Learn more about ACPS Health and Safety Measures.
Is ACPS implementing three feet of distance?
ACPS has worked closely with the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) to implement health mitigation measures in our schools, including signage and procedures to help protect all staff and students. Physical distancing is one of the mitigation strategies. At this time, we are using six feet of physical distance and are continuing to work to determine how the revised guidelines impact ACPS and what this means for adding more students to our hybrid classrooms.
The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least three feet in the classroom setting. CDC has updated its operational strategy as follows:
- In elementary schools, CDC recommends all students remain at least three feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal — regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial or high.
- In middle and high schools, CDC also recommends students should be at least three feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal and in communities where transmission is low, moderate or substantial.
- Middle school students and high school students should be at least six feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible. Cohorting is when groups of students are kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk for spread throughout the school. This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students – that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children.
Are there any situations within a school in which the CDC guidelines continue to be for a minimum of six feet of physical distancing?
Yes, the guidelines continue to be for six feet of physical distancing in the following situations in schools:
- For middle and high school students in areas of high community transmission, if cohorting is not possible, which applies to all students who switch classes during the school day
- Between all adults (teachers and staff)
- Between adults and all students, at all times in the school building
- When masks cannot be worn, such as when eating, whether lunch and snacks are consumed in the cafeteria or in the classroom
- During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band or sports and exercise
- In common areas such as school lobbies and auditoriums
What are the operational considerations that factored into ACPS’ decision to maintain six feet of distance?
Although the CDC’s revised guidance states that students should be spaced at least three feet apart in some settings, the CDC’s, the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) and AHD’s definition of a close contact includes individuals who are within six feet of a COVID-19 case for 15 or more cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period. Persons who are determined to be a close contact are asked to quarantine for 14 days.
Thus, classrooms with desks that are three feet apart will result in higher numbers of students who are required to quarantine when there is an identified case. The higher number of students in the school buildings may also result in more individuals who are notified of exposure through contact tracing efforts which will significantly impact school operations and continuity of learning.
Will ACPS consider changing the physical distancing measures at a later time?At this time, we are using six feet of physical distance and are continuing to work to determine how the revised guidelines impact ACPS and what this means for adding more students to our hybrid classrooms. ACPS will continue to work with AHD and factor all operational considerations and ACPS’ and the community’s desire for in-person learning. More information will be shared with families as we continue reviewing the new guidelines and preparing for three feet of physical distancing.
Other Safety Questions
Have all staff received the vaccination? Will it be a requirement for them to return?
Vaccination is voluntary for all staff. All staff have been offered the opportunity to schedule appointments to get the vaccination. While we encourage all staff to consider taking the vaccination, we emphasize that vaccination is voluntary and is not a requirement of employment nor a requirement to return to the classroom.
Do teachers get to choose whether they teach in person or remain virtual?
All teachers and staff - are expected to transition to their work location beginning March 1, 2021, unless exempted by a medical condition, health situation, child care needs or other exception approved by the Department of Human Resources (HR). Anyone who remains in a remote work status (virtual office) must present documentation for review and approval by HR. HR will regularly report an employee's remote-work status to the respective school principal or department administrator for accountability purposes.
Once we have our employees' health and child care status, school principals will complete the teaching schedules. The results may mean that some teachers and instructional staff continue to work remotely. These schedules will be solidified before reentry dates.
Do children have to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine to return to school in March?
No. There is no mandatory vaccination requirement for children. In particular, children are not required to get the vaccine before returning as the vaccines are not approved for children at this time.
What is the policy for shutting down a class or school if a positive COVID case is known? How will the school communicate this information ot families?
This information can be found in the ACPS Health and Related Guidelines (PDF) on page 15.
What safety measures does my child have to do to comply with when coming to campus, i.e. masks and sanitizing?
- All children and staff should come to school with a mask and wear it at all times. Masks can only be removed during meals and sanctioned mask breaks. Having a spare mask in their backpack at all times is a good idea but not required. ACPS will provide a mask if your child does not have one. If your child rides the bus, they must board the bus with their mask on and keep it on throughout transport to school.
- Students will be expected to wash and sanitize their hands frequently. Sanitizing stations will be readily available around campus.
- Students will be instructed to social distance as recommended by the CDC and Alexandria Health Department.
- Students should follow the marked directional arrows in the hallways for safe movement throughout buildings.
Will students’ temperatures be checked before entering school buses or buildings each day?
Students will not have their temperatures checked prior to entering a bus. However, students will have temperatures checked when they arrive at school and enter the front lobby or main entrance.
We encourage families not to send students to schools with any signs of sickness. Families will be asked to complete an online Daily Symptom Checklist each day their child(ren) attends school for in-person instruction. The online Daily Symptom Checklist will ask the four questions provided by the CDC that walk through potential symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 48 hours. If families answer “YES” to any of the questions, they will be advised to not send their child into school and to contact a medical professional should symptoms persist.
Please explain in detail the cleaning process. What kind of products and how many times you clean the building?
The cleaning process is highlighted and detailed in the School Reentry Health and Safety Measures.
How often will high-touch surfaces be cleaned and disinfected?
ACPS has implemented an enhanced cleaning plan. High trafficked areas, such as bathrooms, hallways, entrance door handles, restrooms and common spaces are disinfected every two hours. After meals in the classroom, teachers/monitors will use disinfectant wipes on student desks. In addition, all classrooms, common areas and bathrooms will be thoroughly cleaned three times a day.
Do all schools have proper ventilation systems?
Proper HVAC operation and maintaining acceptable Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in a facility is a collaborative effort between the offices of Educational Facilities and Maintenance and Custodial Services. ACPS has implemented certain CDC and ASHRAE guidance regarding ventilation to help reduce the risk for exposure to coronavirus. Schools are designed to ventilate outdoor air throughout the day to reduce the buildup of pollutants and odors by approximately 35% outside air. Both Contractor and internal Maintenance staff conduct routine and preventative maintenance on interior and exterior of the facilities, mechanical, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems—including replacing air filters, deep cleaning and disinfecting throughout. Custodians and building engineers conduct regular complete building checks, to include identifying any areas of potential concern (e.g., areas that collect dust, checking exhaust fans in restrooms for proper operation, etc.).
More information pertaining to HVAC/ventilation can be found in our Facilities and Operations HVAC FAQs.
Will ACPS be following the OSHA guidelines about oxygen levels? OSHA considers any atmosphere with an oxygen level below 19.5 percent to be oxygen-deficient and immediately dangerous to life or health. Wearing a mask can lower levels to 18% or below. How is this being addressed?
Per the OSHA website (https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/faqs#cloth-face-coverings)“Some people have mistakenly claimed that OSHA standards (e.g., the Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134; the Permit-Required Confined Space standard 29 CFR 1910.146; and the Air Contaminants standard, 29 CFR 1910.1000) apply to the issue of oxygen or carbon dioxide levels resulting from the use of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air (e.g. healthcare settings, offices, retail settings, construction). These standards do not apply to the wearing of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air. These standards would only apply to work settings where there are known or suspected sources of chemicals (e.g., manufacturing facilities) or workers are required to enter a potentially dangerous location (e.g., a large tank or vessel).”
Will ACPS hire more custodians, as we are asking so much more of them?
There are no plans to hire more custodians at this time. We are alternating custodian work schedules where needed to ensure there is additional day coverage during what’s considered “peak” periods.