Letter from the Chairman
Dear City of Fairfax Community,
I wanted to update you on the City of Fairfax Schools. First and foremost, I hope all of our City families and school staff are healthy and staying home to protect those most vulnerable in our community. Since the closure of schools by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) on March 13, 2020 and the subsequent order by the Governor of Virginia to close school for the rest of the year, I know as a parent, teacher, School Board member and community member how overwhelming these last weeks have been for all of us.
The City School Board was unable to meet in late March and April due to the declaration of emergency by the Governor of Virginia. The City School Board could only meet if the “purpose of the meeting is to address the emergency” which “includes meetings to make decisions that must be made immediately and where failure to do so could result in irrevocable public harm.” Our meetings did not qualify under these conditions.
The City of Fairfax School Board will have a virtual work session on Monday, May 18 at 7:30 PM. An agenda and directions to watch will be available on our website next week. In our work sessions we do not allow for live public comment, however, I encourage any interested City residents or City school families with questions to contact us with concerns or topics they would like addressed.
Over the past weeks, I have been in consistent contact with members of the FCPS School Board. I expressed our frustration and disappointment with the early issues with Distance Learning. As a parent of two city students, I was deeply concerned with the gaps in learning during the first weeks of school closures. I am cautiously optimistic we are headed in the right direction. If you or your child are having issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Along with Toby Sorensen, our Vice Chairman, I have met with the FCPS Chairman Karen Corbett Sanders and Vice Chairman Tamara Derenak Kaufax to continue to advocate for our students am having conversations around COVID19 and its impact on our schools.
I was pleased to join FCPS School Board member Abrar Omeish on Facebook for a Q&A on April 23. You can watch the meeting on her Facebook page.
I have also met with the Washington Area Boards of Education school board representatives earlier this week. The Chairs of the region’s school boards discussed a number of issues including distance learning, summer programming and possibilities for the SY20-21. While no decisions have been made, these are all important issues we are following. I am looking forward to the FCPS School Board meeting on May 11 at 1:30 as they discuss possibilities for returning to school in the fall.
While we have seen some challenges, there have been places of hope and celebration. The tireless work of our school staff, administrators, technology specialists and teachers cannot be recognized enough. On this last day of Teacher Appreciation Week, please know how thankful the City of Fairfax School Board is for our school leaders.
I want to say thank you to our City of Fairfax Schools Superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Pajardo and her staff for working during these unprecedented times. Although the City offices are closed, Dr. Pajardo has been tirelessly meeting with members of the FCPS staff working on behalf of our students. Dr. Pajardo successfully advocated to have meal distribution at two city schools and one bus route. She and her staff have been in our buildings ensuring critical work is being completed. In addition, the City staff has worked with Fairfax City’s budget team to look for reductions to assist with the sudden economic downturn. In July, we will be update our community to where we will see reductions in our budget and Capital Improvement Plan as we continue to monitor the City budget and its impact on our schools.
I would also like to take the time to say thank you to A Place to Stand. This fantastic group is not only the backbone of our food pantries in our schools, but have been delivering food to over 250 City school families during the closure. Please go to their website to see all the wonderful work they have been doing and how you can help.
As a parent of a high school senior myself, I certainly understand the impact the COVID19 pandemic has on our Class of 2020. Our board and staff continues to celebrate seniors – from our FHS Senior Stories to our Janice Miller Scholarship winner to our annual student recognition in June, we are proud of this extraordinary class of 600 seniors. I am currently working with members of City Council and our community to see what other ways we can honor the students if a formal graduation ceremony will not be possible. We will keep you updated on these developments.
Our website contains information such as how to contact us, how to help those in need and recent news with our schools. I want to say thank you to all of our hard working administrators and teachers who have navigated these waters with grace and grit for our students.
The City School Board is available to any of our City residents or city school community members. Please stay home, stay safe and stay connected. I know I speak for the entire Board when I say we look forward to reconnecting when conditions improve.
Please do not hesitate to email with questions or concerns.
Carolyn Pitches, M.Ed.
City of Fairfax School Board