2024-07-18 4:47 PM

Guest Commentary: Success Of New School Year Is A Community Effort in F.C.

By Peter J. Noonan

Dear FCCPS Families,

As the waning weeks of summer are upon us, I hope you and your family have been enjoying the time together. On the flip side, we have been busy planning for what promises to be a different and exciting school year. Monday, we hosted our annual administrative kick-off retreat at Meridian High School. On Wednesday, we welcomed all new teachers and professional staff to FCCPS as part of our schools’ onboarding week.

Seeing everyone in person has been a real thrill, and is an excellent reminder of how relational our work as a learning community is! These are just a couple of the events that we had to cancel last year and are enthusiastically bringing back this year.

The excitement in the room struck me as we talked about the year to come. The feelings of joy in returning were palpable. At the same time, I could hear and feel the concern in the room about how the impact of the Delta variant may influence our work as we move forward. I anticipate that the rest of our teachers and staff who will join us for our annual convocation in a couple of weeks, and many in the community, share a similar situatedness of excitement and concern. Holding both emotions simultaneously may seem to conflict, but it is normal and natural in the circumstance we find ourselves.

Thinking about it another way could mean that holding these two emotions is really what unites us as a school system and school community in the midst of a crisis.
As a parent of a rising 7th grader, this is the time in the summer when any semblance of routine is in the rearview mirror.

The summer days come and go like the ocean’s tides with no real daily schedule and bedtimes are flexible (when even discussed). Reading and math packets are negotiated as though doing a small reading response or a few problems represents the worst case scenario for a kid during the summer… the realization that summer is wrapping up and school is coming.

As a parent, I want nothing more than for school routines to return with a clear start and end to a day; I know where my kids are, and they are safe and learning. I believe this is what we all want, and schools play a significant role in supporting our children, families, and our broader community. We relish that central role in FCC and look forward to starting school. At the same time, like families in the community, we are nervous for what the year will bring.

As a system, we are committed to continuing the mitigation strategies that have slowed the spread of disease in our schools. But moreover, we are committed to seeking ways to support our students, teachers, and staff as we all reemerge from the altered routines of the past 20 months. We face the dual challenge of maintaining great mental health to give all we have to the students we serve and “doubling down” on the mental health of our students, ensuring they have all they need to be successful in our school and life. It leaves us as a system contemplating the best approach and how to resolve our questions and concerns.

The answer is clear; we can only do it as a community — schools, students, parents, and the City of Falls Church — together. The beauty of Falls Church City is that we have a community of people who believe in a collective approach to problem-solving. As we witnessed last year, the schools cannot do the work alone, and we need you.

It is a given that when your children hit our doors on August 30th for the first day of school, we will do what we do best. We will love them, teach them using best, research-based practices, and support them through the good and bad times. These core values are who we are as a school system. We need you as a community to work with us to support our learners. Help us ensure they get the support they need at home and in the community, ensure they have excellent physical and mental health, and continue to support our schools just like we support your children.

We have incredible teachers and staff who promise to do all they can for the kids they serve, and conversely, to show your support as a community, we simply ask that you do all you can to support those who serve your students every day.

This partnership is crucial to our success. I, for one, can’t wait to see the excellence our schools and community bring this year on behalf of our common goal: your children. Onward and Upward!

Peter Noonan serves as the ninth Superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.

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