GMHS in-person school delayed until new building and new year

Liam Timar-Wilcox, News Editor

Dr. Noonan presenting in a Zoom meeting with information about the reopening plan
Dr. Peter Noonan presents to the Falls Church School Board, recommending that GMHS students return in the new building.

“I am recommending that we hold on bringing back 6 – 12 students until the end of the first semester,” announced Falls Church Superintendent Peter Noonan during the September 22 school board meeting. This decision was made for a variety of reasons, including the timing of the completion of the new George Mason building, and a desire to prioritize kindergarten through fifth grade students.

For the majority of George Mason High School students, this means they can expect to continue online instruction until the start of the second semester, at which time in-person school may resume in the newly completed George Mason High School building.

infographic about reopening
Infographic by Liam Timar-Wilcox

The new George Mason building is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the second semester, and the reopening plan has been changed to reflect that. Dr. Noonan expressed that he was hesitant to ask teachers to set up classrooms in the old building, and them ask them to move to the new school immediately afterwards.

For some students, this plan is accelerated for some students in Falls Church who are set to begin a hybrid model on October 6. This includes life skills students, those in therapeutic day programs, students who have over 50% of their educational time in special education, hearing, vision, and orthopedically impaired students, and some ESOL students. This number of students is around 80 for all of FCCPS. School hours will be 8:05 to 1:05 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Safety measures will be followed. These include masks required when within 6 feet of people, efforts to maintain social distancing, temperature checks before entering buses or buildings, tents to support outdoor learning, an adjusted ventilation system, and sanitization of surfaces. 

Elementary school students will be in the second wave of students to return. The exact date is still undetermined, but is planned for November. Kindergarten and third grade students will be the first to go back, followed by second and third, then fourth and fifth. Dr. Noonan expressed that his goal is to have all elementary students in a hybrid model of 2 in person days a week by the first part of December, and all FCCPS students in a hybrid model by the second semester.