Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is delaying the return to in-person instruction for thousands of younger students, Superintendent Scott Braband announced in a letter to parents and staff on Monday.
The largest school system in Virginia had planned to send 6,800 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and special education students (Group 5) back to school on Tuesday, but decided to put the move on pause because the current community health metrics for coronavirus cases are exceeding the threshold to expand in-person education, according to Braband.
“We made this decision as soon as new health metrics were released and are communicating it to you immediately as promised,” Braband wrote in the letter. “We always anticipated the need to potentially adjust our return to school plans as necessary during this ongoing pandemic.
“We are monitoring health metrics daily, but Group 5 will remain virtual until at least November 30. We will communicate additional updates closer to that time.”
Group 5 would have joined about 8,000 other young students back in the classroom.
Those kids and the staff that have already been attending in-person classes, Groups 1-4, will continue to do so and will not switch back to fully virtual instruction at this time. Braband did note that if the health metrics change, that could impact in-person learning for those groups.
“These next few months will not be easy,” Braband concluded. “Know that I am committed to keeping you informed and updated as conditions change that impact FCPS students, families, and staff.”
On Monday, leaders of Northern Virginia education associations representing more than 12,000 school employees from Fairfax County, Arlington, Manassas Park, Loudoun County and Prince William County wrote a letter to the governor, state legislators and others, urging them to return back to phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, Forward Virginia.
The groups also called for Northam to recommend that public schools return to virtual learning until case rates are showing a downward trend and stay below 5 percent PCR positivity.
“It continues to be clear that Northern Virginia is past the point of safe metrics for in-person learning in our school buildings,” the letter said.
“Everyone, including educators, wants our schools to be back to normal, but by opening when it’s not safe to do so, we increase the likelihood that normal will never come, and we risk our communities’ lives in the bargain.”
The state is currently in phase 3 of the plan, which allows for schools to conduct in-person learning with health measures like social distancing in place. Phase 2, however, would only allow special education, english language learners and students in pre-kindergarten through 3rd-grade to be at school.
Several groups from those same counties – claiming to represent 5,300 Northern Virginia parents – wrote their own letter in response to the teachers’ organizations, calling for students to be allowed to attend school in-person, according to the Washington Post.
“We have to learn to live in a world where COVID exists and children are allowed to attend school. There is no such thing as a zero-risk environment for anything,” the letter said, according to the Post.
One of the groups, Arlington Parents for Education, put out their own press release on Monday, saying they would “continue to advocate for a safe, measured return to in-person education in accordance with VDH and CDC guidelines.”
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