Coronavirus Update: March 6

Dear APS Parents and Guardians,

We are writing to provide you with additional information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the steps Arlington Public Schools (APS) is continuing to take to protect all staff and students.

This week, APS continued to stay in close contact with local health officials for guidance and convened a COVID-19 planning and preparedness meeting with members of the School Health Bureau and APS leadership. The team reviewed the latest available information on the virus and discussed efforts to ensure the health and safety of APS staff and students.

As we move forward, we are preparing for the possibility of school closures in the future, if necessary. Additionally, Arlington County hosted a Q&A with County experts on Wednesday night. We encourage all members of our community to watch it.

According to the CDC, risk to the general American public remains low. However, we have seen the first confirmed cases in the National Capital area. This situation is developing rapidly, and we are continuing to follow CDC guidance. Any future decision to change operations or close one or more schools due to COVID-19 or other health risks, would be made in close collaboration with the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) based on CDC guidance.

We have heard from families seeking additional information about the steps we are taking to prevent the spread of the virus in schools and to prepare to deliver essential services in the event of school closures. The following information highlights steps being taken by APS to safeguard students and staff, as well as a high-level summary COVID-19 plans.

APS Procedures in Schools and Offices

  • APS custodians continue to focus on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and materials in schools and offices, using the CDC/EPA-approved chemicals for this virus.
  • School Health is monitoring student health and absentee rates at all schools to assess and respond to any change in illnesses occurring in schools.
  • APS continues to work with the ACPHD to reinforce effective preventative steps to reduce the spread of illnesses in school, such as:
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
    • Cover mouth and hands with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    • Stay home when sick – and only return to school when children and staff are symptom-free for 24 hours, including without the use of fever-reducing medications.
    • Keep their distance from people who are sick – and encourage sick people they encounter to go home and seek care as needed.
    • Avoid non-essential travel
  • In consultation with ACPHD, updated guidance on proper handwashing, including expectations for students and staff, was shared with all schools on March 4, along with posters on handwashing to display prominently in their schools.

In the Event of School Closures

Any future decision to change operations or close one or more schools due to COVID-19 or other health risks, would be made in close collaboration with the ACPHD based on CDC guidance.

  • APS is preparing to provide instructional activities to all students in grades PreK-12, based on available tools, should we need to close school.
    • In order to meet the needs of all students and families, activities and tools will vary by grade level and will be provided online and in hard copy when possible.
    • Examples of options under review include providing book sets and materials for core subjects; using available devices, instructional apps and learning platforms (e.g., Canvas and Seesaw); and making educational materials and videos available on the APS website.
  • Depending on recommendations, APS will provide meals for students who receive Free or Reduced-Price Meals at designated locations. APS will communicate this information to families, if needed and available.
  • Families and staff will be updated through normal APS communications channels.

Travel Outside of the U.S. Educational and Staff Travel

APS will not approve any international field trips and short-term visitations to and from countries that are highlighted on the CDC’s list as destinations with an alert level of 2 or greater for travelers. APS will continue to monitor recommendations and information from the CDC and make any necessary changes based on updated information. 

Student/Family Travel

APS encourages families to avoid travel to countries that are highlighted on the CDC’s list as destinations with an alert level of 2 or greater for travelers. If families travel to any of these countries, please follow the CDC recommendations and guidelines upon reentry to the United States. 

APS continues to update the coronavirus webpage on our website, and we encourage families and staff to visit the page frequently.

We understand that this can be a stressful time for families, students and staff and we thank you for your continued partnership to help make sure the school community remains healthy.

Sincerely,
Cintia Z. Johnson
Interim Superintendent