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APS to Require Masks, Daily Health Checks in Schools This Fall

Nearly 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Arlington Public Schools to require masks for in-person instruction in the fall. They’re in luck: that’s precisely what APS is planning to do.

“Moving forward we will be requiring all staff and students to wear face coverings while in school and at work as medically appropriate,” Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said in a presentation on Wednesday, adding that APS based its mask policy on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Don’t have a mask? No problem.

Durán revealed that APS has placed a large order for three-layer cloth masks: two for every student, and four for every school employee. The shipment is expected to arrive in August, ahead of the scheduled Aug. 31 start of the school year. Clear masks have also been ordered to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mask-wearing, he said, will be “very critical” to making in-person instruction possible while coronavirus remains a threat.

APS is currently planning a “hybrid” model for the return to school, with most students spending two days per week in schools, and other students able to opt for a distance learning-only program. The distance learning-only group, according to Durán, will be taught by a different group of teachers than the other students.

Durán said the hybrid model — with one cohort of students in classrooms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the other in school on Thursdays and Fridays — is necessary to allow social distancing in schools and protect the health of students and staff.

“Physical distancing, as we said for quite some time, is key and it is the main reason we’re pursuing a hybrid in person model as one of the two options,” the superintendent said. “On order to maintain that six foot distance, we have to reduce the number of students on buses and in classrooms.”

APS is also planning daily health screenings, including temperature checks before boarding bus, entering school, or participating in sports. Both students and employees will be checked with new infrared thermometers the school system has purchased.

Other measures APS is taking, according to Durán’s presentation:

  • “Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces”
  • “Clear, documented procedures will be provided for a presumptive or confirmed COVID case”
  • Seating students on every other seat on the bus
  • Furniture in classroom set up to maintain six foot distancing
  • Visitors allowed only in the main office for drop-off and pick-up
  • In-school volunteer work suspended
  • Plexiglass shielding for high-traffic areas like offices

Durán also noted that APS is looking at additional ventilation and filtration measures to help prevent viral spread.

“I want to reiterate that the health and safety of students and staff is of the utmost importance to us,” he said.

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