‘A rebirth of public education’: Fairfax Co. school board approves budget for COVID-19 recovery

The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia unanimously approved Thursday night the FY 2022 budget, which will prioritize COVID-19 recovery and gave all employees a 2% raise.

“Out of the bad news of this pandemic, we’ve been able to pass a good-news budget here in Fairfax County Public Schools that is going to support students in many ways,” schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand told WTOP.

In a statement, the school board emphasized the importance of “placing the well-being of all students, staff, and families at its core” during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing access to technology, mental health resources and language support.

Among items included in the budget:

  • 86% of the total $3.4 billion budget will be directed toward instruction, including 50 new ESL positions;
  • There will be new openings for school-based technology specialists;
  • 18 openings for social workers and psychologists will be added to help students transition back to in-person learning;
  • Technology support fees will be absorbed by FCPS.

Previously, families would be charged a $50 technology support fee, but the statement said that the school board recognizes that technology is “now an integral part of the instructional program.”

“Every dollar was an impact this year economically for some of our families,” Brabrand said. “The truth is, technology is the new textbook. Computers post-pandemic are going to be seen as an essential part of how we do teaching and learning.”

He said that come fall, FCPS will have over 180,000 students back in-person and that having emotional support to help students adjust and process the impact of the pandemic is pertinent.

Brabrand added that some of the impact from the pandemic will last longer than a semester or a year.

“We need to really think about ongoing services for those kids that we find and determine have experienced significant trauma from the pandemic,” he said.

He went on to say that the additional 50 ESL positions are essential, due to the fact that language acquisition and literacy skills development happen at a young age. More than 27% of FCPS students are English learners.

“In fact, the proficiency of reading by third grade is very, very predictive about future academic success,” Brabrand said. “We need to have our staffing of elementary schools really, really be at a level where we can deal with those kids by name and by need, and make sure that they’re ready to read by third grade.”

The newly-approved budget will go into effect July 1. Students will return to in-person learning five days a week in the fall.

“It’s exciting to be able to welcome back our kids and families and reunite them in person with our amazing teachers and support staff,” he said. “I really feel like this is going to be a moment for a rebirth of public education in America.”

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 Valerie Bonk contributed to this report. 

Hannah Parker

Hannah Parker is a writer and editor for WTOP. She is most interested in covering social issues in the D.C. area and is always looking for news tips and story ideas.

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