FCPS to stay open amidst fear of coronavirus

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Coronavirus can be spread by being in close quarters with people or surfaces that have been infected.

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Today, Superintendent Scott Braband announced that FCPS will not be preparing to close as a response to rising numbers of people infected with coronavirus, telling parents in an email that the risk in the area “remains low,” pointing out that the Northern Virginia area has 17 confirmed cases and that other school districts in the area have also decided to remain open.

Additionally, school field trips have been cancelled, in addition to extracurricular and after school activities.

Since the beginning of the year, the world has been plagued by the coronavirus, which originated in the Wuhuan province of China. 

Though other viruses related to coronavirus have been spread in the past, such as SARS in 2003, the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, has caused panic. 

Many universities have sent students home, extending spring breaks. Neighboring state Maryland has decided to shut down schools for two weeks. Districts in Washington state, which has recorded over 80 cases, have closed schools until April.

Here in Fairfax County, the response has been mild. In addition to the announcements made today, on Tuesday, the school board announced that Mon. March 16 will be a student holiday. 

On this day, teachers will have professional day to navigate the world of distance education if it becomes necessary to revert to having classes online in case of closures.

At Annandale, it was announced earlier today that tomorrow’s spring pep rally had been cancelled. Also, the FanQuest game and tailgate have been cancelled. 

As can be expected, the situation has caused panic amongst students and staff alike. 

“While closing the schools may be harsh for the students, as it may impact their belief to learn,” sophomore Christian Khouri said. “But the only thing that’s worse than overestimating a virus is to underestimate it. Closing schools is the right thing to do.”

A respiratory illness, the symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The disease is highly transmissible, as it can be passed on by close contact with an infected person and through touching an infected surface. 

The possibility of online schooling also raises many questions.

“I am concerned that students will not have access to their teachers and the routine structure that the school offers them, as it keeps them balanced,” English teacher Ana Dillon said. “Also, they won’t be able to eat. Some of our kids don’t have access to food at home, and some parents don’t have child care.” 

There is concern over how this situation will affect testing, such as SOLs and IB and AP exams. 

“What I’m concerned about is that moving to an online platform, which is necessary with the Coronavirus, but it will not be a sufficiently productive platform,” Psychology teacher Emilia Gillevet said. “Especially for my freshmen’s World History class, as some of them are struggling already. If we go online, I’m not sure how much work or material they’ll get to pass the SOL.”

Seniors are also worried about how this will change their last year of high school.

“People are upset because they’ve postponed all the games for spring sports, and then they are wondering what’s going to happen to things like prom and graduation,” senior Nia Lewis said.

However, some people’s hopes remain high.

“I think they will shut it down, and when that happens, I think it won’t be a long shut-down. And I think it will be short-lived, I hope, and we plan on administering as well as we could online and through technology, lessons to keep everybody appropriately educated during the break,” World History teacher Joseph Valentino said.