Local Commentary

Editorial: Tuesday’s Epic School Board Meeting

It was a most remarkable three hours Tuesday night. The live online gathering of the Falls Church City Public Schools’ School Board and key administrators of the system, deftly managed logistically by the schools’ technical team for a flawless presentation to the public on YouTube, was truly one for the history books. It deserves to be appreciated and studied for eons to come for its exemplary representation of how these concerned human beings came together to provide a level of care and opportunity for an entire community’s young people in their care.

The Covid-19 pandemic represents the gravest threat to human civilization in our lifetimes, with only a massive World War 1 or 2 or threat of a global nuclear war its match. As deaths pile up in the U.S. and as decisive leaders, at least from the state level on down, move to arrest its spread with drastic “social distancing” and “shelter in place” orders, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam last week ordered all schools closed as of March 13 and non-essential workers into their homes.

Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan and other leaders of the Falls Church School System, seeing this coming, set in motion a process at an administrative retreat on February 25 when the decision was taken to put the word out to all the teachers in the system to develop 20-day lesson plans that could be taught online. The plans were completed and submitted just two days before the governor ordered all the state’s schools closed, but all students in the Falls Church system were sent home armed with the resources to continue their education online, including the provision for free meals for those who’d received them at school and still needed them.

Falls Church’s schools have not looked back, and have been confronted with the very formidable challenges that can only be imagined for a situation that developed for them…imagined or seen dealt with, that is, by the remarkable School Board, principals of all five schools, administrative staff, teachers, support staff and volunteers who were either present, virtually, or discussed extensively at Tuesday’s meeting. The thoroughness and clearly evident passionate support for the students in the system’s care were hallmarks for this most extraordinary extended meeting. The topics ran the full gamut centered on the remarkable circumstances of the necessary reaction to the pandemic, with amazingly cool-headed discussions of plans that have either already been thought through or needed some input by everyone taking part.

For our part, we do not exaggerate when we suggest that this historic meeting should go down in the annals of human history, much less Falls Church history, as a case study in how a collective body of unpretentious but concerned citizen heroes methodically and systematically responded to the extraordinary circumstances of the current time.

There remain unresolved problems and difficulties, to be sure, but a heartening mode for handling them has been struck.