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FCPS returns to in-person learning Feb. 16 leaves some teachers, parents hesitant

Despite some teachers not being able to receive vaccines, and some parents expressing worry over COVID outbreaks, the school board approved a return timeline.

WASHINGTON — The Fairfax County School Board unanimously voted to start bringing students back into classrooms by Feb. 16, with every student getting a chance for at least two days a week of in-person learning. But plenty of parents and teachers are still hesitant, as the vaccine rollout continues in fits and starts.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand and the board members expressed confidence as they agreed on a timeline to return to classrooms, but they have yet to convince some parents.

"I'm not sure if the schools can keep anyone safe," April West, mother of 12-year-old Chloe, said. 

West has decamped to her mother's house in Florida, where Chloe continues her middle school classes online. However, Chloe said she doesn't love learning virtually.

"Sometimes you can't ask a question because she'll turn the chat off or the microphone off," Chloe said of her teacher. 

West said she keeps getting word about infections spreading among school staffers. 

"We seem to keep getting emails saying another person tested positive," she said. 

The county has been rolling out vaccinations for teachers, with scores of them lining up in a snowstorm over the weekend. 

"It's a step closer to getting our lives back where we want them," Stacy Landsdahl, a PreK teacher, said. 

Tracy Connell, a spokeswoman for Inova healthcare, said the company has vaccinated 7,000 educators thus far, and expects to vaccinate thousands more. 

According to FCPS, 90% of staffers have requested or scheduled their first dose, and the school district is working to ensure they get their second dose in the next few weeks.

"This next step to returning to in-person learning for those who have elected it is critical," school board member Megan McLaughlin said. 

FCPS officials said all students will have the option of in-person classes by March 16, but said if there's an outbreak in the class, or the teacher needs to quarantine, they could revert back to virtual. 

Fairfax County Public Schools is the nation's 10th largest school district, with 198 schools and centers, 187,000 students, 12,487 teachers and 17,473 staffers. FCPS has been almost exclusively virtual since March 2020. 


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