Dear APS Families,
I hope that you are enjoying the winter break and look forward to welcoming students back to school on Monday, January 3. I know there are many concerns about the spike in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant. We are monitoring these developments closely, and I want to take a moment to update you on our health and safety measures as we prepare for a strong start back to school in 2022.
I have received questions from staff and families about how the recent spikes affect our return to school. My priority remains to keep our schools safe and open for in-person instruction. We will open our doors as planned on Jan. 3 and continue to adhere to CDC and VDH guidance for operating safely and reducing COVID-19 spread in schools. We will open with regular in-person schedules and our Extended Day program will also operate on the normal schedule.
As we prepare to do so, here are important reminders and updates on steps we are taking, and what we can continue to do together as a community, to keep our schools safe and open.
- Mitigation Measures: We continue to adhere to CDC and VDH guidance for reducing COVID-19 spread—this includes encouraging vaccination for everyone who is eligible, offering regular screening and testing, requiring universal masking in schools, and encouraging daily health screening and staying home when sick. This also includes limiting non-essential gatherings and events, and continuing outside lunch, weather permitting. We anticipate there will continue to be higher rates of positive cases following the break and will partner with the Arlington County Public Health Division on monitoring, contact tracing investigations and COVID response measures that align with current CDC guidance.
- New CDC Guidelines for Quarantine Following Exposure: On Dec. 27, the CDC provided an update reducing the recommended quarantine period from 10 days to five days for fully vaccinated individuals and revised the definition for full vaccination. APS will adhere to the new guidelines, and we have posted a graphic outlining the revised procedures online. To be considered fully vaccinated under the new guidelines, individuals must have received a booster in addition to the two initial doses of vaccine, if it has been more than six months since they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or if it has been more than two months since receiving the J&J vaccine.
- Test to Stay: Test to Stay is one recommendation provided by the CDC; however, VDH has not adopted this guidance at this time and is piloting this methodology with selected schools across the Commonwealth. APS indicated in the Fall that we are willing to be a pilot participant but we were not selected for the pilot program at this time.
- Weekly FREE Screening COVID Testing Program Resumes Jan. 3—Opt-In Now: APS will resume free, optional weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing as a preventative health measure in our schools – this is available for both staff and students regardless of vaccination status. We have transitioned to a new vendor – CIAN Diagnostics – which requires everyone to resubmit consent forms. I strongly encourage parents/guardians to sign up now as this has proven to be a highly effective strategy for early detection of asymptomatic positive cases. The consent forms and more information are available online. As a reminder, the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program for surveillance testing is an opt-in only program per Virginia guidelines.
- Diagnostic, Symptomatic Testing – APS has been operating expanded hours for symptomatic testing via ResourcePath at Kenmore throughout the break. This is in addition to the many other sites the County offers. Keep in mind that appointments are strongly encouraged at this time and some walk-in availability has changed, due to holiday volumes and the recent spike and omicron variant.
- Pausing In-Person Athletics, Extracurricular Activities Effective Dec. 30-Jan. 14: As a precaution, APS will pause in-person athletics and extracurricular activities, including practices, competitions, performances, clubs, theater, band, orchestra and chorus, and Career and Technical student organizations effective tomorrow, Dec. 30, through Jan. 14. Virtual activities may continue. Limiting non-essential in-person gatherings as we return is one measure to keep school open for instruction. We will revisit this and provide an update on or before Jan. 14.
To ensure the safety of students and staff, we will continue to closely monitor transmission rates and implement recommended strategies to operate safely. State law in Virginia requires all public schools to offer in-person instruction to students during the 2021-22 school year and that remains our priority. Per this law, APS will only revert to remote instruction for a classroom or school in consultation with the health department in the event of high levels of COVID-19 transmission within a classroom or school and only on a temporary, limited basis.
It is imperative that everyone does their part. Please do not send your student(s) to school if they are sick and complete the screening process daily. We all want the same outcomes – to keep school safe and open for our students and to ensure our community is as safe as possible.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership and support.
Dr. Francisco Durán