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Return to class: Fairfax County lays out plan for students to safely return to school this fall

FCPS proposed three return-to-school scenarios ranging from starting the year virtually to social distancing at school and some students not returning at all.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Fairfax County Public Schools have released a first look at what students returning to classrooms could look like post coronavirus. The county's 47-page "Returning to School: Options and Considerations for Summer and Fall 2020" includes plans for 2020 graduation ceremonies, summer distance learning programs, socially distanced classrooms, and budgetary impacts. 

Similar to the education document Maryland released last week, Fairfax County is considering a range of options for its students to safely return to the classroom, including alternating schedules between in-person and virtual learning, reducing class sizes and bus capacities to comply with social distancing and beefing up distance learning resources should the need arise to continue online learning longer than anticipated. 

All plans the county considers will: 

  • Comply with state social distancing requirements
  • Provide options for students/staff unable to return
  • Address continued access and connectivity inequities 
  • Provide staff adequate time/training to prepare for new school year

RELATED: Return to class: Maryland lays out plan for transitioning students back to in-person learning

FCPS is preparing for three return-to-school scenarios: 

  1. Virtual start to the year: Scenario 1 assumes the 2020-2021 school year will start virtually, and acknowledges that schools would need to provide enhanced distance learning resources (technology, connectivity, self-paced curriculum); revise instructional schedules to better meet student learning needs; expand community partnerships to support students with distance learning, including child-care services 
  2. Social distancing: Scenario 2 involves prioritizing in-person learning for the students who need it most (i.e.students with disabilities, non-English speaking students); creating alternating schedules where some students learn in-person while others learn virtually; establishing guidelines for non-classroom spaces like cafeterias, playgrounds, buses etc. to comply with social distancing; and expanding community partnerships to support students with distance learning, including child-care services 
  3. Some unable to return: Scenario 3 focuses on supporting the staff and students who would not be able to return to the classroom for personal reasons. 

RELATED: FCPS’s second attempt at digital learning fails, district hires law firm to look into it

Given the difficulties Fairfax County has faced in regards to virtual education, the proposal also suggests creating a plan to smoothly transition immediately to distance learning, should the need arise in the future. This would include: 

  • Establish tight communication network for regular updates on development impacting closure at individual schools and across the districts 
  • Build routines using one-to-one devices and blended-learning within daily instruction at all grade levels and courses 
  • Procure/develop student-facing curriculum resources that ensure instruction is aligned to state grade-level standards and expectations

The plan estimates that FCPS would need to budget for $13.9 million in reoccurring costs (health services staffing, technology, counselors) and $10.3 million in one-time costs (PPE, thermometers, cleaning supplies, curriculum resources, support staffing). 

RELATED: Fairfax County Schools consider starting classes online in the fall

Credit: FCPS

 
Graduation plans for 2020 class

The School Board is recommending a virtual class of 2020 celebration video in June or July, showing individual photos of students dressed in their cap and gowns. The photos will be taken before the video and will comply with social distancing protocols; two family members can accompany each student to be in the photos. 

FCPS will assess health conditions again in the fall to see if a delayed in-person ceremony can be held for the class of 2020. That decision will be announced after Labor Day. 

Summer school plans

Several summer programs have already been canceled due to building closures: 

  • Institute for the Arts
  • Elementary Institute for the Arts 
  • CTE Career Academy 
  • CTE Summer Academy 
  • Pathways to Preschool (SPED) 
  • Bridge to PAC (SPED) 
  • Bridge to Kindergarten
  •  Young Scholars 
  • Curious Minds

Any student PreK-12 who qualifies for Extended School Year services will access them virtually June 29 through July 24. Summer learning for preschool autism students will be done virtually from July 2, through July 30. 

Summer High School Credit Recovery classes will occur via distance learning at every high school from July 6, through July 24. This year schools can also invite students who did not fail a course but who may need extra support to participate in the program. Students who wish to take a course for new credit can do so virtually through Online Campus. Tuition has been reduced to $375 for this summer. 

ESOL Online: Language and Literacy Connections for current English learners in grades 7-12 will be held June 22 through July 14 in two sessions.  A middle school ESOL online summer program will be held on dates TBD. 

RELATED: Fairfax County first-graders engage in 'math yoga' via digital learning

RELATED: Online petition seeks FCPS audit after technical issues in distance learning rollout

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