Superintendent’s Jan. 5, 2022 Update: COVID-19 Updates

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Dear APS Families,

We look forward to having students back in school after an extended break and hope they (and you) were able to enjoy the snow. We are working with the County, doing everything we can to open tomorrow—snow removal crews are working extended shifts amid staffing shortages to clear the neighborhood roads for buses to safely pass.

While this is not the way we planned our first week of the new year, we are committed to ensuring every student has a strong start back in 2022, prioritizing instruction and the health and wellbeing of our community.

I want to remind you that we are committed to keeping schools open for in-person instruction, in accordance with guidance from the Virginia Departments of Education and Health, the CDC, and the Arlington County Public Health Division.

Here are health reminders and other updates:

Layered Mitigation: The emergence of the Omicron variant further underscores the importance of universal masking and layered mitigation to reduce transmission in school:

  • Ensure your student has plenty of well-fitting masks. We will continue to require everyone to wear masks inside our buildings and on buses, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Remind your student to wash hands frequently. Schools have soap and hand sanitizer available.
  • Complete the Qualtrics screener daily and keep your student home if they are sick.
  • Outdoor lunch will continue to the extent possible, weather permitting, so ensure your child comes to school dressed warmly.

Masks and At-Home Test Kit Supplies Ordered: We have ordered a supply of KN95 masks, particulate filters for an APS provided mask, and at-home rapid antigen test kits for every staff member and student. Supplies for these items are limited but we anticipate them soon and will send additional communication when available.

Vaccine Boosters for 12+: If your child has not been vaccinated, take advantage of the clinics across the area to get them vaccinated. The FDA has authorized COVID vaccine boosters for 12-to-15-year-olds; it is now under CDC review. The FDA also shortened to five months the time required between the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a booster shot and cleared third doses for some younger children with impaired immune systems. We will share details when available.

Opt-In for Weekly COVID Testing: We have transitioned to CIAN Diagnostics to administer free, weekly surveillance testing for students in school – this requires a new consent form. I strongly encourage all families to opt your students in by filling out the consent form online. Have your child’s student ID ready to complete the quick form. This is a free test administered via nasal swab in each school one day per week and helps us detect asymptomatic COVID cases early to reduce disease transmission.

Quarantine and Isolation Guidance: UPDATE: We will hold on implementing the CDC’s revised quarantine and isolation guidance, in consultation with the Arlington County Public Health Division. We will continue to follow the existing guidelines regarding returning to school following exposure. Additional guidance will be provided should your student be identified as a close contact.

Reverting to Distance Learning: It is possible that some individual classrooms may need to revert to distance learning for short periods of time, and those decisions will be made in consultation with Public Health. You will be contacted by your school should this happen. It’s a good practice for devices to be carried home every day.

Instruction During Quarantine: Guidance regarding instruction during quarantine is available online.  I know there are many questions about various circumstances families are encountering following the break.

Here are a few reminders:

  • Please complete the Qualtrics health screener daily and keep your student home from school if they are not feeling well, regardless of vaccination status. I cannot stress this enough.
  • If your student is symptomatic and awaiting test results, please have your student stay home until they receive their results.
  • If your student has been in contact with someone who has tested positive but is asymptomatic, please stay home until you have received a negative test result.
  • Anyone who is asymptomatic and was not exposed to anyone with COVID but chooses to take a COVID test, does not need to wait for test results to come to school.

As always, please follow the parent guide and process outlined on the website should your child test positive. If your child tested positive for COVID during the holidays and has been cleared by a medical professional or the Health Department, you do not need to notify your school. These continue to be challenging times for our schools and community, and I appreciate your cooperation and partnership as we move forward.

Dr. Francisco Durán