With reopening date uncertain, FCPS readying distance learning plan

A "Wash Your Hands" electronic billboard on the side of the road
Richmond Highway in the Gum Springs area earlier this week.

Fairfax County Public Schools will soon begin training teachers on distance learning should the school system not be able to reopen on April 14 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

For right now, the school system is still planning to have a teacher workday on April 13 and then reopen on April 14, but FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the system will follow guidance from state and federal officials during the rapidly evolving situation related to the coronavirus epidemic.

“Over the next two weeks, we will begin distance learning training for teachers and give teachers the opportunity to plan and prepare for distance instruction and reconnect with their students,” Brabrand said in an email sent Thursday night.

Brabrand took questions on a variety of topics during a Facebook Live session on Friday afternoon, touching on topics like third quarter grades, SOLs and AP testing, and graduations. The full session can be watched here.

Brabrand said that teachers can communicate with students during this interim period ahead of distance learning. However, Brabrand said that no graded or required assignments can be given due to concerns about equity.

“During this time and situation we really don’t have equitable access for all students,” Brabrand said. “Many of our students and families do not have technology access.”

FCPS school buildings remain closed, and cleaning has been continuous over the past week, Brabrand said. Extra precautions were taken at Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield, where a teacher tested positive for coronavirus. Brabrand said he’s unaware of any other FCPS staff or students testing positive since then.

With buildings closed, the distance training for teachers will be done remotely. FCPS is also working with principals to figure out a way for students who need to pick up important items from schools to be able to do so safely.

Brabrand also said that no decisions on proms or graduation ceremonies had been made yet. He said it’s his hope to put off any decision as long as possible in the hope of holding the events, which he called “milestone experiences” for students

The spring sports season has not been cancelled yet, and Brabrand said that should students return on April 14, the season would be able to move forward, per Virginia High School League guidelines.

Grab-and-go food distribution, as well as new bus delivery service for some areas, will continue throughout the closure, Brabrand said. The current list of locations includes a number of locations in the greater Richmond Highway/Lorton area, with Edison High School being the latest addition:

The full list of local schools with the grab-and-go program, which runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. unless otherwise noted:

  • Audubon Apartments, 7955 Audubon Avenue (see map) (10-10:30 a.m.)
  • Bucknell Elementary School, 6925 University Drive (see map)
  • Cameron Elementary School, 3434 Campbell Drive (see map)
  • Edison High School, 5891 Franconia Road (see map)
  • Fort Belvoir Upper Elementary School, 5980 Meeres Road
  • Gum Springs Community Center, Fordson Road (see map) (11-11:30 a.m.)
  • Hollin Meadows Elementary School, 2310 Nordok Place (see map)
  • Hybla Valley Elementary School, 3415 Lockheed Boulevard (see map)
  • Lorton Station Elementary School, 9298 Lewis Chapel Road (see map)
  • Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School, 4015 Fielding Street (see map)
  • South County High School (see map)

You can view the full list of schools here.

Brabrand emphasized near the end of the Facebook session that the school system understands that distance learning “is no substitute for day-to-day face-to-face instruction with teacher and support staff.”

“We need to acknowledge the reality that this is not an optimal situation for any of us here in Fairfax County Public Schools,” Brabrand said “We need to do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt.”