Most Fairfax Co. parents agree their child’s school is safe, survey finds

Over 90% of Fairfax County, Virginia, parents who responded to a family engagement survey agreed their child feels safe at school and their child’s school is safe.

Kathleen Walts, executive director of Fairfax County Public Schools’ Office of Professional Learning and Equity, presented findings from the spring 2022 Family Engagement Survey to the school board Tuesday afternoon.

The survey found 91% of the 35,109 parents and guardians who responded agreed or strongly agreed that their child feels safe at school, while 89% agreed or strongly agreed that their child’s school is safe.

Results from the spring 2022 Family Engagement Survey in Fairfax County Public Schools. (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools)

The state’s largest school system said it received more than 5,000 more responses to the most recent survey than it did in 2018-2019. The survey, conducted with group K12 Insight, gives school leaders a glimpse of how parents feel about their involvement or engagement at their child’s school.

Lisa Youngblood Hall, the county’s newly appointed chief experience and engagement officer, told school board members that the data will be considered as the county drafts a family engagement action plan. The plan, she said, is in the review process and will then be presented to the board.

“Learning happens best in community,” Youngblood Hall said. “We’re going to develop and implement a holistic approach to this work.”

The survey included topics, such as welcoming environment, communication, student success, advocacy, family and school partnerships and collaboration with the community.

Ninety percent of respondents said they agreed that information provided by their child’s school is easy to understand, and 89% agreed they feel welcome at their child’s school.

A look at Fairfax County Public Schools’ Family Engagement Survey results. (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools)

Conversely, 31% of parents who responded said they disagree or strongly disagree that their child’s school provides them with opportunities to connect with other families. A quarter of respondents said they disagree that they received enough information about what they can do at home to support their child with mental health and wellness.

Jamie Gadley, principal at Dranesville Elementary School, told the board she uses data to determine how to best engage with families. Dranesville families prefer receiving information via email, she said.

School events such as family resource night, and the opening of a room in the school for families to have lunch with their kids, are a result of community feedback, Gadley said.

“We celebrate cultivating a welcome community for listening for the ways that we can effectively communicate with our families — not to, but with, our families,” Gadley said. “As we move forward and continue our work, I think about student success, advocacy, the partnership and collaboration.”

JoVon Rogers, principal at Mount Vernon High School, said she has hired a dean of students and wants school leadership to visit more families “so that they feel welcome.” The school also has a program that gives students opportunities to serve as tour guides to make sure perspective students “have a connection as soon as they come to school.”

Youngblood Hall, the experience and engagement officer, said the school system is also considering establishing a family academy that would serve as a “central hub for families to learn all they need to know about FCPS and supporting students’ success and healthy development.”

The family engagement survey was open between March 13 and April 10 and was sent to parents in several languages.

More information about survey results is available online.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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