Superintendent’s Feb. 23 Return-to-School Update

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Dear APS Families,

We look forward to welcoming our earliest learners back next week. Our buildings are ready, mitigation steps are in place, and we look forward to moving ahead together. I am also encouraged that we continue to see metrics improve in Arlington County and throughout Northern Virginia. As of today, our 14-day case rate per 100,000 has dropped to 259.3 and our test positivity rate is below 5 percent.

Below is return-to-school information to help families prepare.

Student Health Symptom Screener Launches March 1 – A daily health screening will be required for all students attending in-person instruction. APS is using the Qualtrics platform to pre-screen staff and student health prior to arrivals at bus stops and at schools. Beginning March 1, all parents/guardians will receive a daily online symptom screener (one per student) guiding them through questions they must answer before their student arrives at the bus or attends school or school-based activities.

  • The daily screening and exposure questions will be sent to every parent/guardian via email and text at 5:30 a.m., for each student, whether your student is in distance learning or in person.
  • The health screening tool is available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Mongolian and Spanish.
  • Students who are unable to complete the symptom screener prior to arrival at a bus stop or school will be required to complete it before being allowed to start the day.
  • Students who do not pass the health screening will be excluded from in-person participation and will need to be cleared by a physician and/or the Arlington County Public Health Division, before returning.
  • While all families will receive the screener seven days per week, only those who are participating in athletics or other school-sponsored activities will be required to complete it on Saturdays and or Sundays.

More information is available online including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and tutorials in English and Spanish.

COVID Response and Testing – We have posted information about testing and response procedures online. COVID-19 testing will be provided for students and staff, both symptomatic and asymptomatic. We have collaborated with Arlington County Public Health provide for symptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools and offices. A plan for asymptomatic testing is being developed as well.

  • Parents/legal guardians will be required to OPT-IN to have their students tested in school if they are showing symptoms during the school day.
  • More information regarding asymptomatic testing will be provided as we work with partners to ensure effective and efficient asymptomatic testing is available for our staff and students.

Schedule Updates in March and April – To better support both students and teachers, we are adjusting the schedule as follows:

  • Friday, March 5 will be a teacher planning day for grades 3-12 as teachers prepare for delivering concurrent instruction.
    • March 5 will be a no school day for 3rd-12th grade students as well as PEP students at the Career Center.
    • Students in PreK-2nd grade and those who attend Montessori Public School of Arlington will attend school as planned via distance learning or in the hybrid model on March 5.
    • Specials teachers will instruct PreK-2nd grade classes and will use time when they would normally instruct grades 3-5 to plan for hybrid instruction.
  • Monday, April 5 will be a synchronous, distance learning day for all students, to support uninterrupted instruction during the final week of third quarter. The additional synchronous day allows students five days to access their teachers with week of April 5 to ensure that their 3rd quarter grades are representative of their learning and performance.

School Resource Officer (SRO) Program Update – As we reopen for more students in March, I want to make families aware that APS is currently pausing having SROs return to school buildings, pending our review of a new Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) body camera policy.

  • We are currently reviewing this policy to ensure our existing SRO partnership agreement with the ACPD is appropriately updated with guidelines for how the cameras are to be used in schools by SROs.
  • Our goal is to complete that review and ensure the use of the footage complies with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and there are clear expectations for when body cameras are used in schools. Once that is completed in collaboration with ACPD, we will provide an update on the transition plan for having SROs back in schools. We will continue to partner with ACPD for traffic management, outdoor athletic events and other outside of school hours events as needed.

Additional Family Communications This Week – Over the coming days additional return-to-school information will be shared regarding the hybrid/in-person student returns, including:

  • A transportation video in English and Spanish highlighting changes in routes and stops, with schedules being posted in ParentVUE this Fri, Feb. 26.
  • Health and safety procedures and other protocols will be updated on the website to help families know what to expect at school.
  • Reminders on the importance of proper and consistent mask usage – Please talk with your students about proper and consistent mask usage. APS is requiring that all staff and students wear a face covering/mask during the school day and while participating in school activities. APS will provide every student with two face coverings/masks that meet guidelines. See the APS Mask Policy.

We know every transition brings different emotions for all, and that many have looked forward to this transition for some time. We are looking forward to seeing more students in person soon and continuing to support all students. Please continue to share your feedback as we make yet another major transition in our school year.


Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools