Update: FCPS cancels school for Friday

buses parked in a row

Update: Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed Friday, March 13, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced late Thursday night.

“During the past several hours we continue to hear genuine concerns from parents about keeping our schools open while the coronavirus response escalates around the country. Schools are closing in Maryland, and several other states, and a state of emergency was declared in Virginia,” Brabrand wrote. “As a result, and in an abundance of caution, I believe it is prudent for FCPS to cancel school tomorrow to help ease parent, staff, and student anxiety.”

Brabrand said another announcement would be coming on Monday.

“This remains a very fast moving narrative, and the situation Monday is likely to be very different than today,” Brabrand said. “We will determine Monday how we will proceed long term with FCPS operations.”

Monday remains a teacher work day to prepare for long-term online learning.

Original story posted March 12:

Fairfax County Public Schools has cancelled all extracurricular activities, including sports and after school clubs, starting Saturday and lasting through April 12.

Schools will remain open for now, however, based on advice from local health officials, FCPS Superintendent said Thursday evening in a message sent to students and parents. SACC will also still be available.

“We have been in consultation with the Fairfax County Health Department, and their experts continue to assure us that the coronavirus risk in our community remains low,” Brabrand said.

Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Fairfax County’s Health Director, was quoted in the message as saying that so far all cases in the county had been related residents who had traveled internationally recently or been in contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

Addo-Ayensu’s full statement:

“I support the Fairfax County Public School’s decision to remain open at this time. To date, the individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Fairfax have been associated with travel to affected areas or are close contacts of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. They contracted the illness through direct exposure rather than through sustained community spread. Schools serve an important and vital function in our community. Keeping schools open, whenever possible, is critical at this time. If, and when, it is determined that our contact investigations show any connection to the school system, we would provide closure guidance and recommendations. These would be based on sound, public health principles. If a confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified in a school (staff or student), our recommendation would be to close that particular school for 2-14 days, depending on the level of exposures, for cleaning and contact tracing. We would monitor students and staff and re-open after that time.”

All field trips will also be cancelled as of Saturday. FCPS had previously prohibited international field trips or any travel to New York state.

Monday remains a teacher work day so that preparations can be made for extended closure that would require online learning only.

Individual schools and PTAs have been cancelling activities already this week. At least two elementary schools have cancelled international night celebrations planned for Friday. Brabrand said in his message that he understands and supports the schools that made those decisions.

“We fully understand the decisions being made by the event organizers as we recognize the ongoing concern among our families,” Brabrand said. “We truly hope that many of these events will be rescheduled as we recognize they are an important part of a student’s educational experience.”

So far Loudoun County Public Schools is the only school district in Northern Virginia to cancel classes for the entire system. They are out of school until March 20. Loudoun County has two presumptive cases of coronavirus, but neither has any connections to schools in the county, the system said Thursday.

“While Loudoun County has not experienced the extent of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 as some other areas within our nation or globally and has not had cases that meet the definition of community transmission, we are making this decision out of an abundance of caution,” LCPS said in a statement.

Montgomery County in Maryland announced Thursday that it will be closed for two weeks starting Monday. Montgomery County has 12 presumptive positive cases as of Thursday.

Two new cases were announced in Fairfax County on Thursday evening, bringing the total number of presumptive cases in the county to four. At a press conference Thursday evening, county officials including Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Addo-Ayensu and the Health Department’s director of epidemiology Dr. Ben Schwartz.

The two new cases had contact with a presumptive case in North Carolina, and both individuals are currently isolated at home, Schwartz said.

“In none of these settings have children have been identified as being exposed to this infection,” Schwartz said.