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Scott Brabrand recently discussed the upcoming school year via video conference.

I’d like to update you on our plans for return to school virtually, on Sept. 8.

The primary factor in deciding to go all virtual is the continuing health risks associated with COVID-19. The seven-day moving average for new cases in Virginia as of Aug. 1 was 1,027, an increase from 527 on July 1. The same trend has occurred in Maryland.

Although infection rates in Fairfax County are relatively stable, there were about 615 new COVID cases reported since last Monday in the Fairfax Health District, bringing the total to more than 16,000 since March. The safety of those entering our school buildings must be our prime consideration as we do everything we can to protect students and staff.

The pandemic has also created operational and staffing challenges that would impact the ability to offer high-quality, in-person instruction. These include decreases in substitute teacher availability; increases in staff leaves of absence; and more teachers requesting ADA accommodations, because they are considered high risk for the virus.

Courses like language immersion, advanced academics, IB and AP courses and some electives, would not have been consistently available across our schools due to in-person staffing shortages.

Should health conditions improve, FCPS would first bring back students for intervention support, on a limited basis. After that, we would bring students back to school as soon as possible, starting with elementary school students, select special education students and English learners.

All the decisions made due to the pandemic are difficult ones, with no obvious answers to address the many needs of our students, staff and families.

As educators, there is nothing we want more than to have all students back in school. This school year will be a challenge for us all, but we are doing everything possible to ensure a high-quality education through virtual learning to start the year.

Reopening metrics

As directed by the School Board, FCPS staff is developing metrics to guide when schools may reopen, or if a school needs to be closed once it reopens. Among the potential metrics are trends in COVID-19 cases, access to testing, and operational and staffing impacts. I will share more details on metrics by mid-August.

Information about the bell schedule; technology; special education; food availability; SAT and ACT tests; and school athletics is available from fcps.edu/returntoschool.