Health & Safety Information

School girl sitting at desk working on a STEM project while wearing a face mask

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.

View our 2021-22 Health & Safety Flyer (English) | Spanish


Masks | Health Screening | Testing | Contact Tracing & Quarantine | Distancing | Buses | Meals | Recess/PE | Athletics/Band | Visitors

Masks for All

Masks will be required, regardless of vaccination status, while inside all APS buildings and on school buses, but are not required when eating or when outside during recess, PE, athletics, or other activities.

The APS approach to universal masking for the start of the school year aligns with CDC guidance, as well as the recommendations of local and state public health authorities.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking for everyone indoors at school, regardless of vaccination status.
  • The Virginia Department of Health advises that elementary schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a continued focus on layered prevention strategies, including universal mask-wearing for all staff and students over the age of two.
  • 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, in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Health Symptom Screening

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No temperature checks or screening are required upon arrival at the bus or school. APS will continue to send the Qualtrics health screener to remind families to check students’ health daily before school and keep students home when they are sick. Listed below are possible symptoms for COVID-like illness as defined by the VDH:

    • Feeling feverish and/or having chills (if thermometer reads a temperature/fever of 100.4F or greater)
    • A new cough, not due to another health condition
    • Fatigue (more tired than usual)
    • Nasal congestion or runny nose
    • Headache
    • A new sore throat, not due to another health condition
    • New chills, not due to another health condition
    • New muscle pain, not due to another health condition or caused by a specific activity such as physical exercise
    • New loss of taste, smell, or poor appetite or poor feeding
    • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

Returning to School After Illness

Students who are sent home from school will be required to present one of the following forms of documentation when returning to school:

    • A negative COVID test
    • A clearance letter provided by a physician or the Arlington County Public Health Department, stating that a student has completed quarantine or isolation following exposure to COVID-19 or having had COVID-19


APS is providing both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing in the coming school year in partnership with ResourcePath. After-hours testing will also be available at two walk-up locations after school hours – Kenmore and Wakefield. Trained staff provide mid-nasal swab testing using the RT-PCR test.

APS has worked with ResourcePath to implement a pilot of the new state screening program through VDH which provides the random testing protocol. The Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program will offer COVID-19 screening testing which is the regular testing of asymptomatic individuals to identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19 with the aim of catching cases early and stopping further transmission. APS will provide random testing in every school location. This planning is underway.

Parents/guardians will need to complete a consent form in order for their children to be tested. More information

Contact Tracing & Quarantine

Procedures for Positive COVID Case in a Classroom
If a positive COVID case occurs in a classroom:

  • Contact Tracing:
    • Students determined to be in immediate proximity (within 6 feet) to the positive case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes) will be considered a close contact and will be excluded/quarantined. Exceptions:
      • 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, such as ventilation, distancing, screening, etc. This exception does not apply to adults in the school setting.
      • Students determined to be closer than 3 feet through the contact tracing process will be excluded/quarantined, regardless of mask use.
  • Quarantine:
    • 7 days with negative test on day 5-7 (return on day 8)
    • Fully vaccinated individuals are exempt from quarantine, as verified by School Health, unless they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

More information on instruction during quarantine

 Physical Distancing

APS 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.  


APS will resume normal bus capacities. Windows will remain cracked on all buses to allow for outside air circulation. Masks will be required on all buses by riders and drivers.

The CDC federal order requiring masks be worn on public transportation remains in effect and applies to buses operated by Virginia public schools.

Breakfast and Lunch Practices

APS is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our staff and students throughout the entire school day. This includes during lunch, when students will not be able to wear masks while actively eating or drinking. We have developed a plan to protect student health and safety during meals, in accordance with CDC and VDH guidelines for schools.

Every school has either a partial or full outdoor lunch plan, and every school will consistently implement the following health and safety measures during lunch:

    • Masks are required in the cafeteria or other designated dining space when students are not actively eating or drinking.
    • Masks must be worn, regardless of vaccination status, during arrival to the lunch area, as well as in the serving line and when finished eating or when departing or traveling within the dining space.
    • Cafeteria or other dining spaces and frequently touched surfaces will be regularly and thoroughly cleaned by custodial staff between mealtimes.
    • Students will be required to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after eating. Time will be provided for handwashing and sanitizer will be readily available for student use.
    • Mealtime will be monitored to ensure adherence to the safety measures in place and to enforce distancing to the extent possible.

Playgrounds, Recess and PE

Face masks are not required outside on the playground. APS will continue to require frequent hand sanitizing before going to playground areas and immediately following with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Students may share equipment during recess, which will be sanitized to the extent possible by staff, and may access playground swings and other available play areas.

During PE, face masks must be worn indoors but may be removed outdoors.  Physical distancing will be maintained to the extent possible.


  • Outdoor athletics/activities: no masks required, but testing is strongly encouraged especially for non-vaccinated students
  • Indoor athletics/activities: masks are required indoors, but teams will be tested daily and mask requirements can be lifted if testing is negative.
  • Band:
    • Outdoor – no masks
    • Indoor – masks and testing (same as an athletic team)

Visitors, Volunteers and Events

Visitors are allowed inside APS buildings with masks. Parents/guardians are permitted to visit schools prior to school opening for scheduled orientations, tours and open houses, and registration. Once classes begin on August 30, APS will strictly limit daily access to our school buildings when students are present to protect the health and safety of our students

APS will continue to hold several events during the school year virtually, such as back to school nights in September, given positive feedback and greater participation and access to these events.

Volunteers supporting students are considered essential visitors in schools. All volunteers must comply with school visitor polices. This includes wearing a mask while indoors and completing a daily health screening prior to entering the building. All visitors are required to sign in and out of the school building using the Visitor Management System. Face coverings are not required for visitors when outdoors on APS school property.