ALEXANDRIA, VA-Earlier today, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) released a wealth of information on the reopening of schools. In the latest edition of ACPS Express, superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. wrote that a new student re-entry schedule is in development and will be available next Friday. There is hope that with the continued vaccinations of ACPS staff that eventually a sense of normalcy can return to school buildings.
As a result of the current level of community transmission and the impact it may have on schools, Hutchings has decided to delay the return of students who were scheduled to attend in-person learning over the next two weeks.
ACPS is using an updated “Decision Matrix,” created in collaboration with the Alexandria Health Department (AHD), as a guide to reopening schools. The school system has relied on information from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education since the arrival of the pandemic in our area last March.
“I am grateful that we have stayed the course and used the resources that has been afforded to us over this period of time,” Hutchings says in a video where he explains the matrix.
The matrix focuses on two aspects: level of community transmission and level of school impact.
It is divided into three levels: Lowest/Low/Moderate Risk, Higher Risk, and Highest Risk. Low risk scenarios permit full re-entry while scenarios of the highest risk will result in the closure of buildings and 100 percent virtual instruction. Staff levels on the left side of the matrix give levels of staff availability. According to Hutchings, staff currently is at the Strained level. This expected to change once more members are vaccinated.
The goal is to allow students to return to school as soon as possible with health considerations in mind. ACPS will be charged with monitoring student absenteeism due to illness, and AHD will be consulted for the best course of action if illness occurs.
ACPS will continue to practice VDH recommendations, including social distancing in classrooms, the use of face coverings, and cleaning protocols. Temperature checks are performed routinely and isolation rooms are available to separate those who show symptoms from the general public.
There are also protocols in place to inform the ACPS community of positive cases.