Optimism filled the air outside Mount Vernon High School on Monday morning, Aug. 23, as everyone, decked out with masks, celebrated the start
of a school year that might resemble normal; or at least more normal than last year.
“This is the most exciting first day of school in years,” said Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Scott Brabrand. “We’re prepared to meet the challenges.”
Over by the football field, Elise Swartz, 15, Madison Bell, 15, and Makayla Maxwell, 17, were all smiles even though those smiles weren’t that apparent under their masks. “We’re afraid we’re going back to virtual,” said Elise. “There was no motivation to do anything.”
Over by the front door, the cheerleaders, band and flag team set a celebratory mood. Brabrand was confident in the school system preparation, and the fact that eighty percent of the upper school students were vaccinated for Covid-19. There is talk that the younger students may be eligible soon, hopefully before the end of the year.
The school system’s new mandate is that everyone who works for FCPS is either vaccinated or is reporting to work with a negative COVID-19 test, the school system stated on the website.
Region 3 Assistant Superintendent Nardos King was at the first-day event at Mount Vernon too. She was affiliated with Mount Vernon High School from past school positions, and noted that "this school is in my heart." They recommended that all get vaccinated, in one of the many facilities available in the Mount Vernon area. "We want to make it as convenient as possible," King said.
The school system implemented “layered strategies,” for the safety of everyone. “The two most important things you can do to help us keep each other safe this year is to get vaccinated when you are eligible and wear a mask indoors.”
Inside the doors, there are steps taken to fight the spread of the coronavirus in accordance with guidelines released from the CDC. The water fountains, for example, are not to be used for drinking directly from the fountain. “We can only fill up our water bottles,” said Elanor Kolovos, a junior. “There are one-way signs everywhere,” added Ayra Islam, a senior.
Schools are helping unvaccinated students schedule an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination, and help them find out about pop-up clinics through the Fairfax County Health Department. COVID-19 vaccines are also available at health departments and retail pharmacies. Vaccines.gov is one resource to find a shot.
School Bus Shortage
Another thing the administration is dealing with involves the county shortage of school bus drivers this fall. Due to the bus driver shortage, FCPS is increasing “double back” bus runs, meaning a bus is required to run two scheduled routes back-to-back that would normally have been covered by two separate buses. These “double backs” are likely to impact delivery time to schools and bus stops, and could have a domino effect, affecting after-school drop-off times. To work with this temporary situation, they’re asking families and students to have patience and flexibility at the start of the school year and by checking the "Here Comes the Bus" app or "FCPS School Bus Delays" website for potential delays. Brabrand said they are adjusting salaries and compensation to hire more drivers. www.fcps.edu/careers/career-opportunities/bus-driver-employment-opportunities