Fairfax County students are entering “a strong fortress against COVID-19” as schools reopened Monday for in-person learning, said Scott Brabrand, superintendent of the state's largest school district. 

While masked students trickled through the front doors of Mount Vernon High School on Monday morning, Brabrand stood in front of the building and told reporters about the need for the school system to double down on safety measures, such as requiring universal masking and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to routine tests, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in-person.

“I'm confident we can manage a successful return to school in person and stay in person the school year,” the superintendent told InsideNoVa.

Across Virginia, K-12 public school students and teachers are required to wear masks because of Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandate. But only late last week did Fairfax say it would require its more than 24,000 employees to submit to receiving a COVID vaccine or undergo regular testing. 

“As the Delta variant continued to increase some people's anxiety, we felt the vaccination mandate was another strategy to help really lessen that anxiety as we start school in person and it's simply the right thing to do,” Brabrand said. 

The state has not issued a mandate that teachers or students need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

More details about how often unvaccinated employees would be tested will be released over the next couple of weeks Brabrand said. The vaccination requirement will go into effect Oct. 1. 

“We've had mandates for vaccinations for a host of diseases for years and years,” Brabrand said. “And now COVID is just going to join a long list of things that we require people to be vaccinated for to perform their duties and to perform them well, but also safely.”

The delay in requiring vaccines a month after the start of the school year, according to Braband, is because more time is needed to make sure things such as testing are properly set up beforehand.

Students who have documented medical and health conditions have been given the option to continue their education virtually, but only about 400 students are going that route, Brabrand said. The school system has about 188,000 students, making it the largest in Virginia. 

 “CDC guidelines don't have any other recommendations for kids other than to have them back in person in school; the American Academy for pediatricians recommended last spring and still recommends that kids need to be back in school in person," he added. "But we have provided those with immunocompromised kids with documented health concerns, we provided a virtual option for them this year if they want it.”

Students who do end up contracting COVID may need to quarantine. But decisions about who will need to quarantine and for how long will be left to the Fairfax County Health Department, Brabrand said. 

“And while kids are quarantining, they will have access to asynchronous instruction,” Braband said. “All of our teacher materials and lessons they'll be able to email the teacher. So, we're gonna do everything we can to keep kids on pace with learning, even if they have to step away for just a bit.”

Hiring bus drivers has been a challenge for Fairfax and other school systems this year.  Last week, the Fairfax school system said it was encouraging parents to drive their children to school if possible.  

Brabrand said Monday the school system has identified a small number of schools where buses will do two runs in order to make up for the shortage of drivers.

"And we're really taking a fresh look at what else we can do to make it attractive for folks in our community that want to come and become yellow angels to become bus drivers and really help kids during this pandemic getting reconnected in school in person," he added. "Everything will be on the table to look at in terms of compensation."

(1) comment

George Lawton

What a clown in this picture with his stupid mask on LOL…all complete theater

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