electronics.
Students who are learning from home should continue to use their FCPS laptop as they have throughout the year, and students or parents may submit a support request ticket (https://itweb.fcps.edu/itsupport/) if technical assistance is needed. To maintain overall laptop health, all students should shutdown their FCPS laptop completely at the end of each day. Note that due to the unknown and unpredictable security and support risks of exposing FCPS student laptops to foreign networks, out-of-country travel with an FCPS student laptop is not permitted.
FCPS follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Fairfax County Health Department to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The school division meets the industry recommended standards for outside air ventilation in classrooms and offices.
FCPS schools are designed to ventilate fresh outside air and mitigate the buildup of odors and pollutants. FCPS uses mechanical ventilation instead of opening windows to provide outside air as the air coming through mechanical systems is filtered. Fresh air is provided at an appropriate rate, and the air is filtered and conditioned before it enters the space.
FCPS conducted a survey of all HVAC systems to ensure they provide sufficient outside air ventilation in accordance with CDC and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
FCPS has taken steps to ensure all schools are ready to return to 100% in-person learning. These measures include:
- Verifying that all schools and offices have sufficient outside air ventilation.
- Upgrading all HVAC systems to MERV 13 filters.
- Purchasing air purifiers with HEPA filters.
- Assessing the use of ultraviolet (UV-C) lighting in HVAC systems.
- Obtaining the International Well Building Institute’s (IWBI) Health & Safety Rating for all schools.
School HVAC systems average between six and ten air exchanges per hour at a rate of 18-20% fresh outside air for each exchange – providing more than 100% fresh outside air to the space every hour.
Schools do not need to leave classroom doors and windows open to help ventilate the space. All schools are designed to ventilate fresh outside air through the HVAC system (e.g. windows are not necessary to ventilate outside air) and are rated above ASHRAE and CDC guidance.
All HVAC systems are maintained and operated efficiently and effectively using the latest procedures and technology.
In-person learning with six feet social distancing (50% capacity) will further increase the amount of fresh air per person.