Thursday, June 25, 2020

FCPS: Some Thoughts on the Plan for Fall 2020

A friend asked me what I thought of the FCPS Return to School plan for opening this Fall, so here goes ...
  1. There are no really good choices. The School Board and FCPS Leadership are all doing their best in a crappy situation. Further, school-based administrators, teachers, and other staff are heroes. They have been dealing with changing plans and guidelines for months.
  2. I totally understand the need to nail down staffing, transportation, and other resources, but it's pretty tough to ask parents to decide now whether they will be in school or fully virtual for the full year.
  3. On the other side, I imagine that more teachers will want to teach virtually than will be needed. Many teachers have health issues (either their own or their family) that will make dealing with the in-school Petri dish a worrisome idea. I totally understand that many people have been going to work, but a school environment is probably significantly worse than an office when it comes to germs.
  4. For several reasons, I still wish they had considered a blended approach.
  5. Having teachers and other staff in the buildings so much, and with the cluster that was the experience this Spring, I fully expect many teachers and admins to retire in the coming weeks. There are many who are already eligible to retire, but have continued to work for myriad reasons. The threats this coming year will likely pose to their health, happiness, and sanity will tip the scales for many. 
  6. Staffing challenges will be legion. From a bigger than usual wave of retirements (see above), to finding subs, to figuring out who will teach virtually vs. in school, every school will have major staffing headaches.
  7. Child care is a huge issue on several fronts. Anyone with elementary-age children will have a problem. In particular, I worry about teachers who will have to be in school 4 days a week, and have elementary-age children who will only be in school 2 days a week. 
  8. Going back to #2... I dislike the idea of only 90 minutes of synchronous instruction for each secondary school class every week. 
  9. The Online Campus has a big catalog. I'd seriously consider looking through it to see if it makes sense for my kid to take a few classes that way. The experience might not be as good as the in-school experience, but a) the Online Campus curricula are designed for virtual use and b) the experience won't degrade if there is a spike in the pandemic that necessitates schools going back to a virtual setting.
  10. I think FCPS is already way behind where they need to be with staff training and curriculum planning. Having 60% of instruction/learning happen asynchronously is a huge shift that really requires training and collaboration. Not every teacher should solve this. Solutions need to be developed as teams and shared widely.
  11. I've got questions: What will happen with extracurriculars? What if we are out of Phase 3 and everything is basically open? How will the system navigate the likely changes in the Phases we're in?
That's all I can think of for now.


  1. I’ve been hyperfocused on issues for High School seniors, as my youngest child is a rising senior.

    My only real complaint for FCPS right now is that there isn’t a clear system for asking questions.They have a few items in their FAQ, but it would be nice if they would put a couple of staff members onto monitoring Facebook and Twitter, to answer questions that they can, and to create a list of questions without established answers yet.

    They want us to make a decision by July 10, but there is too much we don’t know (which I can only surmise that they don’t know the answers yet either.)

    A few of the biggest questions I have about the full year commitment to all virtual learning, are:

    Would my senior have any connection to her current base school, or just be graduating from FCPS, with not even a virtual graduation experience, nor any vestiges of senior year.

    Would a virtual HS student be assigned to their current base school counselor, or get a virtual counselor with no relation to the base school? As you know counselors work with the same students throughout high school, and that usually pays off in better guidance towards finding the right college fit, as well as being able to write a reference based on knowledge about the student.

    Would the virtual student be able to be a part of any socially distanced or even virtual extra curriculars, or arts collaborations with their base school’s teams and groups?

    Would the parent of a Virtual learning student be eligible to be a full member of base school parent booster clubs?

    I’m the President of the Chorus boosters, but our by-laws only allows membership for parents/guardians of current SLHS Chorus students. Will there even be a virtual performing arts option? Could a virtual student be a distanced member of whatever performing arts learning exists at their base school?

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