Reopening APS schools safely no later than the first day of the spring semester, for our youngest students (K-5), should be a top priority for the Arlington County government.
APS must do more to make the air in classrooms safe so schools can open — and stay open. Arlington County needs to step up and provide APS with the necessary funding and technical assistance.
It’s particularly important to develop a detailed plan now to move our youngest learners (K-5) back into safe classrooms because there’s lots of evidence that they are the ones who suffer the most from an all-virtual environment.
During our health emergency, County government must exercise its existing local regulatory authority to impose Arlington-specific limits on indoor activities where the virus thrives, e.g., indoor gatherings, dining, bars, and gyms. If necessary, Arlington’s new ordinance should be more stringent and remain effective longer than Governor Northam’s November 16 statewide order.
Otherwise, it will not be safe for APS to provide in-person instruction.
Air is the Issue
For months, our County and school leaders have lacked sufficient urgency and focus to tackle the primary problem: the COVID-19 virus spreads through the air.
Experts in aerosol physics, chemistry, engineering, and public health have defined clear strategies to thwart airborne transmission. But in a recent 29-page APS report, air quality was mentioned but once. County officials are watching cases rise, but they must do more about it.
As the case count has risen, Arlington has risen into the “highest risk” schools’ category according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If all elementary school students returned today, too many employees would soon be out sick or in quarantine. Safe, in-person operation is becoming impracticable.
APS should begin giving a biweekly “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) report” to show a new focus on air quality. Classrooms need six air changes per hour of new, outside air coming in. APS has been working on HVAC improvements — including upgrading to MERV-13 filters to catch any virus floating in HVAC ducts. County funding is critical.
For additional ventilation, APS could place kids in rooms with windows. An open window can add more than 20 air changes! APS could use empty secondary schools (while older students are virtual), or even County recreation centers if needed. APS and the County should publish an inventory of spaces with windows.
The County should also help with extra safety equipment, which might cost as little as $500-$1,500 per classroom, for the limited number of K-5 students returning in early 2021 (if we act now).
All APS classrooms should be equipped with carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, to give staff real-time information about air quality. Even with masks on, risks increase with time indoors. CO2 meters can alert when exhaled breath is building up.
Portable HEPA air cleaning units could filter virus particles from the air, two to five times hourly. Investments in such equipment would pay off beyond the pandemic — by improving indoor air quality, reducing other illnesses, and boosting student achievement.
Preventing “Super-Spreader” Events
Students should eat lunch outside. There is too much risk in removing masks indoors. Dining inside restaurants doubles the odds of catching COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Moving lunch — and some class time — outdoors could require tents, heaters, mats, chairs, tables, or even the use of park pavilions near schools. The County should help. APS should instruct schools to utilize outdoor spaces uniformly, systemwide.
APS needs a robust, in-school, free, testing program, to identify asymptomatic outbreaks. A student or staff member who goes home with the virus is likely to infect other household members within five days. The reluctance to plan for more testing in schools is difficult to understand. Arlington could also implement sewage system monitoring, to track additional data and be able to warn the community.
“Super-spreader” events also happen elsewhere — like recent Halloween festivities, and threaten the ability of schools to stay open. Accessible testing — and support from County contact tracers — is needed.
We’ve known what needs to be done for months. If we care about our community’s youngest learners, APS and County government have no more time to delay. The time for action is now.
Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC, a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village