APS Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services as of June 21, 2022

Section 1: Introduction

The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s students by addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. This plan describes how Arlington Public Schools will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. Questions about this plan should be directed to Joanne Uyeda, Interim Chief Academic Officer (email: arpafunds@apsva.us).

To ensure a safe start to the school year, layered prevention strategies will be in place in all schools, including wearing a mask while indoors. APS encourages everyone to get vaccinated when eligible. APS will continue to review and adjust our policies in accordance with guidance from the CDC, VDH and VDOE.

Section 2: Maintaining Health and Safety

Arlington Public Schools has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and division staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. A description of actions already taken and additional actions planned is below.

Prevention Strategies

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all members of the school community participate in strategies to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. APS has committed to the following prevention strategies as outlined by the CDC.

In addition, Arlington Public Schools has adopted policies on each of the following safety recommendations established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Universal Masks to Start the School Year – To help ensure a safe start to the school year, masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, when inside APS buildings and on school buses. This is consistent with our current practices for in-person summer school. Masks will not be required when eating or during outside recess, PE, athletics, or other outdoor activities. Universal masks are part of a layered approach to help our schools stay open and safe, and to ensure all students can safely return to our buildings, especially when physical distancing is not possible at all times and not all our students are eligible yet for vaccinations. Key points:

  •  We will continue to regularly review our masking practices and other health and safety measures to keep them in line with national, state and local health recommendations. As guidance changes, we will keep the community informed of any changes to our practices. Learn more about our masking requirements and health and safety measures.
  • Masking helps to reduce the number of students who may be excluded or miss school due to exposures to COVID-19. Per the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a student who is within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student is not considered a close contact as long as both students are wearing masks and the school has other prevention strategies in place.
  • Universal masking for the start of the school year aligns with the latest CDC guidance, and the recommendations of local and state public health authorities, to help ensure all students can safely return to school buildings.
  • The Arlington County Public Health Division, in alignment with other regional health departments, recommends universal masking at the elementary level and in specific situations at the middle and high school level. Read the Northern Virginia Public Health Directors’ Interim Recommendations for School Reopening.

Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding) – Schools will implement distancing to the extent possible in schools; however, distancing consistently will not be possible. Masking and other strategies will help protect the school community in classrooms and spaces where distancing is not possible.

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette – Schools continue to provide ample opportunity for students to wash their hands during key times of the day (e.g., before meals, after recess, after bathroom breaks, etc.) while teaching and reinforcing appropriate respiratory etiquette.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation – APS custodial staff will clean and sanitize the school building regularly. Custodians use hospital grade disinfectant and sanitizing products every day. The following steps are performed to maximize our sanitizing efforts:

  •  Increased cleaning or restrooms and high-touch surfaces/points such as door handles
  •  Cleaning chairs and tables in between cafeteria shifts where relevant
  •  Daytime custodians have been instructed to continuously disinfect and sanitize all touch points throughout the day.

The school division adopted the ASHREA COVID-19 ventilation guidelines last year which include:

  •  Targeting 4-6 ACH (air changes per hour) for classroom spaces○ Continuing operations of CACDs (Certified Air Cleaning Devices) in classroom spaces
  •  Maximizing outside air ventilation to the greatest extent possible
  •  Operating ventilation systems pre and post occupancy for 2 hours
  •  Allowing windows to be open when outside conditions allow
  •  Increasing air filtration to the highest level possible (MERV-13)

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments – The school division in conjunction with Arlington County Public Health conducts contact tracing for positive cases within the schools. Individuals may be required to quarantine if they are exposed to a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

If more than half a class is in quarantine or isolation because of an exposure or positive/probable diagnosis, the entire class will transition to remote learning. For middle and high school, that particular course will be taught remotely and the remainder of a student’s courses would be provided as asynchronous work.

Diagnostic and screening testing – Arlington Public Schools provides symptomatic and exposure related testing via appointment and asymptomatic based testing through a strategized surveillance program. Trained staff provide a mid-nasal swab testing using a PCR pooled test strategy.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities – We encourage all families who have eligible members including students to obtain an approved COVID-19 vaccine through a healthcare provider or Arlington County Public Health. For more information on how to get vaccinated visit Arlington County Public Health website.

Appropriate accommodations are made for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policy, All policies concerning related topics are coordinated with state and local health officials.

Section 3: Continuity of Services

Arlington Public Schools has taken and will continue to take actions to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs.

We recognize the trauma our students have experienced in the pandemic and are taking a tiered approach to identify, support and address student needs related to their social emotional learning and mental health. At the beginning of the school year, school counselors will have at least one check-in with all students to assess their mental health and to provide trauma-based support. Students, teachers, and families are encouraged to seek additional support from school mental health staff if needed. All mental health staff will be accessible both virtually and in-person.


ATSS is a framework for meeting the needs of all students, and it will be used this year to guide our SEL lessons and strategies. The focus of ATSS is to address the whole child and what supports students’ need to be successful academically, socially-emotionally, and behaviorally. Below are the three tiers of activities, beginning with tier 1, which is the baseline SEL support all students receive. Additional supports are added in tiers 2 and 3 based on student mental health needs.


TIER 1 (bottom of pyramid) – Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Every Student (80-85% of all students)

  •  SEL Lessons on a weekly basis through morning meeting and/or closing circle (K-5) and advisory period (6-12)
  •  Universal screener● Culturally responsive and inclusive environments● Parent and community partnerships
  •  Systematic, positive reinforcement
  •  Data planning
  •  Schoolwide SEL framework (i.e., Responsive Classroom, PBIS, etc.)
  •  Regular lessons from school counselors as part of a comprehensive school counseling program

TIER 2 (middle of pyramid) – Interventions or Extensions (5-10% of students)

  •  Weekly Check Ins with counseling team
  •  Targeted social skills instruction
  •  Check in/Check out
  •  Coordinated referral process
  •  Progress monitoring
  •  Social/academic support groups
  •  One-on-one and/or small group counseling
  •  Functional Behavior Assessment
  •  Intervention plan
  •  Suicide Risk/Threat Assessment
  •  Crisis Intervention/Response
  •  Psychological Assessment/IEP Planning
  •  Transition Planning
  •  Wraparound services
  •  Coordination with Community Providers

TIER 3 – (top of pyramid) Intensive support (1-5% of students)

  •  Crisis Intervention/Response
  •  Functional Behavior Assessment
  •  Suicide Risk/Threat Assessment
  •  Wraparound services
  •  Coordination with Community Providers

SEL Standards and CASEL Competencies


Implementing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is essential for us to help our students reconnect and to move forward with success. In July 2021, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released a uniform definition of social emotional learning and SEL Standards for K-12 students. These standards are based on Collaborative for Academic Social-Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) five competencies: Self-Management, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Decision Making. The research on the impact of social-emotional learning (VDOE, 2021) demonstrates that students participating in evidence-based SEL programs have:

 Improved classroom attitudes and behavior   Improved school performance
  •  Better sense of community
  •  More class participation
  •  Stronger pro-social skills
  •  Improved attendance
  •  Better understanding of consequences
  •  Better coping skills
  •  Increased attitude toward school & learning
  •  Improved school attendance



  •  Higher achievement test scores and higher grades
  •  Improved meta-cognition skills
  •  Improved problem-solving, planning, and reasoning skills
  •  Improvements in reading comprehension





What is accelerated learning?

Accelerated learning allows APS teachers to focus on teaching students current grade-level material, while reinforcing skills and concepts from the previous level that are necessary to master the new content. It builds on students’ prior knowledge and experiences and aims to make learning accessible.

How will we approach it?

As teachers work to accelerate student learning, they will:

1. Plan instruction utilizing reframed APS curriculum documents that emphasize the most critical skills and knowledge for each course or grade level

2. Work in Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs) to plan meaningful and engaging instruction for all students with diverse learning needs

3. Prioritize the teaching of identified power standards which vertically align to the previous and next grade level.

4. Utilize scaffolding strategies to help students with diverse learning needs master the key concepts in grade-level content

5. Determine students’ unfinished learning and identify any learning gaps through the use of assessments (Ex: ELA will assess students’ foundational reading skills using DIBELS)

6. Address the identified key gaps during learning. This work will not be done in isolation or through a separate remediation program, but during current instruction at the appropriate time.

7. Provide targeted interventions to address significant learning gaps

8. Gather formative data to gauge students’ understanding and use it to inform ongoing planning with collaborative teams

9. Monitor student progress and provide modifications and supports based on results

10. Utilize new resources to address identified learning gaps

11. Provide targeted, explicit, and specially designed instruction to SWD to address IEP and/or Recovery Service goals

12. Monitor progress on IEP and/or Recovery Service Goals for SWD using ongoing data

13. Communicate content and language learning targets in student-friendly language accessible to students’ English Language Proficiency (ELP) levels

14. Provide instruction appropriately scaffolded for English Learners in alignment with their ELP levels

Students will:

1. Receive grade-level material and tasks, along with any necessary scaffolds to make the work accessible.

2. Engage in meaningful instruction that uses a variety of approaches, such as: hands-on activities, cooperative learning, and project-based learning

3. Demonstrate their understanding through various forms of assessments, including performance tasks

4. Work collaboratively with their peers to learn rigorous content

5. Engage in small group instruction to focus on specific skills and/or IEP goals

6. Set goals for content and language learning (specific for English Learners)

7. Engage in sustained reciprocal conversation targeting content and language goals (specific for English Learners)

FREE MEALS continue for all students. Although school meals are provided free to all children, school funding and eligibility for other programs depends on completed meal applications.

Section 4: Opportunity for Public Comment

In developing the ARP ESSER Plan, Arlington Public Schools sought public input and took such input into account as described below.

Input from the community is taken through the Engage! page of the APS website.

Section 5: Periodic Review and Revision of Plan

During the period of the ARP ESSER award (until September 2023), Arlington Public Schools will periodically review and, as needed, revise its plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. The plan will be reviewed at least every six months, and Arlington Public Schools will seek and take into account public input during the review process. Plan revisions will address updated CDC guidance on safely reopening schools, if any are issued.

Section 6: Making the Plan Available to the Public

Arlington Public Schools has taken the following steps to make this plan available to the public:

  •  The plan is posted at https://www.apsva.us/budget-finance/arpa-esser-fund-info/
  •  The plan is available in multiple languages
  •  The plan may be orally translated for parents. Contact Leslie Peterson at arpafunds@apsva.us to request translation.
  •  Upon request, a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA may be provided with the plan in an alternative format accessible by contacting Leslie Peterson at arpafunds@apsva.us.

More information: Leslie Peterson, Assistant Superintendent, Finance and Management Services (email: arpafunds@apsva.us)