Superintendent’s March 9 Return-to-School Update

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Dear APS Families,

Last week marked the start of a new chapter for our school community, as more staff and students returned to the classroom. This week, we welcome back grades 3-5, 6 and 9, and countywide secondary special education students for hybrid/in-person instruction. We remain focused on health and safety, and supporting all students, in person and in distance learning.Thank you all for staying engaged, providing feedback, and helping ensure students arriving at buses and schools are wearing masks, with their screeners completed and adhering to health and safety guidelines. Students have done an amazing job adapting to these transitions, and we are so proud of them all.

Below are a few quick updates this week:

COVID Notification Procedures – As more people attend in-person school and activities, I want to remind you of how staff and students will be notified of positive COVID-19 cases. If an in-person student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the school will send a general notification to staff and families at that school, and we will post the notice on the main APS website. The notification will inform families and staff that the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) will follow up with contact tracing and specific guidance for anyone identified as a close contact.

  • Based on guidance from the ACPHD, we may temporarily pause in-person instruction, athletics, or school activities for anyone identified as potentially exposed during the case investigation and contact tracing.
  • The investigation will determine close contacts and ACPHD will contact those individuals directly to provide the appropriate guidance, which may include quarantine. A close contact is defined as someone who has spent more than 15 minutes during a 24-hour period within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive.
  • More information on contact tracing procedures is available online. When contact tracing is complete, APS will send out a final notification letting the school community know that the process has been completed.

APS COVID-19 Dashboard Updates – APS maintains the COVID-19 Dashboard including documenting all positive cases and close contacts among staff and students at all schools. We continue to make enhancements as more students and staff return, including closely monitoring the dashboard format to provide useful data for the community. On Friday, March 5, the dashboard was updated to include exclusion data for students and staff, with total numbers, reported by week and in total since November. The dashboard links to building-level reports of close contacts and positive cases by school, using data pulled from the Qualtrics health screener.

Eating Outdoors – All APS schools are committed to the health and safety of staff and students and are following the guidance provided by the CDC and VDH for student dining during the school day. APS has strongly encouraged all schools to utilize outdoor spaces to help improve physical distancing during lunch in the hybrid model. We have provided guidance to help schools devise an outdoor lunch plan as an option for students, to the extent possible. While many schools are implementing those plans now, others are continuing to adjust their plans. Additional information on meal services and indoor and outdoor lunch guidance is available online.

Use of Playgrounds – We want to remind community members about community use for playgrounds and other facilities at our school buildings. While school is in session, the playgrounds are reserved for the use of APS students with limitations on numbers and other safety procedures in place for the school day. Even though there are only a few students in each building, we ask that community members refrain from using school grounds or using the school as a cut-through during school hours.

This Thursday’s School Board Meeting – I look forward to providing the 2020-21 SY Monitoring Report this Thursday at the March 11 School Board Meeting. Beginning this Thursday, regular School Board Meetings will be conducted in person, with limited attendance. Public Comment on Agenda and Non-Agenda items will be heard at the beginning of the meeting and will be limited to 1 hour. A maximum of 15 speakers will be allowed to comment in person and the remaining slots will be given to call-in speakers. A lottery process will continue to be used to select speakers if more requests than available slots are received. Details online.

Budget Timeline – The FY 2022 proposed budget, which I presented on Feb. 25, emphasizes support for education, equity, and compensation for employees. I hope you will follow the work sessions and public hearings, prior to School Board action on May 6. This evening, March 9, we will hold work session #2, beginning at 5 p.m., on Employee Advisory Groups, compensation, and Human Resources. The full budget document and budget development calendar are available online.

Thank you for your patience and support as we transition to in-person learning.


Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools