Virginia

Fairfax County Schools Giving Families More Time to Decide Back-to-School Plans

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Continue with full-time distance learning or send children back to school? Fairfax County parents facing that question for the upcoming school year now have a few more days to make their decision.

Fairfax County Public Schools said families have until July 15 to decide between all-online learning or a hybrid plan in which their children would go to school for a couple of days each week.

"I still want my son to have a chance to interact with other people and maintain connections and things like that," mother Marleny Kery said. Her son attends West Springfield High School.

For families who still haven't made their decision, the school system shared new information about what the year will look like.

Scheduling will be done by alphabet for students going to school so siblings are in school on the same days.

The county also says new data shows that just 3 feet of social distancing may be safe as long as students wear face masks.

"It’s interesting timing for this new information to come out about how 3 feet is better than 6 feet, but I think 3 feet should be fine. I feel like 6 feet is not even plausible at all," Kery said.

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Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand says if the school system decides to go with three feet of social distancing they could fit in more students and possibly offer more days for in-person instruction.

But others feel 3 feet isn’t enough.

Becca Ferrick, the president of a teacher’s union in Fairfax County, says she’ll likely keep teaching online.

"At this point, and with everything we learn from day to day, I just can’t feel good about making any other commitment," Ferrick said.

In a call with governors, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called out Fairfax County while slamming districts that plan to offer in-person instruction only a few days a week.

“A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all,” DeVos said, contending that Fairfax County’s distance learning last spring was a “disaster.”

A spokesperson for FCPS gave the following statement to News4 in response to DeVos' comments:

"To be clear, no one is satisfied with the current state of education since the global pandemic forced the closure of all Virginia schools in March of 2020. We would ALL prefer to have our school year, this fall, as a “normal” in-person school year. However, the health and safety of our staff, our students, and our community must outweigh all other factors. We are following the guidance of local, state and federal health officials in developing our return to school plan. We are working hard to ensure that FCPS students will receive meaningful instruction – both virtually and in-person - along with the opportunity to engage with students and staff this fall."

Whatever plan parents choose, FCPS says they will have to stick with that choice of plan for the rest of the school year.

"We cannot stand up two school systems of the entire school year with changes that happen on a day to day or week to week or month to month basis," Brabrand said.

FCPS is planning to hold another town hall Wednesday as families try to make a decision.

Brabrand is recommending the start of school be pushed back to Sept. 8 so teachers have more time to prepare.

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