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About 7,000 students in pre-K & kindergarten return to Fairfax Co. classrooms this week

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 4 days ago Heather Graf (ABC7)
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About 7,000 students in pre-K and kindergarten will return to the classroom this week in Fairfax County Public Schools.  Those are students whose parents chose the hybrid learning model, which means they'll get two days a week of in-person instruction.

All-virtual learning remains an option for families who don't yet feel comfortable sending their kids into school buildings.

For those returning to the classroom, FCPS has said there will be big focus on mitigation measures, such as face coverings, social distancing, and health screenings, along with frequent cleaning and disinfection.

"It's going to be a little different this year, and I think we all understand that, but I hope we can make it the best experience possible," said Fairfax County parent Kimberly Cody.  "Virtual is hard for kindergarten.  Seven hours a day on a computer is a lot for little kids."

Cody has a six-year-old son named Dillon, and says he is counting down the hours until he can begin in-person instruction at Kent Gardens Elementary in McLean.

"He's never even stepped foot inside his school," she said.  "I think the whole point of kindergarten is to make those social interactions.  Learning how to work together, how to raise their hand, how to talk to the teacher, interact with their peers.  I think it's critical that kindergarten is in-person."

RELATED: LIST: The latest on 2020-21 school year plans for D.C., Md., Va., and W.Va.

Since their family moved to Fairfax County this summer from out of state, she says Dillon and his older brother have not yet been able to meet any of their classmates.

"He's just super excited.  We were asked whether he wanted to ride the bus by himself because his older brother won't be going back for a few more weeks, and he said yes, that's part of kindergarten.  He said I'm ready to ride the school bus myself, I'm ready to walk inside the front doors," said Cody.  "We've been waiting, and he's ready to do it."

The current plan approved by the Fairfax County School Board brings students back to the classroom in phases over the next few weeks.

That return to school began last week, with career-based classes and special education students first to go back to school buildings in Fairfax County.  This week, those returning to the classroom include pre-k and kindergarten students ( two days/week in-person), along with early head start (4 days/week in-person)  and students with intensive support needs (4 days/week in-person).  

FCPS' plan calls for students who opted for hybrid learning to be back in the classroom in all grade levels by mid-March. To view the full timeline and rollout of the FCPS return to school plan, click here.

Cody says she has already been working with both of her sons to make sure they are prepared for mitigation measures and mask-wearing while in school.

"We wear them every time we go out, every time we're outside.  We have a hook right by the door.  You grab your mask, you put it on," she said.  "Because they know if they want to go to school, they've got to wear their mask."

ABC7 asked Cody what she thinks will be the biggest challenge about this transition to in-person learning.

"I think the biggest challenge for Dillon will be to have the six feet of distance, where you're not getting to play close to your classmates and not able to hug your teacher," she said, acknowledging that will take time for kids to get used to.

Under the hybrid learning plan, Dillon will get in-person instruction on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and do virtual learning the rest of the week.  His mom says it's a start, though she'd still like to see students back in school buildings five days a week.

"I think we just don't get that rhythm going when you only go in two days a week," she said.  "We want them to go back to school full time.  Five days a week would be ideal.  Eventually, that's what we want, to be back in-person full-time."

FCPS leadership has said five days a week of in-person instruction is not possible at this time, because they would not have enough space to socially distance every student.

For now, Cody said she's just grateful her son will be getting at least some face-to-face instruction.

"We've got our backpack filled, ready to go.  We've got a checklist from the teacher, we've got our hand sanitizer and our wipes.  We'll be there tomorrow first thing," she said.  "It's been a long time coming."

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