On Monday, Falls Church City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan announced classes will be all-virtual during the two instructional days of Thanksgiving week.
Noonan released the following statement in the school system’s daily newsletter Tuesday morning:
“As we have stated all along, we have and will continue to review data and make decisions based on what we see with respect to health, operational, and instructional metrics. Today’s data we received from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Fairfax County Health District (FCHD) is not moving in a good direction. While we remain in the moderate category overall, we are continuing to see a rise in the NOVA region data and our home community of Falls Church City.
“As a consequence of remaining in the moderate range, we plan to continue bringing our elementary students to Mount Daniel Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School as planned tomorrow and for the remainder of this week. Our strong mitigation plan and small numbers have supported our reopening efforts in the face of rising metrics. We have had students in schools learning for over a month, with no pauses, exposures, or outbreaks.
“However, because next week is a short week and we see trends in the data that we don’t like, we will move to online-only for next week for all of our students. Again, we anticipate this will be for next week only and will continue to monitor the data. Students were only scheduled for one day of in-person learning next week due to the Thanksgiving break. This is a temporary ‘pause.’ We expect to resume our current hybrid schedule at Jessie Thackrey Preschool, MDES, and TJES the week following Thanksgiving. There will be no daycare next week in any FCCPS building. This pause includes all athletics and activities at Henderson and George Mason.
“This temporary pause is vital for our collective school community. It provides time and space to “hunker down” and stay in our family configurations to slow and stop the spread of Covid. This pause gives families nine (9) days of at-home time to regroup and be ready for a return the week following Thanksgiving. If we all do our part, we will be able to continue to “dial-up” and reopen schools…it will take a commitment from us all even though it is hard and inconvenient for many.
“We recognize that some families who work hourly jobs or are on the front line cannot quarantine for nine consecutive days. We are hopeful that everyone will only do only what is essential and follow the appropriate mitigation strategies to keep us all safe in these circumstances.
“Please follow the recommendations of our public health officials for the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. This means only traveling when absolutely needed, celebrating with members of your household only, and no group gatherings. If you find that you must leave the house, please avoid crowded shopping areas, wear face coverings at all times, and always socially distant. There is a long game here – the safer we are now, and the sacrifices we make will allow us to keep moving forward with school reopening.
“As always, we are grateful for the community’s incredible support as we continue to balance what is safe and what is right while moving forward. Today there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel with the announcement that a second vaccine company’s trials yielded positive results. Between Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson on the horizon, we may have several emergency use authorizations within the next month that will allow for the beginning of mass inoculations.
“Please know we only have the best interest of our Falls Church City Public Schools students, staff, and families in mind when we make these difficult and controversial decisions. Sincerely, Peter.”
Meanwhile, two more grades were slated to return to Mt. Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary for split sessions of hybrid learning on Tuesday.
At Mt. Daniel, first and second graders joined the kindergartners who have been back for a week for face-to-face learning. At TJ, 4th and 5th graders were due back in the building, following the third graders’ lead.