Superintendent’s Sept. 15 Update: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

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Dear APS Community,

It is inspiring to see the great work happening across APS to help our students grow academically, socially and emotionally. I have had the opportunity to visit classes and see teachers and Collaborative Learning Teams in action, as they work on assessments and develop strategies to accelerate student learning. We will continue to share highlights of the work happening across our schools in the coming weeks, specifically in the priority areas of learning recovery and mental health. Here are important health reminders and additional updates for the week ahead:

  • Do Your Part to Keep School Open and Safe: While the recommended mitigation measures help us reduce the spread of the virus, every member of our community plays a role in keeping schools open and safe. Our collective goal is to continue to provide in-person school safely. That takes all of us. Please do your part. Take the daily health screening seriously, answer the questions honestly, and do not send your student to school if they are ill or have COVID-like symptoms. When there are confirmed COVID cases in schools, notices are sent to the school community, and individuals identified as close contacts receive detailed instructions on quarantine procedures. This data is tracked on our exclusion dashboard.
  • Mandatory Vaccinations for Staff Now in Effect: Monday was the compliance deadline for employees to verify their vaccination status. So far, 65 percent of all staff have verified they have been fully vaccinated. We are currently working to verify the status of the remaining employees who have not completed the verification process. Unvaccinated employees with approved exemptions will begin testing this week.
  • Mandatory Vaccinations for Student Athletes: Last Thursday, I announced that APS will require all students participating in high school sports (including 8th graders) to be vaccinated, effective November 8 (start of Winter Season). Student athletes who have an approved exemption will be required to submit to regular testing. APS will communicate with families about this requirement in the coming weeks.
  • COVID Testing: Our opt-in COVID testing program started Monday. The schedule for each school is online. I want to clarify a few points:
    • This is strategic asymptomatic testing which helps with COVID-19 detection and is a key strategy to keep our schools open and safe.
    • This is NOT randomized testing. Students and staff who have opted in for this will be tested every week at the set time for their work/school location. Students whose parents/guardians have not completed the consent forms will not be tested.
    • To date, more than 5,000 students have signed up to receive the testing. Individuals who miss their time window will be eligible to go on the same day or the next day to Kenmore’s dedicated site. The latest information is available online.
  • Virtual Learning Program (VLP) Update: VLP administrators are continuing to work to ensure every enrolled student is actively engaging in their learning. Strides have been made to correct issues that occurred at the start of school, and families can view daily updates. We value the engagement and partnership with VLP families and remain committed to the success of this new program and its students.
  • Hispanic Heritage Month: Today kicks off the national Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, which occurs annually from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. View this kick-off video to learn why this month is so meaningful in APS. We honor our Latinx students and the many Hispanic Americans who have enriched and made positive differences in our schools, community and culture. We also celebrate high school Latinx student leaders chosen by their principals for their outstanding achievements. They will be featured online throughout the month and at the Oct. 14 School Board meeting.

Also, a brief reminder that we celebrate Yom Kippur as a holiday for students and staff tomorrow, Thur. Sept. 16. In observance of the holiday, no school-based activities will be scheduled on Thursday, and no assessments that require student preparation will be given on Friday. Have a great week.


Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools