Fairfax County School Board votes for classes to start virtually

The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia voted Tuesday night to approve the recommendation of Superintendent Scott Brabrand that the school year begin virtually.

The district — which serves 189,000 students and is the largest in Virginia — had given parents a choice of either all-virtual or a hybrid approach that would mean some in-person instruction.

And although the goal remains in-person instruction, Brabrand cited the recent surge of coronavirus cases around the region and nationwide for the new recommendation.

“We are pleased FCPS is putting students and staff safety first and listening to the science, educational experts and our community by opting for a 100 percent virtual start,” Tina Williams, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.

In an earlier presentation, Brabrand pointed out that staffer leave-of-absence requests have doubled since last year; that July applications for substitute-teaching positions are down; and that there are now over 1,500 teacher requests for individual health exceptions.

“Approximately 10% of our teaching workforce may not return in person,” Brabrand said.

In-school testing of students and staff for coronavirus isn’t possible either, because of “limited testing capacity and high costs.”

The virtual-learning arrangement would be reviewed later after the academic year’s first quarter ends. Students would be brought back on a limited basis as conditions improve.

Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos singled out Fairfax County Public Schools and criticized plans to not plan for full in-person instruction. She claimed that such plans would “fail” students and taxpayers.

And while the district struggled with distance learning at the beginning of the pandemic, Brabrand said the technology should be better prepared this fall.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

Jack Pointer

Jack Pointer is a writer and editor with a variety of news and publishing experience, including more than a decade at The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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