At 11:34 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand notified the community that all FCPS schools would be closed on Friday, March 13. Numerous petitions and other protest activities planned and signed by FCPS students and parents likely influenced Dr. Brabrand’s decision; his reason for the closure was to “ease parent, staff, and student anxiety”. At 4 p.m. the next day, Brabrand announced that all FCPS schools would be closed through April 10. The message that schools would be closed for four weeks was met with joy and relief by students at Jefferson and beyond.
Although many FCPS staff, parents, and students believe that closing schools was the best decision for the community’s health and safety, not all academic-related stress disappears when school closes. When notifying the community of school closures, FCPS did not reveal whether or not students’ final grades during the 3rd quarter grading period would retain the values they held at the time of the closure.
“I’m pretty worried, because I was counting on third quarter to bring some grades up, and [I] needed to retake a test… but we didn’t get it back before schools closed, and it’s [seriously] bringing my grade down,” sophomore Sameeksha Garg said.
According to Brabrand, FCPS “will promote digital and online resources to FCPS students that will help student learning continue. This work will not be required nor graded.” Students at Jefferson, who have for months been immersed in a rigorous curriculum and competitive learning environment, have newfound free time. Some students have chosen to use this time to relax, or pursue hobbies they abandoned after beginning school in late August.
“Ultimately… health is the most important thing, and I’m glad that we’re taking these preventative measures,” junior Emma Cheng said. “There isn’t much anything I can do about grades at the moment, so instead I’m just going to try to relax and do the things I usually don’t have time for.”
Brabrand released a message on Thursday, March 19 that mentions the third quarter grading issue on students’ minds.
“We know there are questions about third quarter grading,” Brabrand said. “We are working with our principals to develop a plan for grading and will communicate that information to you as soon as we can.”
Although Brabrand acknowledged the uncertainty the FCPS community is facing over third quarter grades, he has not yet provided a definite answer, even to FCPS faculty.
“Dr. Bonitatibus talked to the faculty about several options during our conference call this week, but [I am] not sure what Dr. Brabrand’s response was,” Dr. Scott, a Research Statistics 2 and AP Calculus AB teacher at Jefferson, said.
Despite continued ambiguity about grades, which are a constant source of stress for high school students and especially those at Jefferson, Cheng accepts the confusing situation and hopes for the best.
“It’s a difficult situation for pretty much everyone from an academic standpoint, not just students, but also teachers and administration,” Cheng said. “In any case, grades may seem critical to students right now, but as long as everyone stays safe and healthy, I think things will turn out okay.”