Roots, Resilience & Renewal - Week 4 Updates

Our roots as a school system are deep and are at the heart of an amazing community. This week FCCPS was honored by achieving the rank of #1 in Best School Districts in Virginia AND #1 Best School District in the Washington DC region by!  We don’t always celebrate the rankings, but this one is important for the community because it is the rating that shows up on Redfin, Zillow, and other Real Estate sites. It is a good reminder that the school’s position in the Falls Church community as an economic driver is essential to ensuring our community thrives in many ways. Keeping our schools strong instructionally, and well run by the school and Board leadership, is critical to our current and future success. So, in the end, we do have something to do with your real estate values :) Thank you to our talented teachers, staff, and administrators who provide the best instruction in the state!!

“Filling Our Teacher and Staff’s Buckets”

This week we held our first PEAC (Professional Employee Advisory Committee) monthly meeting. This, in combination with my daily visits to schools, gives me a great opportunity to hear what is happening in our schools and “take the pulse” of our system. As I listened to the voices in the field, I was validated in my thoughts and feelings...while it is only the end of September, it feels like we are in February. When we returned this year, we came with excitement and enthusiasm because we thought we had turned the corner on COVID and school life would return to some semblance of normalcy. The Delta Variant threw us a curveball, and we’ve had to modify our expectations. This has been an emotional downer for us and has created a sense of physical exhaustion. Of course, our amazing teachers and staff will never let the students see this because they are such professionals... but I wanted to share with you candidly how many in the system are feeling.

So what? Well, this is where I am hoping our community can help. Consider this a call to action :) - I am looking for all of us to dig deep and find ways to “fill the buckets” of our teachers and staff. Their reservoirs of support and care all go to the students they serve, and as a consequence, they are depleted. Sometimes a simple note of thanks, a surprise cup of coffee, a shout out in the community, or just a recognition of what they are going through can be just enough encouragement to help restore those that take such pride in their work and providing the highest quality education to your students. 

We are genuinely here to ensure our students find great educational success and, as indicated in the Niche rating above, our collective interests are interdependent. We must rely on each other to be successful, and we appreciate your support!

Monthly Meetings

Getting back to our roots, I am re-establishing a monthly meeting structure that will allow any and all to join me at a place in the community. The first opportunity will be meeting “Peter in the Park.” I will be at Donald Frady Park, in the pavilion, on October 13th from 5 pm - 6 pm. I am happy to hear any celebrations, concerns, or whatever is on your mind. The only ground rules are that I can’t speak about individual students, individual teachers, or discuss anything that would violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Weather permitting, I hope to see you there.

Mitigation Matters:

Falls Church City has a transmission rate of substantial per the Virginia Health Department COVID-19 Dashboard. That makes our mitigation effort very important, especially with our younger students who cannot be vaccinated yet. Please support our efforts by:

  • Not sending students who are ill or experiencing symptoms of any kind to limit the spread of germs and transmission;

  • Uploading your student’s COVID vaccination card to the FCCPS Voluntary Student Vaccination Card Form to help with contact tracing;

  • Make sure everyone in your household who can be vaccinated--IS VACCINATED! Please visit FCHD Vaccine Registration or Vaccine Finder to find a provider and schedule an appointment;

  • Being patient with our school staff and the HD during the contact tracing process, each case is different and situations can change based on the information learned during a contact tracing investigation; and

  • Wear masks at all times in classes, on buses, in cars, and while in other public places.

We are pleased with the current vaccination uptake by our students in FCCPS. Students 17-18 have a 98% vaccination rate and those 12-16 exceed the 90% threshold. With the coming vaccinations in late October or early November, we will do our best to support vaccinations for our younger learners.

*Please note that this data is just a snapshot of FCCPS in total and is adjusted based on the outcomes of each individual contact tracing investigation.

If your child has been identified as an exposure and is asked to pause or quarantine, please be reminded that FCCPS follows the guidance of our health department. Further, calling the schools and debating the rules of quarantine is not productive and takes time away from the work our teams need to ensure learning is happening. 

No one wants any of this for our children or our schools. Please, please, please, be kind to and patient with the school staff who are simply following the health protocols that were shared in multiple forums before the school year started. Again, we are in this together, and need to be good partners with each other. 

School-based Screening & Diagnostic Testing:

We are excited to be one of the first school divisions to be linked up with the Virginia Department of Health, along with our local health department to offer COVID testing in FCCPS. We believe that surveillance testing in our schools, along with onsite diagnostic testing, will give us an even greater opportunity to keep kids in schools. The program we are partnering with is called the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) sponsored by the Virginia Department of Health.  This program will be voluntary and we hope that most of our families will consider participating. 

There is much more information to come so please consider this a “heads up” as we develop communications and strategies to get you the full operational implementation plans in the near future.

Let’s Not…”Devious Licks”

With the Tic Tok application, there are lots of fun dances and other “challenges.” Unfortunately, one that has swept the country is called “Devious Licks,” and it is leading to serious incidents of school vandalism.  Sadly, we have FCCPS students participating in the “Devious Licks” challenges.  Our beautiful new high school and our middle school have both experienced damage and missing items due to this challenge. 

Please help us, AND everyone should know participating in “Devious Licks” will lead to severe consequences, including vandalism charges.   Our custodians and maintenance staff work so hard each day to keep our facilities safe and clean. This disrespects their work. Our teachers and administrators should not have to develop plans to protect our bathrooms and other school items from student vandalism.  This is not who we are in FCCPS. #bettertogether

If this is a new topic to you as a parent, here’s a great article to read: TikTok Under Fire Over 'Devious Licks' Viral Challenge Inspiring Students To Vandalize School Bathrooms

In closing…

The weather has started to change, and the crisp air of fall brings a sense of resilience.  This is the time of year we get ready for the winter...we order our propane, our firewood, get the sweaters out of the attic, and prepare to hunker down in a couple of months. But there is also a sense of renewal as the air clears and the sun seems to shine brighter.  I hope you can spend the weekend resting and relaxing. 

Thanks for hanging in there with a longer-than-usual message. :)

All my best to you and your family,

Peter Noonan

Superintendent of Schools
Falls Church City Public Schools