Fairfax students face changes when schools open Sept. 2

6245 Leesburg Pike (staff photo)

6245 Leesburg Pike (staff photo)

An estimated 186,785 students will begin the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday, September 2, in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the nation’s 10th largest school system. When the first bell rings, a number of changes will be in effect that will impact students and parents. They include:

New elementary school

To alleviate overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, a new elementary school, Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, will open at 6245 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church. Bailey’s Upper is located in a former five-story office building that has been converted to a vertical design school, and will house students in grades 3-5. Principal Marie Lemmon will oversee operations at both schools.

Calendar changes

The Fairfax County School Board voted to end elementary early-release Mondays beginning with the 2014-15 school year, providing a uniform length elementary school day for students. Additionally, FCPS is building inclement weather days into its standard calendar so that days will not need to be added to the end of the school year if fewer than 13 days are missed.

The standard school year calendar also includes a two-week long winter break (December 22 through January 2, 2015), a weeklong spring break (March 30 through April 3) and the following student holidays (in addition to federal holidays): September 29, November 3, November 4, January 30, February 2, March 16, April 6, and April 17. Students will be released two hours early on October 31, November 26, December 19, January 29, April 16, and June 19.

Food prices

For the first time since 2009, FCPS is raising the price of its breakfast and lunch meals. In elementary schools, breakfast will cost $1.75 and lunch will cost $2.90 (up from $1.50 and $2.65, respectively). In middle and high schools, breakfast will cost $1.75 and lunch will cost $3.00 (up from $1.50 and $2.75, respectively). The cost of milk and soy milk will not change.

Students who are eligible for free and reduced price meals will not be charged for meals. Parents can access menus online or via the FCPS app, and can manage their child’s account online or via mylunchmoney on the FCPS app.

Mental health

FCPS is introducing several programs designed to identify and provide support to students who may be exhibiting signs of mental health issues. They include:
· Suicide Prevention Training: Through a partnership with the Falls Church Fairfax County Community Services Board, all middle and high school teachers in FCPS will complete a suicide prevention training this fall, preparing them to recognize when a student is exhibiting signs of psychological distress, and providing tips on how to connect the student with the appropriate support.

An additional optional course is available to help concerned adults support youth who may be struggling due to harassment or exclusion related to sexual identity, sexual orientation, or other differences.

These trainings are classroom based, but provide information and skills that can be useful in many setting, and are available online free of charge:

· CrisisText: In partnership with the Community Services Board, FCPS students will now be able to use a dedicated line, CrisisText, to text concerns and receive support. Student leaders and marketing classes will be helping to spread the word to all FCPS teens about this new resource.

· Mental Health First Aid for Youth: School social workers and psychologists will complete training in August in Mental Health First Aid, learning how to help people developing a mental illness or in a crisis. Plans include training all health and physical education teachers, many of whom are also coaches, and offering trainings within school communities for teachers, parents, and teens 16 or older.

Rights and responsibilities

Several updates to Student Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) take effect during the 2014-15 school year, including reducing the number of offenses carrying mandated consequences, extending expedited review to first-time use of marijuana that does not occur on school grounds during the school day or during school-sponsored activities, and adding electronic cigarettes and hookah pens under “tobacco products.” Additionally, there is an increased focus on school-based interventions. Details are available online and in the SR&R booklet.

HeadStart program

FCPS’ Family and Early Childhood Education Program (FECEP) and HeadStart Program have expanded from 1,520 students in 2013-14 to 1,660 students for the 2014-15 school year. The program is now in 64 schools.

Energy management

All FCPS schools and facilities are embarking on a comprehensive energy conservation and management program with Cenergistic, which includes energy audits, monitoring and follow-ups, and adjustments. The program analyzes optimum practices for heating and cooling systems, ventilation rates, humidity, periods of occupancy, and transition to unoccupied buildings, and is designed to preserve comfortable environments during scheduled activities.

The costs of the Cenergistic program come from the system’s existing utility budget, with savings projected to more than pay for the program.



About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.