Superintendent’s Nov. 10 Return-to-School Update

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Dear APS Families,

Last week, we welcomed approximately 230 students with disabilities to 33 different school buildings for in-person learning support. This is an important step forward in our Return-to-School Plan, and I would like to thank the staff and families involved for their partnership in facilitating a safe, successful Level 1 transition.

As we prepare for the next hybrid/in-person learning transitions, I want to update you on changes to the APS COVID-19 Dashboard, Season 1 Winter athletics competition, and new videos now available on the APS Parent Academy.

APS COVID-19 Dashboard Adjustments
We have adjusted the APS COVID-19 Dashboard to present a view of the health metrics that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicators for schools.

  • This new view of the metrics still uses the data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which we have been following all along, just highlighted differently to align with the updated CDC guidance for schools.
  • We are using the CDC and VDH benchmarks for health data moving forward, rather than benchmarks for specific return levels and operational metrics, to provide greater flexibility.
  • We look holistically at all CDC indicators and additional health metrics, in combination with our operational metrics, to decide when and how student cohorts can safely resume in-person learning.

Notably, the total number of new cases in Northern Virginia has continued to rise over the past 14 days, placing Arlington towards the top end of the “higher risk” category. We will continue to monitor the metrics and prioritize the health and safety of employees and students in determining our next steps.

Season 1 Winter Athletic Competition
I have received many emails from students and families regarding my decision not to participate in Season 1 Winter athletic competition, due to current health metrics and safety concerns related to indoor sports.

After consulting with neighboring jurisdictions as well as our staff, APS will proceed with Virginia High School League (VHSL) Season 1 Winter athletic competition, with some modifications. We will continue to monitor health metrics and work with school athletic staff and other school divisions to protect our athletes, coaches, employees, and families.

  • Depending on health and safety conditions, we will proceed with Season 1 for swimming and dive, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, rifle, and dance.
  • We will not proceed with wrestling at this time, given that it requires frequent close contact between participants. We will also not proceed with Winter Cheer, as competitive cheer is a Season 2 sport and it can be offered outside, which lessens risk.
  • Athletic modifications will include sport-by-sport decisions, competitions held without in-person spectators, limited or no locker room use, and sport-specific skill modifications. We are exploring opportunities to livestream some competitions for spectators and will share information once arrangements have been made.
  • As with our in-person instructional plans, if community health conditions worsen, APS, in consultation with Public Health, may at any time modify or suspend athletics activities.

Additional guidance will be provided to student athletes and families as we get closer to the start of the season, which begins December 7. Our plans are evolving with the current conditions, and we will be flexible and responsive to the needs of our students whenever possible, assessing all options to safely support our students’ academic successes, mental health, and social-emotional well-being.

New APS Parent Academy Videos Available
The Department of Teaching & Learning has posted new Parent Academy resources addressing topics such as:

  • Parenting During COVID-19
  • Athletic Participation
  • Family Life Education
  • The College Application Process
  • Early Childhood – Reading with Your Child
  • Library Services – Accessing Resources from Home

Access the Parent Academy resources online.

We will continue to provide regular updates regarding the Return-to-School Plan, and my next monitoring report will be Tuesday, November 17. The update will include a snapshot of how our students are doing in distance learning, as well as the latest health and safety information, and plans for Levels 2 and 3 students.

Tomorrow is a holiday in honor of Veteran’s Day, and I hope that you enjoy your day as we celebrate their service to our country.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent