Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday

With serious and unresolved health-related decisions looming, Alexandria City Public Schools is set to reopen its doors to full-time instruction on Tuesday, August 24.

“I’m looking forward to putting the stressful 18 months behind us,” an ACPS parent told ALXnow. “It’s time to move ahead and get these kids back in school. I know things will look different and we will have some rough patches, but we owe it to the kids to get them back.”

Just days before reopening, the School Board will consider a vaccine mandate for all ACPS employees at its meeting tonight. The school system has been criticized by parents for waiting too long to tackle the vaccine issue, echoing some of the widespread frustration that the school system didn’t open quickly enough last year.

“Together, Alexandria City Public School students, teachers, staff, and families have met the challenges of the past school year during a dual pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wrote to parents. “We are excited to make the most of our opportunity for a new beginning as we enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that comes with having our students back for five days a week of in-person learning.”

ACPS reopened to five days a week just last month — for summer school. Also last month, Alexandria City High School principal Peter Balas told ALXnow that his school — the largest high school in Virginia — was ready to fully reopen. Next Tuesday will also mark first school year since it changed its name from T.C. Williams High School.

“ACPS will continue to adjust measures based on the latest health guidance and best practices and update the chart accordingly as changes occur,” the school system wrote in its 2021-2022 Health and Safety Guidance.

With COVID numbers on the rise, the School Board recently decided that all 15,000+ students and staff wear protective face coverings in school. The Virginia Department of Health says unvaccinated residents account for a vast majority of new COVID cases.

Face masks are required to be worn inside school buses and classrooms, except when eating and exercising. Masks are not required outdoors.

Students and staff are also required to keep six feet of social distance and quarantine for two weeks if they are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19. Vaccinated students and staff who are not symptomatic do not have to quarantine.

Staff and students are also required to complete a Daily Symptom Checklist

“There will be daily online health screenings and temperature screenings in school entrances and procedures to limit the number of visitors in school facilities,” noted ACPS. “If students are closely interacting during recess or by the nature of a sports activity, then the recommendation would be to wear masks. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.”

ACPS is still teaching virtually, but the deadline to enroll in Virtual Virginia expired last month.

According to ACPS, this is what to expect when school resumes:

  • 5 days per week in school
  • Normal classroom capacity to accommodate five days a week, in-person learning
  • Hot breakfasts and lunches will be available every day
  • Bus routes and schedules will return to normal
  • All activities and athletics will be offered in-person
  • All special education services will be offered in-person
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages will be offered in-person
  • Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors program offerings at Alexandria City High School will be offered in-person
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will be offered in-person

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