Information Requests—FOIA

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

Requests for Records Pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act

FOIA provides the public with access to existing non-exempt official records of a public agency, but does not require the division to generate or create records, nor respond to inquiries for information. Certain categories of records may be withheld under FOIA, such as personnel records; student records; tests and examinations used to evaluate student or employee performance; records relating to the security of students, staff, and property; records protected from disclosure under the attorney-client or work-product privileges; the Superintendent's working papers; closed session materials, etc.

Your FOIA Rights

  • You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of non-exempt public records, or both.
  • You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
  • If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you can file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, you can contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

Making a Request for Records from PWCS

All requests for official public records made under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act shall be directed and/or delivered to the division's FOIA Compliance Officer, who has been designated as such pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3704.1 (A) (2), as follows.


Soledad Araya, FOIA Officer
Prince William County Public Schools
P.O. Box 389
Manassas, VA 20108
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 571-402-3150
Fax: 703-498-2002

You can request records through U.S. mail, fax, email, in person, or over the phone. From a practical perspective, it is helpful to you and PWCS to have your request in writing. This allows you to create a record of your request and assists PWCS in understanding exactly what records you are requesting and expediting a response.

Such requests should be dated, and must state with "reasonable specificity" the documents requested so that PWCS can identify and locate the records you are seeking. You must provide your name and legal address when making a request. You can choose to receive electronic records in any format used by PWCS in the regular course of business.

PWCS Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

  • We must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it. "Day one" is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends, holidays, or days PWCS is otherwise closed for business (e.g., "Code Red" days). FOIA requires that PWCS make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
  1. We will provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  2. We will withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
  3. We will provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must also provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
  4. We will inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for that public body in our response to you.
  5. If it is practically impossible for PWCS to respond to your request within the five-day period, we must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
  • If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before we go to court to ask for more time.

Records Maintained by PWCS

The following is a general description of the types of records held by PWCS:

  • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the school division.
  • Scholastic records of students attending PWCS schools.
  • Contracts between PWCS and vendors.

If you are unsure whether PWCS has the record(s) you seek, please contact the FOIA Officer, Soledad Araya, at [email protected].

Commonly Used Exemptions

The following are a few of the most commonly used exemptions from the Code of Virginia, this is not an all-inclusive list. For all potential exemptions, please see Chapter 37 of the Code of Virginia:

  • Records requested by individuals who are not citizens of Virginia or representatives of the media § 2.2-3704(A)
  • Personnel records § 2.2-3705.1(1): Personnel records containing information concerning identifiable individuals, except that access shall not be denied to the person who is the subject thereof.
  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege § 2.2-3705.1(2): Written advice of legal counsel to state, regional or local public bodies or the officers or employees of such public bodies, and any other information protected by the attorney-client privilege.
  • Attorney-Client work product § 2.2-3705.1(3): Legal memoranda and other work product compiled specifically for use in litigation or for use in an active administrative investigation concerning a matter that is properly the subject of a closed meeting under § 2.2-3711.
  • Appraisals and cost estimates of real property subject to a proposed sale, purchase, or lease §2.2-3705.1 (8)
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded § 2.2-3705.1(12)
  • Account numbers or routing information for any credit card, debit card, or other account with a financial institution of any person or public body. However, access shall not be denied to the person who is the subject of the information. For the purposes of this subdivision, "financial institution" means any organization authorized to do business under state or federal laws relating to financial institutions, including, without limitation, banks and trust companies, savings banks, savings and loan companies or associations, and credit unions. § 2.2-3705.1(13)
  • Proprietary Information § 2.2-3705.6(3): Proprietary information, voluntarily provided by private business pursuant to a promise of confidentiality from a public body, used by the public body for business, trade, and tourism development or retention; and memoranda, working papers, or other information related to businesses that are considering locating or expanding in Virginia, prepared by a public body, where competition or bargaining is involved and where disclosure of such information would adversely affect the financial interest of the public body.
  • Scholastic records § 2.2-3705.4(1): Scholastic records containing information concerning identifiable individuals, except that such access shall not be denied to the person who is the subject thereof or the parent or legal guardian of the student. However, no student shall have access to (i) financial records of a parent or guardian or (ii) records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and educational personnel ancillary thereto, that are in the sole possession of the maker thereof and that are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a substitute.

Policy Regarding the Use of Exemptions

Since exemptions exist to protect some compelling public interest (such as the privacy of individuals, personally identifiable information of students, or PWCS’ bargaining position in an ongoing negotiation or discussion), it is inevitable that PWCS will need to rely on exemptions in many cases. For that reason, it is PWCS’ general practice to invoke all exemptions that are applicable to any request for records. This practice ensures that we treat all constituents the same way to the greatest extent possible.


A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.

You may have to pay for the records that you request from PWCS. PWCS makes reasonable charges not to exceed its actual costs incurred in searching, accessing, duplicating, and supplying, the requested records. This includes items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. When assessing charges for accessing or searching for requested records, PWCS does not use a flat fee or a flat rate. To ensure charges are accurate, it is PWCS policy to use the equivalent of the responsible employee(s)’s hourly rate of pay multiplied by the number of hours the responsible employee(s) estimate it will take to collect the records. Additional charges, determined with the same formula, may be included depending on the need to redact the responsive records to the extent permitted by FOIA. You have the right to request that an estimated cost of production be provided in advance when you submit a request. PWCS will work with you to minimize the cost of producing records, including by waiving charges for requests that take less than 30 minutes, by using administrative or clerical staff whenever possible. and by working with the requester to clarify requests to ensure only records responsive to your request are collected.

If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we can require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that we have to respond to your request do not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.

Before processing a request for records, PWCS will require the requester to pay any amounts owed for previous records requests that have remained unpaid for 30 days or more after billing.

How to Request Information Informally

Citizens and members of the media are encouraged to submit informal requests for information and documents relating to the school division directly to the Communications Department at [email protected]. These requests will be handled as expeditiously as possible, but will not be considered requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act, or any other formal legal vehicle.

Submit an informal request for information to [email protected].

This notice complies with the posting requirements of Va. Code § 2.2-3704.1.