Dr Noonan's Friday Update - March 12, 2021

Dear FCCPS Family,

This week marks one year since the pandemic changed all of our worlds.  One year ago, none of us ever imagined that we would spend the next 12 months facing the challenges we’ve faced as a nation, a community, a school system, or as families. As I reflect on this “anniversary” of such a monumental change in all of our lives, I am so proud and grateful for all that has been done to support one other. Despite our challenges and the difficulties we have faced, we here at FCCPS have pulled together as a family to help each other. That will continue as we move forward. 

Spring brings renewed hope, and today’s message is about hope for the future as we move forward in the next steps of this journey together. Those next steps include returning to full-day instruction at PreK-5 and expanding in-person learning for secondary students in grades 6-12. We are also sharing information about our upcoming summer programs. Please take some time to review all of the details below. More information will be coming from your schools. This is a long one, so please be patient!

Health Metrics & Mitigation:

One of the areas of challenge we have faced throughout this journey is monitoring and responding to our health data. This week health data moved from the “substantial” category down to the “moderate” range in cases per 100K for Falls Church City. Additionally, % positivity has remained in the lowest category (below 5%) for several weeks. Based on the CDC’s updated school guidance, we should be providing 5-days a week of in-person learning. The lower health metrics equate to lower transmission risks in communities and schools, especially for our youngest learners. This is why we are focusing efforts on PreK-5. We will continue to implement strong mitigation strategies as we expand in-person learning. Together we will continue to limit and monitor the impact of the virus on our schools. 

FCCPS will continue to follow the CDC, VHD, and our local health department’s guidance – “6 feet whenever possible” in our schools. This includes classrooms, during eating times, and other activities. However, there may be a case we will need to exercise the VDH and the CDC’s distance flexibility to ensure in-person learning is available to all who want to participate. Each school is planning and working to provide 6-feet of social distancing as we expand in-person learning. Adjustments in classroom assignments and modifications in classroom design to meet the guidance may need to occur. In the event we make a class change or modification, it will be in collaboration with the classroom teacher and the families involved. We anticipate this will be a very limited issue.

Transportation Update for PreK-5:

Transportation is also one of those areas that present a significant challenge with distancing. When we move to full-day learning at the Prek-5 level, we will have two students per seat, with siblings continuing to sit together. Bus rides here in FCCPS are very short; students will be masked; seating charts will be in place; windows will be open as weather permits, and we have expanded our walking zones to address this issue safely.  We believe this is a reasonable plan, as we ensure that as many students who wish to can return to a full day of in-person learning. Any family who is not comfortable with this may drive their students, opt to walk/bike, and select virtual instruction.  

PreK & Elementary Return to Full Day Updates:

Over the last two weeks, there has been much work to prepare for our return to 5 days a week of a full day of in-person learning at JTP, Mount Daniel, and TJ for our PreK-5 students. Our goal is to return all students who wish to have in-person learning that option beginning April 6th. We will continue to maintain a virtual option at each school, although there will be some adjustments necessary in programming and teacher assignments. These adjustments will be based on the number of students returning to in-person learning and the number of students remaining virtual for the last 9 weeks of school. Each school will be sending details out via their school newsletters, but here is some critical information for parents/guardians of our PreK-12 students to review as we move forward.

Grades PreK-5 March 26th Self-Guided Learning Day:

This is a big transition to make. Spring break and April 6th afford us the time to make this happen and offer a natural instructional break given that it represents the end of the third 9 weeks. Schools will need time to prepare the classrooms to make this happen given teachers are continuing to teach in hybrid each day up to that point. In order to support our teachers and staff as we make this shift, Friday, March 26th will be a self-guided/asynchronous learning day for all PreK-5 students. While there will be no in-person learning that day for PreK-5 students, there will be a morning meeting, self-directed learning activities for the day, and a wrap-up for the entire class. This will mark the end of our AM/PM schedule at Mount Daniel and TJ, as well as the end of the shortened day at JTP. Each school will also be providing bag lunches for any student who wishes to pick one up for a picnic lunch with families to celebrate the beginning of spring break. Please remember that Monday, April 5th is a teacher workday and there is no school that day.

JTP:

All students whose families have opted for in-person will return to 5-day a week full-day instruction beginning April 6th. The schedule will be: Monday thru Friday from 8:15-2:20 with early release on Wednesdays at 12:40 in alignment with Mount Daniel’s early release schedule. We are so excited that 95% of the families enrolled at JTP selected in-person learning and we are looking forward to having our youngest learners return to school full time! There may be some adjustments as we move forward, but the school staff are working closely with each family to ensure a smooth transition for our little ones. Any family with questions should reach out to Dr. Angela Atwater (aatwater@fccps.org). JTP will be sending out additional details in their school newsletter as well. 

Mount Daniel & Thomas Jefferson Elementaries:

The school-based teams at Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson are working diligently to finalize the return to full-day instruction plans for both schools. Both schools are offering two options: full-day instruction for 5-days per week or virtual instruction. The most important factor is that each family determines whether they are returning to 5-days a week of full-time instruction or remain virtual. It is critical that families complete the Elementary Intent Form by Monday, March 15th. This form is important for planning our logistics including schedules, staffing, transportation, and other items. We need your help! This form should be submitted for each student enrolled at Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson.

While more logistical details will be shared by the teams at Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, here are some things we can share at the present time:

  • The schedules for Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson will return to their “pre-pandemic” times, with both schools starting at 8:50 and dismissing at 3:50. Both schools will resume their traditional early release Wednesday schedule as well meaning each school will dismiss at 1:15. For the remainder of this school year, we will dismiss early on all Wednesdays, including during the week of April 5th.

  • Both school days will include daily outdoor recess for all students to ensure students are given the time to socialize safely and release their energy! We know how important that is for all of our children.

  • Mount Daniel and TJ will continue to maintain social distancing of six feet between students. Due to the size of some classrooms, and that some may contain more students than classrooms can hold while meeting the six feet social distancing protocols, both schools are working on plans to address this. This will be done thoughtfully in collaboration with teachers, and parents on an individual basis. Our goal is to provide as much continuity as possible, minimize disruptions, and maintain safety. Stay tuned for more details

  • All students will continue to be offered free breakfast and bag lunches daily. Each school is developing a plan to use cafeterias, classrooms, outdoor spaces and other areas around the school for lunchtime. We will allow students to eat lunch outdoors on all nice weather days as much as possible. On inclement weather days, students will eat lunch in their classrooms or another location in order to maintain six feet of social distancing. Each school will share the specifics regarding lunch procedures in their newsletters to families.

These plans are being finalized and are built on our commitment to provide 5 days a week of in person learning to our students starting April 6th. More specific details will be shared with families in the school’s newsletters this week and next week. We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we make this shift. 

Secondary Updates

The secondary team is working collaboratively to provide increased in-person learning for students. This plan will utilize additional spaces, while continuing to maintain six feet of social distance. Principals Hardy and Hills presented a secondary plan to the division leadership team this week based on staff input and feedback. Building leaders will finalize this plan with their respective staffs to provide 4th quarter learning options for students. These options will:

  • Increase opportunity for students to attend in-person

  • Continue with a virtual option 

  • Provide additional in-person support and intervention for students with the greatest needs.

Next week, you will receive detailed information about the particulars of the secondary plan in which you and your student can select the option that is right for the 4th quarter. 

Summer Program Information (July 6th - July 30th) 

The school leadership teams, CIA, and the operations directors have been working hard to finalize the plans for summer school. We are excited to offer a myriad of summer programs at each school site with grades 6-12 combined at the new high school. Below is a high-level overview of the instructional summer programs that we plan to offer. As we shared previously, each program will be contingent upon our ability to staff it and prioritization will go to students who are identified as needing targeted intervention due to learning gaps and vulnerable populations. 

*All summer programs will run four days per week, Monday - Thursday with the exception of the week July 5th which will include Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday due to the holiday. 

JTP (8:30am - 11:30am)

Summer enrichment program targeted at literacy, numeracy, communication and social development for students with IEPs, Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) students and community peers as space for social distancing allows. ESY services aligned with the student’s IEP goals will also be provided in person as outlined in the student’s IEP within the summer enrichment program schedule. 

MD (9:00am - 1:00pm)

Children qualifying for urgent intervention to strengthen their skills in math and language arts. In-person instruction will include  90-120 minutes of language arts and up to 75 minutes of math instruction per day. ESOL support will be embedded in the day through language and literacy learning elements. School counselor, Jed Jackson, will lead SEL programming and supports.  

Enrichment Programs TBD

TJ (9:00am - 1:00pm)

Students will be selected based on academic data collected throughout the 20-21 year. 

The instructional day will consist of a daily readers workshop and targeted math instruction and intervention. ESOL support will be embedded in the day through language and literacy learning elements.

Enrichment Programs TBD

Henderson (8:30am -12:00pm)

CAREERS (Creative and Real-World Engaging Experiences Realized this Summer) Program: The CAREERS program is an invite only, CORE/STEAM based program that engages all learners to find their passion! Students will focus on grade-level math/reading standards and how to infuse them into real-world, problem-based activities. History and science content will be infused into the program to support all core academic areas. 

Husky JumpStart: The goal of JumpStart week is to address academic, organizational, and social-emotional needs in preparation for a full-time return in August, 2021. Students will get support on respective grade-level content to support their readiness for the upcoming school year.  In-person and virtual options are available to all enrolled students. 

Rising 8th grade - July 26-29 (9:00am - 2:00pm)

Rising 7th grade - August 2-5 (9:00am - 2:00pm)

Rising 6th grade - August 9-12 (9:00am - 2:00pm)

High School (8:30am -12:00pm)

Intervention, Remediation, and (Credit) Recovery program:

IRR is an in-person program that will provide opportunities for students to improve and address gaps in learning. This will include an opportunity to advance in a particular course sequence or 2-year IB course. Content teachers will be available in-person to host seminar-style review sessions to check in on student progress/completed work

Hybrid Classroom (Hy-C) courses combine online coursework with feedback from a certified teacher. These courses are offered for new course credit, course credit recovery, and enrichment purposes. All course content and assignments are available online utilizing the Schoology learning management platform. Courses are structured with weekly assignment goals, giving students the flexibility to complete their assignments at a time convenient for them. Hy-C teachers are available to students through email or arranged Schoology online Conferences. 

ESOL

Students who receive ESOL services will be included in FCCPS’ summer programs described above.  In addition to our programs, for secondary students, FCCPS, through a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools, will offer the ESOL Language and Literacy Connections program an online, three-week, non-credit class that provides middle and high school English learners the opportunity to engage in thematic language lessons in an online environment.Through this course, English learners (ELP Level 1 – 4) continue to develop their academic language and reading and writing skills in an online classroom with an ESOL teacher. This is a noncredit class that fulfills the Virginia requirement for taking an online course for graduation.

Special Education--ESY & COVID Recovery Services

All of our students who receive special education services are included in the summer programs offered at their schools as described above as a student in FCCPS. Additionally, Extended School Year (ESY) services will be provided to special education students based on their IEP goals as determined by the IEP team. Services will be aligned with each school’s summer programming for the majority of students. Students will be pulled out or provided services in inclusive settings within structures of school-based summer programs. Again, all special education students will be offered the opportunity to participate in each school's summer program options as a part of COVID Recovery Services to address issues related to pandemic. Some students will receive individualized ESY services based on needs and goal areas of IEP. ESY services include related services of speech/language, counseling, behavior supports, VI/HI, PT and OT. Any family with questions regarding their students' needs should contact the Special Education Administrator at their student’s school. 

You made it through this long update!  Thank you for reading it all the way through. More information will be coming from your specific schools and we hope that this provided you with more details about our work and planning going forward.

Welcome spring, warmer weather, daylight savings, and hope!

Sincerely,

Peter Noonan

Superintendent of Schools

Mission Possible! All together...until the end!

#BetterTogether