Falls Church City Public Schools plans to have all students back to in-person classes soon, according to a notice from Superintendent Peter Noonan.
“ALL students are slated to return in the month of January,” Noonan said on Monday. “We plan to return students in phases beginning on January 5, 2021, consistent with employee capacity to clean our buildings. We will open, starting with the smallest cohort and lead up to the largest cohort.”
Noonan said throughout the pandemic, the school has been guided by health data, ability to maintain consistent operations, and academics/instruction.
Even though he said the schools will open, Noonan said it’s not smooth sailing for the district.
“In the past week, operations have been significantly impacted by COVID positive cases and subsequent quarantines. Many of our support personnel charged with maintaining, cleaning, and disinfecting our buildings are unable to work. This team of people is critically important in preparing our facilities to open and maintaining buildings when students and staff are there,” Noonan said.
Other northern Virginia districts are phasing in students as well. Prince William County Public Schools, Alexandria Public Schools, and Fairfax County Public Schools plan to have all grades back to in person classes by mid-February. However, other area schools including Loudoun County, Arlington Public Schools, and Manassas City Public Schools remain mostly virtual. The schools are making the decisions based on county-level COVID-19 case count guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDOH). Maps analyzing the number of cases in the past week per 100,000 people in each county indicate the highest risk of transmission, although a map showing percent of positive tests in the counties tells a slightly less dire story, with a few counties with intermediate or low risk of transmission.
However, case counts and transmission on a county level may not be the best risk-analysis tool for schools. Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), a doctor, told The Virginia Star that risk of transmission in schools is lower than in the general community, and that children are unlikely to transmit COVID-19 to their teachers.
Dunnavant said officials should consider other dangers that come with poor education.
“The state is providing abysmal leadership on how schools can discern what is safe,” Dunnavant said earlier in December.
“They have metrics that they are following, but the metrics they are following do not comprehensively assess all of the variables that affect kids, like access to food, a safe place to learn, the screening capabilities of the trained staff in schools, having an education that they can use to succeed and participate in the American economy,” Dunnavant said. “All of those things are metrics that aren’t being measured in the templates that are being given to the schools.”
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