Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
I am becoming a kindergarten parent this year and so I’m officially joining the Arlington Public Schools community. During the past 18 months, I’ve watched with sympathy as kids were kept out of school.
Arlington’s public schools were closed, or in a hybrid model, because elected leaders didn’t prioritize the mitigation strategies in our community that would have allowed safe in-classroom instruction. I was lucky to have my kids in full-time daycare for most of the pandemic. We were never exposed to Covid-19 from the center, despite limited mitigation practices.
I watched the Aug. 11 Return to School Town Hall with apprehension. For a school system that seemed incapable of prioritizing in-person learning or delivering on the obvious mitigation strategies to allow that to happen for over a year, I had lost a lot of hope. But my son is turning six soon and I have a philosophical and practical commitment to public education. I was prepared to trust the system and hope for the best. This town hall laid out a comprehensive plan to provide multiple layers of protection for students and staff at APS.
From the outset, Superintendent Duran unequivocally stated that APS will remain with five days of in-person instruction “unless the governor orders the schools to close.” To limit the disruption of quarantine, if a classmate tests positive close contacts will only be defined as anyone within 3 feet, or within 6 feet if both students aren’t wearing masks.
And APS is backing up this commitment with concrete mitigation strategies that address the Covid risk on multiple fronts:
- Weekly testing of asymptomatic students through an opt-in program. This will take place at each school through a rapid antigen test, to detect asymptomatic cases before they spread
- Mandatory vaccination or weekly testing of all APS employees (announced in conjunction with Arlington County’s policy after the Town Hall)
- APS announced a universal mask mandate even before Governor Northam issues this for the entire state. Masks are readily available at each school for anyone to use
- Certified air cleaning devices have been installed in every classroom, with the goal of delivering four to six air changes per hour. Opening windows is encouraged if the weather allows
Arlington staff should build on these plans to do even more to protect kids and maintain in-person learning:
- Vaccines should be required for all eligible students
- Outdoor lunch should be the norm, not just an option when it is most convenient. If staffing is a problem, call on parents to help
- APS should distribute high quality masks for all children, staff and visitors
- The facilities’ teams should continue to improve the ventilation and filtration of classrooms, especially for unvaccinated elementary students
- APS should expand the definition of close contacts while the virus is spreading faster in the community and notify the entire class of a positive Covid test so families can opt to test and/or voluntarily quarantine
These steps would make in-person school safer and more sustainable as we wait for the delta variant to peak (which could occur as early as mid-September, according to some experts).
Every family will evaluate the risk and reward of in-person instruction in their own way. I was committed to sending my child to kindergarten even without these mitigation strategies. But knowing they are in place makes me confident that he is protected in the coming year.
If you haven’t yet registered your child for public school, there is still time. APS also has open slots in the Virginia Preschool Initiative, a state-funded program to offer free early learning for children in low-income families.
For everyone who doesn’t have children, you can help make the school year successful by getting vaccinated and taking precautions to mitigate community spread. As we’ve said since the beginning of the pandemic, we are all in this together.
Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her family. By day, she is the Membership Director for Food and Water Watch, and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.
Good Thursday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 4853 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
This past week saw 57 homes sold in Arlington. The least expensive condo, single-family home or townhouse sale over the past seven days was $169,000 while the most expensive was…
Arlington County has filed a response to the Missing Middle lawsuit against it. Ten residents are suing the county, arguing that the recently-passed zoning changes known as Missing Middle were approved illegally…
The westbound lanes of Columbia Pike are closed near Penrose Square due to a gas leak. It appears that a construction crew working in the roadway struck a gas line….
Please join us on Saturday, June 3, from 2 to 4 pm for the Glencarlyn Home Tour in Arlington’s historic Glencarlyn neighborhood. Among the featured homes will be a sparkling new home by A&N Builders at 5604-4th St. South. The inviting front porch opens to a light-filled space featuring high ceiling, wood floors, gas fireplace, Pella windows, Shrock cabinets, Quartz countertop, and JennAir appliances. Doors from the family room open to a large covered porch with a few steps to the level, landscaped rear yard. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, and linen storage. The big lower level has a rec room, gym space, and a fifth bedroom and bathroom plus even more storage. After leaving the home, stroll to the Ball-Sellers home, the oldest residence in Arlington, the community gardens at the library, Carlin Hall, and the 94 acre Glencarlyn Park. A lovely way to while away a late spring afternoon.
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, June 7th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved
Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved.
Join ACFCU’s mortgage loan officers
4th of July Celebration & Fireworks
Treat yourself this Independence Day with a world-class, private 4th of July extravaganza at the Military Women’s Memorial – a premier National Capital Region site.
Great food, fun, and the best views of Washington DC’s spectacular fireworks display. Relax, enjoy,