Dear APS Families,
Last week, I announced that APS will offer two learning options to our students this fall: 1) a hybrid in-school learning model, blending two days of in-school instruction each week with three days of distance learning; and 2) a full-time virtual learning model. For both options, our priority is to provide every APS student with a quality education in learning environments that are safe and supportive for all.
I also outlined the process for families to select the preferred option for your student(s) between July 6 and July 20, to help our staff prepare. We understand the magnitude of the decision for every family, and our goal is to provide the information you need to make an informed choice about what works best for your family to meet your student’s learning needs.
Many families have reached out with specific questions and feedback, mostly focused on health and safety measures and how the learning experience varies between the two models. This week, the Return-to-School Task Force focused on the details of our health and safety plan. At tomorrow’s School Board meeting, July 1, I will present another status update highlighting health and safety, detailed instructional guidelines and the selection process for families. We will post updated information along with frequently asked questions (FAQ) on our website, under Engage with APS, following that meeting.
In the meantime, below are key points I want to highlight regarding our health and safety procedures:
Health and Safety Measures
APS continues to work closely with the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) to develop our health and safety plan and procedures for in-school operations, based on industry best practices from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Points of note:
- Health and Safety Screening: All staff and students must complete a daily health screening process including temperature checks before participating in any in-person activities with APS. This includes riding the bus, entering the school, or participating in a conditioning workout for VHSL sports.
- Face Coverings/Masks: All staff and students will be required to wear cloth face coverings/masks as medically appropriate while in school and at work. We have purchased cloth face coverings that meet CDC guidance – two for each student and four for each employee. These three-layer cloth face coverings include a filter pocket; families and employees may purchase an additional filter to increase their level of protection. Specialized face coverings will be provided for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students and staff, and staff supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.
- Bus Capacity: APS will maintain six-foot distances on buses to the extent possible. We are confirming our loading and unloading procedures for all our transportation vehicles.
- Cleaning/Disinfecting: APS already complies with the current CDC and VDH guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, which includes daily sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, handles, fixtures, etc. and we will enhance the cleaning routine for school year 2020-21.
- Personal Protective Equipment: APS will ensure all staff members have the necessary equipment based on their role. We use guidance provided by the Arlington County Public Health Division and OSHA in evaluating activities for increased risk of infection with COVID-19. APS will continuously evaluate activities accordingly and will purchase equipment where risk cannot be mitigated or eliminated.
- Indoor Air Quality/Ventilation: APS is contracting with private consultants to analyze air exchange rates and air filters and implement a program of improvements related to COVID-19 where needed.
- Return-to-Work Kit: In addition to four cloth face coverings, each employee will also receive a kit including hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to supplement initial return-to-work supplies. These supplies are to provide an additional level of commitment to safety and are not supplementing or supplanting our enhanced cleaning program for school year 2020-21.
We will provide more details on the safety plan and our instructional models tomorrow and that information will be posted for you to review.
Our school and division leaders are here to assist you with any additional questions or needs. Additionally, it is worth noting that each of the above protocols will be revised as necessary, based on ongoing feedback from the health department and state and federal health agencies, and in collaboration with Northern Virginia superintendents. As updates are made, information will be sent to all families and staff.
Your feedback and collaboration are critically important in this process. I encourage you to continue to share feedback with us using email@example.com. I will continue to share updates every Tuesday to address questions and provide details and I urge you to visit our website under Engage for the latest information.
I understand the anxiety and concerns many are experiencing, as we are all operating in the most challenging and uncertain times for educators and families everywhere. We have a dedicated and highly qualified extended team of health experts, County partners, administrators, teachers, staff, students and parents, all working together and bringing their insight and expertise to develop a plan that is flexible and best meets the needs of our community.
Dr. Francisco Durán
Arlington Public Schools