Dear FCCPS Families,
Last night the School Board adopted Policy JA that requires all students to wear face coverings in school until February 14, 2022, or until our COVID rates of transmission fall into the “moderate” range based on data from the Virginia Department of Health…whichever comes first.
In the weeks ahead I will work with our FCCPS team to “operationalize” the decision of the School Board. Per the adopted School Board policy, by February 14th parents will have an option to “Opt-Out” their student(s) from masking in schools. Opting out will require completing a form so that FCCPS can continue to enforce the ongoing mask requirement for those students whose parents wish for their children to stay masked.
From the beginning of the COVID pandemic, masking has been a vital and universal component of the FCCPS layered strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID.
As parents consider the decision to opt out, I would like to make an appeal to our community.
First, we are in the midst of an Omicron spike. While there is potentially good news on the horizon, we are still experiencing very high transmission rates in the community. FCCPS had more than 30 positive cases in the last five days, which took hours of staff time to contact trace and make reporting calls. This took staff away from the essential work of teaching and learning.
FCCPS has, to date and by all accounts, made the right moves by following the guidance from Fairfax County Health Department (FHD) that is aligned to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and by supporting vaccinations for all eligible students and employees. Masking has been an important part of our layered strategy.
I want to remind the community that our schools are not just filled with children (some of whom have serious health conditions, are immunocompromised, and are considered high risk). We also have 500 staff members in FCCPS who are dedicated daily to their work. We have staff who are immunocompromised, who are transplant recipients, and who have underlying health conditions that disproportionately impact them and their loved ones at home. I ask you to remember that we are part of a bigger community of people and must look out for each other.
In Falls Church, the one thing that has been clear since the day I walked through the doors as Superintendent is that the community loves its teachers. Please know that the vast majority of our teachers are not yet ready to unmask. Their concerns have been voiced to me loudly and clearly. As such, and in the spirit of showing love to our teachers, please do not opt-out of masking yet.
If you decide to opt-out of masking, there are a few things parents need to know:
All students will still be required to wear a mask on a school bus, as there remains a federal requirement to mask on public transit. CDC/Federal Transportation Mask Order
The 3-6 foot school exemption for students as “close contacts” ONLY applies when BOTH students are fully-masked. In the 3-6 foot contact situation when one student is unmasked BOTH students are considered close contacts and need to quarantine per the CDC. This means the masked student and the unmasked student are both subject to the appropriate quarantining guidelines based on their vaccination status. Vaccinated close contacts are not required to quarantine if they have no symptoms of illness. (Steps for Determining Close Contact and Quarantine in K–12 Schools | CDC)
If your child tests positive for COVID, the quarantine rules for 0-5 days are the same and the masking requirement remains the same for days 6-10…your child will be required to wear a mask to return to school. This is consistent with the quarantine guidance from the CDC and FHD. If you elect for your student to not wear a mask, the alternate option for days 6-10 is to keep your student in quarantine for the entire 10 days, with streaming instruction for days 6-10.
Parents can find the opt-out form on the FCCPS website under the COVID tab on the front page beginning Wednesday, January 26th. Your child will not be exempt from wearing a mask until the opt-out form is completed online, printed, and received by the school from a parent or guardian. FCCPS will begin the collection of opt-out forms next Wednesday and respectfully request at least a 48-hour notice of opt-out so our staff can prepare and add additional mitigation as needed. This is an important step so schools can monitor those students who have not been opted out of masking by their parents.
Last, I live, work, and play in this community right alongside all of you. I am a proud Falls Church City resident. It is the community care shown for each other and interconnectedness of the community that drew us here…and the schools, of course! I believe we have a responsibility to each other to “hang together” for a while longer to “get over the hump” of Omicron. We've come this far together; while it has been challenging at times, we are together, and that is what matters most. Please consider waiting until we are in a better place with transmission rates even if it is past February 14th. That will be the time to consider unmasking and…it is coming.
Thank you for your consideration of our plea as you contemplate opting out of masking, and thank you for your continued support of our schools.
FCCPS COVID By The Numbers
Number of Cases for Week 21
Cumulative Since August 1
# of Student Cases:
# of Staff Cases
# of Students in Quarantine Due to Being a Close Contact
FCCPS Rate of Transmission
HIGH for Falls Church City
HIGH for Fairfax Health District
Please note that this data is just a snapshot of FCCPS in total and is adjusted based on the outcomes of each contact tracing investigation.
All FCCPS positive cases are included regardless of source. These data include parent/staff report, ViSSTA results, HD notifications, and healthcare providers.
Report a case:
Use the FCCPS COVID Positive/Exposure Reporting Form to report all COVID positive cases and exposures. This form automatically alerts school staff to a case/exposure. FCCPS will no longer use the COVID Response email addresses for each school. Use the school attendance email to report a student's absence.
Register for ViSSTA Testing:
If you wish for your student to be a part of the weekly PCR testing program please register here. https://fccps.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3PftlfXSEJonfvM
Upload Your Student’s Vaccine Card:
Please visit https://fccps.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4MFakGDYMa3Xsr4 to upload a copy of your student’s most recent COVID vaccination card.