Happy Friday and long weekend! Finally - We held our first full five days of school of the new year, and for the most part, it was a very successful return. Today we learned from our health department colleagues that COVID may have plateaued in the region, and we are starting to see an ever-so-slight tip downward in our trend. In FCCPS specifically, COVID cases are decreasing.
IMPORTANT... In today's edition of the RRR, we are clarifying what “fully vaccinated” means for students and staff, explaining that FCCPS has a new process for reporting COVID positive cases, a little “honesty hour,” providing information on access to testing, boosters, and other important health information. Additionally, you will find information regarding the Superintendent’s Proposed FY23 Budget. It is a longer message this week…so thanks for your patience!
Clarification on What “Fully Vaccinated” Means
Over the past ten days, there has been information bombarding us from a variety of agencies, causing confusion in PK-12 school settings. This week VDH clarified what it means for students (ages 5-17) to be “fully vaccinated.” As a reminder, fully vaccinated students are not required to quarantine if exposed and symptom-free. The good news is that, for now, the CDC/VDH have further clarified that being fully vaccinated in the 5-17-year-old population is a completion of the series of two (2) vaccinations. You do not need the booster to be considered fully vaccinated if aged 5-17. However, if you are 18 or older (some high school seniors and all staff), you must get the booster to avoid quarantine and to be fully vaccinated. FCCPS asks that you do this no later than the end of January so we can start enforcement of the new guidance regarding being fully vaccinated in the middle of February.
New Process for Reporting Student/Staff COVID Positive/Exposure Cases
In response to the surge, FCCPS has changed COVID reporting procedures. We have developed a centralized system that will allow the FCCPS Health Team and schools to handle positive cases and exposures more efficiently. There are two steps for parents and staff to report a COVID case or exposure.
Use the new FCCPS COVID Positive/Exposure Reporting Form to report all COVID positive cases and exposures. This form automatically alerts school staff to a case/exposure. FCCPS will no longer use the COVID Response email addresses for each school.
Use the school attendance email to report a student's absence.
The surge of cases necessitates a more streamlined process, and hopefully, fewer emails. After a form is submitted, someone from FCCPS health team will review the information and contact the person who submitted the form regarding a return date and next steps. The school will follow up with streaming information and instructional support. We appreciate your support as we work to be responsive during this time of a very high number of cases.
Covid Testing Sites In/Near Falls Church
Many people struggle to find COVID tests for themselves and family members. FCCPS staff visited and reviewed local sites to help families locate at-home tests and local testing sites. Every site has different procedures. We will continue to update this new document: Falls Church COVID testing resources.
The best and most important mitigation effort is to stop coming to school if you are sick.
Please continue to use the Daily Self-Monitoring Health Screening for all students.
FCCPS COVID By The Numbers
Number of Cases for Week 20
Cumulative Since August 1
# of Student Cases:
# of Staff Cases
# of Students in Quarantine Due to Being a Close Contact
FCCPS Rate of Transmission
HIGH for Falls Church City
HIGH for Fairfax Health District
Please note that this data is just a snapshot of FCCPS in total and is adjusted based on the outcomes of each contact tracing investigation.
All FCCPS positive cases are included regardless of source. These data include parent/staff report, ViSSTA results, HD notifications, and healthcare providers.
ViSSTA Information - Honesty Hour
Remember my “honesty hour” piece from a couple of months ago? Here is another brief piece of information I feel is important to share in the spirit of openness…
As I hope you all know by now, we have tried to be honest and transparent information brokers through this pandemic. We have worked hard to communicate often and share pertinent information that has helped us all navigate this difficult period of time. I believe that our work is evidenced by the trust you put in us to send your students back to school.
In the past few days, we have been accused of “lack of transparency” regarding the ViSSTA program and students/staff being tested. This is a bummer considering the work we have put in to keep the system open and moving forward. Further, in no way are we trying to “hide the ball” with respect to data. However, just to clarify and clear the air if there is a concern, here is some information - and for what it is worth, these results have been included in our weekly data reports that everyone receives each week in our FCCPS by the Numbers.
On Sunday, January 2nd, we held our drive-through testing session where we tested approximately 630 students and staff. We had 61 confirmed positive cases.
We restarted our pool testing on Thursday, January 6th, and tested 335 students and staff. Fifteen were confirmed positive.
On Thursday, January 14th (yesterday), we tested 313 students and staff and will have the results in the next day or two.
We test on Thursdays so we can have the results before the start of the following week. This last week, due to snow and COVID cases in the lab that prepares our results, we didn’t get them until 6AM on Monday morning. Our amazing staff called and emailed every family that was impacted before school started on Monday morning.
We hadn’t planned to share the data from the ViSSTA program with the community because the numbers were very low, and we had no asymptomatic positives in the 3 weeks of test prior to the winter break and any positive result is already included in our weekly FCCPS by the Numbers, as I shared. There is the potential for personally identifiable information coming out to the public. However, since there seems to be a group in the community that wants the information we will report it IF the percentage positive in the week’s testing pool is greater than 5%.
The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation welcomes all to the Annual March & Program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 17. The public is invited to this free event. The event will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Tinner Hill Historic Monument on the corner of Tinner Hill Rd. and S. Washington St, proceeding on Washington St. to The Falls Church Episcopal for presentations and speeches. Distinguished guests include Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Don Beyer.
Superintendent’s Proposed FY 2023 Budget - Watch the Presentation
The past 18 months have been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing effects. These effects have placed significant demands on schools, teachers, students, parents, and the entire community. FCCPS staff has been working diligently to craft a budget that reflects the priorities of our school system, is responsive to our collective needs - now and into the future, and is ultimately in alignment with our mission, vision, values, and goals being developed in our new strategic plan.
In December, the City Council approved Budget Guidance that reflects the City’s organic revenue growth, which is projected to be 8.4%. Under our agreement with the General Government and City Council, the schools would be sharing in that revenue and we would likely propose a budget that increases by 8.4%. However, with the promise of the Governor-Elect to repeal the grocery tax (which a portion flows directly to the locality), Falls Church City is projected to lose several million dollars in local revenue and the organic growth will be closer to 6.3%. This year, increases in funding from Governor Northam’s Proposed Budget include an increase in sales tax revenue and an increase in state basic aid. The increase in local and state funding will allow us to address our most pressing needs which are employee compensation, working conditions, and immediate and long-term school investments to support students and staff.
We must do everything we can to support teachers, staff, and students by addressing the impact of the last two years on teacher recruitment, retention, and social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs. The Superintendent’s Proposed Budget includes funding for
A Step increase for eligible employees
Recovery Step from FY 2021 for eligible employees
Cost of Living increase of 2.0 percent
Employer share of projected health insurance premium increases of 10 percent
Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher & high school program coordinator
CTE teachers’ contract extensions
Math teacher to provide instructional support for students
Math intervention positions increased to full-time
Math/Science middle school teacher
Parent liaison at the secondary campus
Permanent substitute teachers for each school
Playground supervision to relieve teachers
Professional development for all staff
Reading, Math, and summer Child Find JTP teacher-leader stipends
Preschool registrar and clinic support FTE alignment
School security contract
Technology equipment and services
Tuition for students attending TJHSST
Vehicle maintenance support
Budget reductions have been included, where possible, to ensure that FCCPS is able to fund our highest priorities. Reductions include:
Adjusting the salary base for current employees reflecting turnover from the FY 2022 school year and projecting for turnover in FY 2023
Savings from other employee benefits which includes the discontinued transitional retirement program, other post-employment benefits, and city retirement rate decreases
FCCPS is grateful for the support of the City Council, School Board, and community in the preparation of this budget. For the fourth year, FCCPS has developed a budget that funds the most pressing, critical needs, while staying within City Council Budget Guidance. The Superintendent's Budget Presentation on January 11, 2022, was the first step in the budget process. The School Board members and community will have multiple opportunities to weigh in before the School Board adopts its budget on February 22, 2022. At that point, the budget will be called the School Board Budget. It will then be sent to the City Manager for inclusion in the Falls Church City Proposed Budget and considered as part of the whole City budget. The following are the key dates:
Superintendent's Budget Presentation - January 11, 2022
School Board Budget Work Session - January 25, 2022
School Board Public Hearing & Budget Work Session - February 8, 2022
School Board Budget Work Session / Adoption of FY 2021 Advertised Budget - February 22, 2022
City Manager’s Proposed Budget Presentation - March 28, 2022
City Council First Public Hearing of the Budget Ordinance – April 11, 2022
City Council Second Public Hearing of the Budget Ordinance - April 25, 2022
City Council Adoption of the Budget Ordinance (including school transfer) – May 9, 2022
School Board Public Hearing, Budget Work Session, and Adoption of the FY 2023 FCCPS Budget - May 17, 2022
On January 19th at 7:00 p.m., I plan to hold an informational meeting on our YouTube Channel - www.YouTube.com/fccpsorg - that will give more context and meaning to the information shared above. I hope you can join me for the presentation. After the presentation, if there are any questions regarding the budget we would be happy to take them and respond in kind. If you are unable to attend or wish to see the presentation given to the School Board this week, here is the link again:
Lastly, as soon as the Omicron variant settles down I will begin my public meet and greets. I certainly miss seeing members of the community in a more casual setting. Stay tuned.
Thank you for your support.