Dear Fairfax County School Board,
I write to you today, midway through week 4 of distance learning, because we need help. We have endured yet another day of pushback and meltdowns as we try to help our upper elementary child stay focused, attentive, and on top of his online schedule, online class portals, and online assignments. This has come at the expense of our professional lives, our relationship with our child, and our child’s own mental health. We are working with teachers and principal, but the schedule is largely set. After advocating since the spring and summer for what we knew was right for our child, and now dealing with the adverse effects of 6+ hours of daily screen time, we are exhausted and disheartened. And FCPS has provided not even the slightest indication of when things might change. We want to know when our son will be able to attend school in-person again; without a notional timeframe, we will have to withdraw him from FCPS.
Parents do not have a unified voice and do not feel heard; other stakeholders control the narrative
We do not feel heard or represented. As the Superintendent continues to over-promise and under-deliver (with the recent backing off of the K-2 notional phase-in plan, after having previously retracted the 2-day hybrid option in the summer), we look to the School Board to represent the families who need the in person option. Yet we see no such leadership. Rather, this void is being filled by various other groups who seek to control the narrative. Reference the following from the teachers’ “unions”…
- Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT)’s “11 Pillars of a Safe Reopening” (https://www.fcft.org/safe-reopening)
- Fairfax Education Association’s “Return to Work” survey (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe43uyDKGVX78c84u4NAwQWUv9y-UGNbYOXTOujc1Eeb9TfdQ/viewform?fbclid=IwAR35L_g9WOquoaY6AOnR0fnFBVAwJTU_jH_r24Sfcd3h0h4APrPUlkxz_zs&gxids=7628),
- Fairfax Education Association’s petition to “Draw and hold the line by keeping Fairfax County Public Schools virtual for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.” (https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/keep-fairfax-county-public-schools-virtual-for-the-2020-21-school-year)
…as well as the social media-based outlets such as @DoBetterFCPS (https://www.dobetterfcps.com), which calls for accountability and transparency in the decision making on a variety of matters.
We do not feel heard by the Superintendent/FCPS Administration. In his response to a petition requesting shortened schedules for K-2 given the demands of online learning, Brabrand’s suggestion was that young learners “build more stamina” online. These are not the words of someone who is in-touch with what is developmentally appropriate for young learners. Additionally, it appears that the Administration increasingly defers to the desires of the teachers unions. Note the change in language in these two statements from Dr. Brabrand:
- “Our first priority remains the health and well-being of our students and staff members,” (Superintendent Brabrand, June 16, 2020)
- “Our top priority is your health and safety” (Brabrand message to Fairfax Education Association, Sept 25, 2020)
Furthermore, we have reached out asking about options for re-enrolling our son in his language immersion program within his magnet school, should we decide to disenroll him to seek more appropriate learning options. We have worked hard to get him into this program and invested significantly in our residence and location to keep him there. The answer we were given was that our son would not be guaranteed a spot should he return. How does this support our child “by name and by need”?
FCPS lags behind other local school systems in moving forward with in-person plans
We look to the School Board for leadership in driving toward what we all know is right–return to in-person instruction. Yet after Board meetings, we are treated to glowing, but hollow, headlines such as “Fairfax County school board votes to bring thousands of students, hundreds of staff back to school in October” (https://www.fox5dc.com/news/fairfax-county-school-board-votes-to-bring-thousands-of-students-hundreds-of-staff-back-to-school-in-october). This is not adequate and it is not a plan. Reference the transparency in planning offered by other local school districts:
- Arlington: identified groups and target timeframes within 2020 for returning to in-person/hybrid
- Prince William: 50% in-person on November 10, honoring its School Board’s decision from July
- Fauquier: Hybrid model beginning November 9, based on feedback from families
- Loudoun: “On September 22, 2020, the Loudoun County School Board directed LCPS to work to return Kindergarten through grade 2 students to school for hybrid in-person learning two days per week, beginning on Oct. 27” (https://www.lcps.org/ReturnToSchool2020)
We look to the School Board to lead, drive the narrative, represent families, and demand a real plan from the Superintendent to return to in-person learning
We elected you to lead. To be a voice that will advocate for families and students. Please call an emergency meeting of the Board, or otherwise demand of the Superintendent that he produce a plan by October 15th that will address the needs of families and for ALL students for whom distance learning simply does not work.