Marshall students who opt in to Superintendent Scott Brabrand’s return to school proposal, which was first presented on October 19th, will return to the building by February 1st. Rank & File analyzed the proposal on several key levels as it was presented by Dr. Brabrand as well as Principal Litz at a Marshall Town Hall on October 29th.

Safety Protocols:

Senior Amelia Magee’s morning schedule is reminiscent of life prior to the shutdown. Through Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) decision to pilot the concurrent model, Magee still wakes up early to get to school by 8:10 a.m., ready for in-person class.

But this time around, she has to wear a mask on her face at all times, and can only interact with the eight other people in her Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) class.

The smaller classes, masks and temperature checks are what the few returning ESS and Personal Fitness students have to deal with, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. FCPS plans on opening its doors to 13 high schools with the concurrent model while preserving safety standards to deter the spread of COVID-19.

“The CDC indicates five mitigation strategies and these are critical for us to control disease transmission in our schools,” Director of Operations and Strategic Planning Lea Skurpski said. “These include consistent and correct use of face masks, and FCPS has established Regulation 2109 to require the use of face coverings for students, staff, and visitors to our facilities, and we will be implementing these when students return to school.”

While the original hybrid model had students choose between two days of virtual learning or in-person learning, the concurrent model will have half of the students from a class in school with the teacher while the other half watches from home, for a total of four days a week.

“When we come back, we know we’re coming back with social distancing guidelines in effect, which will limit the amount of students who can be in a classroom at any one time,” Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Sloan Presidio said. “With the concurrent model, we can bring students back into the classroom two days a week, and on the days when those students are at home, they can continue to receive teacher support.”

The new mode also allows for continued learning if students need to quarantine, does not require teachers to plan two lessons and provides equal opportunity for both in-person and virtual students.

“It’s also important to remember with our models [that] we’re looking to promote equity wherever we can this year,” Presidio said. “In particular, we’re really focusing on keeping equity at the center of our work.”

Students can only remove their masks during lunch or for medical reasons.

“If a student [does not] have a mask, [they] will be given a mask, and if the student […] refuses to wear the mask, I am going to call a parent and that student will be immediately sent home,” principal Jeff Litz said. “If that student continues to refuse to wear a mask, then that student remains virtual and will not be permitted back in the building.”

Litz said contact tracing is also a large component of the plan to prevent COVID-19 spread within schools. If there is a confirmed case in school, Litz said the students and teachers will transition to 100 percent virtual learning for up to two weeks.

“If there are other classrooms affected based on that [contact] tracing [and] we would need to shut down, we would do so,” Litz said. “[Superintendent Scott] Brabrand has said that if there is more than one case of COVID in different classrooms, it is possible […] that we would potentially shut the school down for a certain number of days.”

Magee said while the school has done a good job safely allowing small groups of to come back, she wonders if the entire county will be able to accomodate all the students hoping to return later in the year.

“It was weird to see how few people there were and how much everything had changed,” senior Amelia Magee said. “It was nice to have small classes and see the restrictions in place, but I really don’t know how they’re going to pull off a full-scale reopening. It’ll be interesting to see.”

Litz said he has been addressing the impact of virtual learning on mental health.

“Mental health is one of the top priorities for me and my faculty and staff,” Litz said. “I myself am looking at making some changes [in workload guidelines] in the second quarter, which I’m not yet ready to announce, [but] I believe will begin to make things a little bit easier for both our kids and our teachers. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our school counselors. ”

Though not all requests for accommodations can be met, Litz expects most teachers to return to the building.

“A few teachers who actually originally were virtual have [since] said they were going to come in,” Litz said. “I would say that the vast majority of teachers are coming in.”

Return Dates:

Students are split among eight cohort learning groups which have each been assigned different dates for their return to school. High schoolers are a part of the final group, and have been assigned a start date of February 1. Decisions to return are based on the aforementioned four phase-in decision making elements, of which groups need to meet the “go” criteria in all four in order to return.

On November 16th, the first group to return will be Pre-K, kindergarten, students with intensive support needs, and specialized-center based special education at Robinson High School.

“For [the first groups], which are some of our neediest learners, we are a go on all of those areas,” Brabrand said. “In fact, we already have some students back in our schools for the first groups, and we have groups three and four coming up very soon to return to our schools.”

Group six is slated to return on November 30th, and is comprised of first and second graders as well as specialized-center based special education at sites including Marshall’s Davis Center.

“These groups have been approved by the board, and we are moving forward to implement those timelines,” Brabrand said.

Grades 3-6, who make up group seven, have a tentative return date of January 4th, while grades 7-12 have been assigned group eight and a tentative return date of January 26th.

“For our level three, which are our middle and high school kids, and our upper elementary kids, they are kids that in our current instructional program move throughout the day, and we have that as a caution,” Brabrand said. “We do have timelines for them to return, but we need to continue to monitor our health conditions and our staffing to support go’s.”

In all, of the eight groups, six have been approved to return before the end of November, while the final two groups, which comprise the majority of FCPS students, have assigned return dates for the first time, although they are still subject to change.

Concurrent Model:

A new concurrent model will replace the previously proposed hybrid model for students who opt-in to returning. The hybrid model had students choose between two days of virtual learning or in-person learning, with asynchronous learning occurring on the remaining days. The concurrent model will have half of the students from a class in school with the teacher while the other half watches from home, for a total of four days a week.

“When we come back, we know we’re coming back with social distancing guidelines in effect, which will limit the amount of students who can be in a classroom at any one time,” Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Sloan Presidio said. “With the concurrent model, we can bring students back into the classroom two days a week, and on the days when those students are at home, they can continue to receive teacher support.”

At Marshall, the basis for what days students come to school and what days they will be virtual will be based on alphabetical order.

“Kids who choose to come to school will come on Tuesday and Wednesday if they’re in the first half of the alphabet, and then on Thursday and Friday they would be at home while the second half of the alphabet comes to school on Thursday and Friday,” Litz said.

The new model allows for continued learning if students need to quarantine, does not require teachers to plan two lessons and provides equal opportunity for both in-person and virtual students.

“I think it’s also important to remember with our models [that] we’re looking to promote equity wherever we can this year, Presidio said. “In particular, we’re really focusing on keeping equity at the center of our work.”

The July survey will be the basis for what type of learning students receive, but families can make changes by Nov. 6 through the enrollment link on the Marshall website.

Environmental Systems and Societies teacher Andrew Litterest’s and Personal Fitness teacher Ryan Wood’s classes will be piloting the new proposed concurrent learning model in-person.

“It was weird to see how few people there were and how much everything had changed,” senior Amelia Magee said. “It was nice to have small classes and see the restrictions in place, but I really don’t know how they’re going to pull off a full-scale reopening. It’ll be interesting to see.”

New Marshall Safety Policies:

Some hallways may be made one-way

Books have a 7 day wait period from the library after being returned

Bathrooms and classrooms will be cleaned throughout the day

Water fountains will only be used for filling water bottles

Students with a temperature of 100.4℉ will be sent into isolation

No shared laptop carts

Lunches will most likely be grab and go

Students will have to bring in their own school supplies

Quote Reaction with David Stiles:

Rank & File showed junior David Stiles quotes from the two town halls and asked for his reaction to statements from Principal Litz and Dr. Brabrand.

Litz: “The county has worked out a deal with a company that is going to be installing a camera in our gym and another camera in our stadium, so we will be able to live-stream sporting events, hopefully beginning at the end of December, very beginning of January at the latest.”

Stiles: “I’m kinda split on it honestly, but probably leaning towards it. If the cameras are in one place at one end of the field it’s hard to see what’s going on and who’s where and what’s happening. That goes the same for recruiting. Coaches could be on that stream and it’ll be hard to see who’s who like I said.”

Litz: “I myself am looking at making some changes [in workload guidelines] in the second quarter, which I’m not yet ready to announce, which I believe will begin to make things a little bit easier for both our kids and our teachers.”

Stiles: “I think IB teachers give too much homework for virtual [learning]. I think if it was in-person I’d understand but you’re giving me 10 hours to do a project when I have other homework? I mean come on now.

Litz: “[Lunch] is the only time that students will be allowed to take their mask off during the day. Students will have the ability at times to eat in the cafeteria, and other times will be eating in classrooms depending on particular classes. Those meals right now and I anticipate when we come back in January will be grab and go.”

Stiles: “Kids who wear glasses are gonna be at such a disadvantage [with being able to remove masks once]. They fog up so easily and even I have to keep cleaning them and it’s so annoying. Plus you’re gonna have so many kids in the lunchroom at the same time and that’s a huge problem.”

Brabrand: “We cannot go months and years without having our students return to school. Our kids need to be back in school and be in their routines as much as possible, but we need to make sure we’re doing it in a manner that’s as safe as possible.”

Stiles: I honestly disagree. I think I’m doing better [with] virtual [instruction] than I would be doing in school. I don’t know [why], I just feel a lot more comfortable.