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FairfaxEducationParents ramp up pressure to keep FCPS open

Parents ramp up pressure to keep FCPS open

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While being grateful for the minimal impacts of COVID on the county’s children and for the availability of vaccines and boosters for teachers and families, a local parent organization is insisting that Fairfax County Public Schools continue to keep students in class and not regress back into virtual learning.

“COVID is not going away,” members of the Fairfax County Parents Association said in a statement released Jan. 2. “We must learn to live in a world where COVID exists, and where children are still receiving access to a robust, in-person education.”

The group thanked the Fairfax County School Board for its commitment to in-person learning and credited state Sens. Chap Petersen and Siobhan Dunnavant for having passed a bill last year that requires Virginia school systems offer the choice of in-person education to all students.

The non-partisan, grassroots coalition of more than 2,400 parents began as #OpenFCPS in June 2020 to advocate for a choice to return to in-person education in Fairfax County Public Schools.


COVID and its latest omicron variant minimally affect children’s health and mitigation efforts at schools reduce the chance of transmission, the group’s statement read.

“‘Zero COVID’ is unattainable, regardless of variant,” the statement read. “Those who continue to drive panic about COVID and the omicron variant do so in flagrant disregard for the science surrounding cases and outcomes.”

The public has known since summer 2020 that shuttering in-person learning led to academic backsliding, mental-health challenges, too much screen time and other harmful effects for children, group members said. Many students regard school as a safe harbor and essential workers need them to be in class so they can go to work and serve the community, they added.

“As people in our community attend parties, sporting events, the theater, and happy hours, we must not fall into the trap of holding children hostage to COVID panic by denying them access to in-person education,” the group’s statement read. “Schools should be the very last institutions to close.”

As to the seminal question – will local schools eventually retreat back into a complete “virtual” classroom environment? – that might end up being a question litigated in the courts, if it comes to that.

Legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Northam last spring requires all Virginia school systems to maintain in-person instruction (with an online option) for the entirety of the 2021-22 school year.

School leaders at the local level have been delegated authority to close individual schools in certain instances and for limited periods, but do not have the power to keep entire school districts shuttered.

With Republicans soon to be in charge of the House of Delegates and possibly having a workable majority on the subject (19 Republicans plus a few Democrats) in the state Senate, additional keep-schools-open edicts could be coming down the sluice in the 2022 session, and are likely to find a receptive audience in the incoming governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin.

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