Arlington, VA

While students with disabilities are still set to return to classrooms next week, further return-to-school phases are now on hold.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán made the announcement in an email to families Tuesday evening.

“Currently, the health and safety metrics are not where they need to be to proceed with Level 2, Phase 1 Return on Nov. 12 for PreK, Kindergarten, and Career & Technical Education (CTE) students,” Durán wrote. “Compared to Level 1 [for students with disabilities], Level 2 brings a significantly larger group of staff and students into our buildings and classrooms, and that is why the metrics are set to a more rigorous standard.”

“To begin phasing in Level 2 students, we need to see further improvement in the metrics,” Durán continued. “We will continue to monitor the data at the end of this week and, in consultation with Public Health, will make a final determination about next steps for Level 2 by next week.”

Among the key metrics that APS is monitoring to determine when to advance to Level 2 of the return-to-school plan and beyond are the county’s rate of increase of coronavirus cases and teacher preferences for whether to return to in-person instruction.

The Case Incidence Rate per 100,000 people currently stands at 9.4, and advancing to Level 2 calls for it to be between 5-6. The latest teacher survey found that only 39% want to return, compared to the 70% or greater set as the criteria for Level 2.

(Level 2 includes PreK-5 and Career and Technical Education students. The criteria for Level 3, which would bring all other students who opt in back to classrooms two days per week, includes a Case Incidence Rate between 4-5 and a teacher preference for in-person instruction above 95%.)

The rate of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has been fluctuating over the past couple of weeks, at a higher level than September, but the county has not seen the kind of surge currently taking place elsewhere in the country.

Students with disabilities are still set to return a week from Wednesday, Durán said.

“Based on my review of the data and in consultation with Public Health, the current health and operational conditions allow for us to provide in-person learning support for Level 1 students with disabilities, beginning on November 4,” the superintendent wrote.

The full letter is below.

Dear APS Families,

I want to take this opportunity to update you on our Return-to-School Plan and next steps. I have received many questions from staff and families regarding how we are using the APS COVID-19 Dashboard to assess our readiness to reopen.

We use the dashboard to analyze risk and to help assess our readiness to open. Based on my review of the data and in consultation with Public Health, the current health and operational conditions allow for us to provide in-person learning support for Level 1 students with disabilities, beginning on November 4. My decision to proceed is based on the health and safety data; my confidence in our preparations for Level 1; mitigation measures in place to protect employee and student health and safety; and the urgency of serving our highest-need students who are currently struggling to access their education.A few points of clarification and factors to keep in mind:

  • All metrics have been met for Level 1 except for the case incidence rate for Northern Virginia which has a score of 9.4, per the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) weekly transmission report. This is just above the threshold of 9 the school division set for Level 1. We will monitor this closely as we move forward. I am looking holistically at all health and operational data to inform decisions for each level, factoring in student numbers and needs, as well as the mitigation strategies we have in place to ensure health and safety.
  • Level 1 comprises 236 students with disabilities and 115 employees, who will be returning to 33 buildings. This is a relatively small group of students per building which averages to three students per classroom at this level. This allows us to effectively monitor compliance with our safety measures.
  • We have taken every recommended precaution to mitigate risk and to ensure a safe return for our employees and students. Every school site has received the required cleaning and disinfecting supplies, face coverings, and other equipment necessary.

Final preparations are taking place this week and next. I will be out visiting schools personally in November as we begin to welcome students back to ensure each member of our staff has all the support needed to serve our students effectively and safely.

Level 2 Monitoring and Next Steps

Currently, the health and safety metrics are not where they need to be to proceed with Level 2, Phase 1 Return on Nov. 12 for PreK, Kindergarten, and Career & Technical Education (CTE) students. Compared to Level 1, Level 2 brings a significantly larger group of staff and students into our buildings and classrooms, and that is why the metrics are set to a more rigorous standard.  To begin phasing in Level 2 students, we need to see further improvement in the metrics.

We will continue to monitor the data at the end of this week and, in consultation with Public Health, will make a final determination about next steps for Level 2 by next week.

Level 2 ParentVUE Selection Results

The ParentVUE selection process for Level 2 for elementary and CTE students has concluded. We will post the results of the family selection process on our website later this week. Schools are working through staffing, bus routing, and other next steps based on that data. The instructional model selection process for middle and high school students has not opened yet, and we will let families know when it will open.

As we prepare to begin in-person learning, I urge families, students and staff to continue to take the recommended actions to slow the spread of the virus in our community. Wear face coverings, follow distancing guidelines, and stay home when you are sick. Our success in opening schools and remaining open is directly connected to and dependent upon everyone helping to prevent transmission in the community.

Again, I want to thank you for continuing to direct your concerns to me or to [email protected]. I understand the stress we are all under and the different opinions being expressed about the best way to proceed in this pandemic.

Thank you for acknowledging our teachers and staff who are working harder than ever before to deliver instruction virtually while preparing for in-person learning.

Sincerely,
Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent

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