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Dr Noonan's Road to Reopening -  Issue #6
Dr Noonan's Road to Reopening - Issue #6
Dr. Peter J. Noonan
Friday, July 31, 2020

Dear FCCPS Families,

Happy Friday, and I hope you had a nice lazy midsummer week. We continue to collectively put our best thinking, creativity, and small division focus on our reopening plans, and we are very excited to begin the school year on August 24th. We look forward to welcoming all of our students online. This takes time to plan and develop. We appreciate your ongoing patience and support as the information remains fluid.

We’ve received many questions and communications from our community. We thank everyone for their interest and engagement. We plan to provide as much information as possible to all of our stakeholders and answer the questions we have received. Please note that as we finalize our reopening plans, we will convey that information as soon as we can. We are striving to answer your questions through building and division updates, and we appreciate your patience. As we get closer to school opening, if you have specific questions, continue to use our Road to Reopening email address (reopening@fccps.org).

INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES:

“Podding”

The concept of “podding” (when parents organize groups of children together to provide childcare, socialization, and other activities for a limited group of children) has been shared with staff via parent phone calls, email requests, and discussed on social media. The decision to “pod” is outside of the school division’s scope and purview and is solely a parent decision. As a division, we have concerns about this practice. The primary issue is the health concerns that come with students’ grouping during a time when it is so critical that our families social distance to limit/reduce the community transmission of the COVID-19 virus. 

FCCPS is concerned about the spread of the virus that could impact our ability to bring students back to school safely as soon as the end of the quarter, resulting in more extended periods of time out of school buildings in a distance learning format. It will be so crucial that parents support social distancing efforts, wearing face coverings, not bringing children together if they are ill, screening for symptoms, and not mix groups of students. We have seen posts on social media searching for “pod” members, indicating that they have not been quarantining together. One outbreak could have a significant ripple effect of risk for large numbers of students, again delaying the opening of schools in our small community. 

There are also equity concerns with this practice. Clustering groups of students together (especially if the groups are created based upon a neighborhood) could be considered tracking, which we respectfully do not support. It is in opposition to the equity work and IB principles to which our division is committed.

We recognize these are challenging times that require innovative solutions. However the concept of “podding” of non-familial students and assigning students to classrooms based on “podding” is not a solution FCCPS can support.  

The selection of a teacher and classroom assignment is complex and is the purview of the school principal. Each school works diligently to ensure a classroom population is balanced to include such factors as gender, disability, need for interventions, racial balance, gifted/talented, FRM status, and other factors. As a division, we are committed to ensuring equity and balance across classrooms in a school. The development of class rosters is a thoughtful process designed to support the students’ progress and impacts the master schedule for a building adding further complexities to an already complicated process. Assigning “pods” of students to a classroom would add additional constraints on the schools’ ability to develop class rosters based on academic, social and health needs upon our return to school.

While we can’t guarantee that students who quarantine together will be placed into the same classroom upon reopening in a hybrid model and beyond, we will work with parents to honor requests related to scheduling of days they will attend school when we open in the hybrid model. We want to help accommodate family needs, custody arrangements, child care, transportation needs, and other unique needs. We will work to honor these requests for assignment to specific days of school, not for classroom assignments. When we move to the hybrid model, we will work with parents regarding days of attendance, however, that is not where we are at this time.

Some parents have requested classroom assignments to support “pods” for consistency in schedules and assignments. We will ensure consistency across grade levels and content areas during online/virtual instruction. This will include similarities across the learning platforms using strategies such as common schedules, content covered, assignments, and other areas. Our teachers work in collaborative grade level teams and curriculum teams under a Professional Learning Community model, so teach the same content standards and follow the same pacing guidelines and scope and sequence. This consistency eliminates the need for students in a “pod” to be assigned to the same teacher.

Please understand that we cannot share names of students, classroom assignments, economic status or any other personally identifiable information. This would be a violation of the FERPA mandates to which we are accountable as a school division. Several parents have made these and similar requests to establish “pods.” As a division, we are not able to do that. 

Student Technology

As we are preparing for the opening of school, parents will receive information from your school regarding picking up any items that remain at school from last year. Students transitioning to another FCCPS school will need to return technology to one school and pick up new technology at their new school. Students remaining at the same school will keep their technology devices. Our goal is to minimize the number of contacts, so we will be combining pick-up and drop-offs where possible. As a result, Henderson and Mason are coordinating dates and times. At the elementary level, students will be able to pick up technology simultaneously with supplies purchased through the PTA. 

If families are not available during these times, we will work with families to schedule another time. If your family is leaving FCCPS, please contact your school to unenroll and schedule a time to return technology and other items. As part of the registration process, families who have indicated that they do not have internet access at home will be contacted by FCCPS to ensure that all students can access our online curriculum. If your student’s technology from last year is not working, please submit a request for FCCPS Technology Team support using the following links 

FCCPS technology teams will work with you remotely or in-person on Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School.

Pick up (and any drop off) of textbooks and other instructional supplies will be scheduled for a different date that will be coordinated between schools.

 

Residency Reminder

We are fortunate to live in a community that prides itself on and funds excellent schools. As a Virginia public school division, it is our legal responsibility to ensure that our students live with their parents or guardians in a verified address within the City of Falls Church’s boundaries. Because of our reputation, we often receive requests for enrollment from families who live outside of Falls Church City, and FCCPS does offer tuition-based enrollment for non-residents. Enrollment for non-residents is determined based on available space in a particular grade. Recently we have received questions from families who will be relocating away from Falls Church, either temporarily or permanently and wish to continue to participate in our virtual learning. A student who is no longer living with their parents or guardians in the City of Falls Church cannot continue as a FCCPS student unless they have been approved by the School Board to attend our schools as a tuition-based, non-resident student.

As we do each year, to verify residency, each family is asked to provide proof of residency when they register, for example, a mortgage statement or property tax bill. If a family resides outside of Falls Church City (for example, they are staying with family in another state and have rented their home in Falls Church City to others), they will need to apply to attend FCCPS as a tuition-paying student. 

Over the summer or during the school year, FCCPS may request additional information to substantiate residency, and if necessary, you will be contacted. If you have questions, please contact the school registrar for your student. Fiscal stewardship of our taxpayer funds is an important responsibility. If we receive questionable residency information, FCCPS follows up on all questions. Any person who makes a false statement concerning a child’s residency can be found guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor. On behalf of Falls Church City Public Schools and the taxpayers of Falls Church, I thank you for supporting our residency verification efforts. 

Immunization & Clinic Opportunities

Please remember that updated immunizations are still required upon enrolling in FCCPS for the 2020-2021 school year despite the virtual/online opening. Childhood vaccines protect children against potentially life-threatening illnesses such as polio, measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox. Students entering seventh grade and transfer students must have a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine.

Now is the time to contact your healthcare provider and schedule an appointment. To help parents whose children need immunizations required for enrollment in school for the 2020-21 school year, the Fairfax County Health Department is offering community childhood vaccination clinics. For the site locations and hours, please visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/immunization/child. Parents can schedule an appointment by calling 703-246-6010, TTY 711

The Health Department follows strict safety protocols in its community vaccination clinics to limit exposure to patients. Only a select number of appointments per site will be available to protect families. Visitors age 2 and older must wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth; temperature checks will be conducted at entrances; visitors will be required to stay 6 feet apart, and partitions will separate vaccination stations. 

I hope you have a great weekend and continue to wear your face coverings and social distance.

Sincerely,

Peter Noonan

Superintendent, Fall Church City Public Schools