COVID-19 guidance just updated to include ensuring classroom coverage


About a week after updating their guidance on COVID-19 quarantine and isolation, a Fairfax County Public elementary school came under fire for having a group of children outside in below-freezing temperatures.

A video clip, posted to social media by Fairfax County Parent’s Association showed a group of students at Waynewood Elementary School in Alexandria sitting outside in the cold while a teacher was reading to them. “It’s well below freezing in Fairfax County, yet young children are having storytime on the cold concrete outside at @waynewoodes.  This is the result of poor leadership and confusing guidance to teachers. Get these little ones inside!  @FCPSSupt @fcpsnews @fairfaxhealth” FCPA said in a tweet. The post drew mixed reactions from the community and a response from FCPS. 

“This morning on Twitter, an anonymous parent group posted a video that was taken outside of Waynewood Elementary School in Alexandria. In the video, a group of third-grade students is taking a snack and mask break in front of the school,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The weather conditions were monitored, and the students were outside for less than seven minutes. The teacher was reading a story to keep the students entertained. Students do go outside for mask and snack breaks in cold weather, but that time is limited.”

According to an FCPS spokesperson, the principal received only six parent inquiries from a school with more than 600 students. “To be clear, these were not complaints, but questions,” she said. She added that the principal had also received 30 emails and calls of support.

Just last week FCPS offered new guidance on quarantine and isolation, and what steps will be taken in the event a classroom teacher is out.

In a Jan. 6 message to the community, FCPS noted that the following would be done, in order, to ensure classroom coverage including dedicated class coverage by a substitute teacher from the sub pool, another teacher, or staff member, using Central Office volunteer subs with instructional experience, pairing two classes together with one teacher or grouping multiple classes together to provide supervision during asynchronous instruction.

According to a Jan. 9 message from the FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations, the school system will adopt Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for a five-day period of quarantine for students and staff. They will also adopt the recommendation for a five-day period of isolation for staff. 

However, “FCPS will NOT adopt CDC’s recommendation for isolation for students as we are unable to implement the required physical distancing protocols during meals. FCPS students with COVID- 19 will need to continue to complete a ten-day isolation period.” 

For FCPS parent Tracy Compton, the learning loss that her 7-year-old daughter experienced while quarantining due to in-school exposure could have been avoided. Her daughter was quarantined for 14 days at the beginning of the year after being in close contact with someone who tested positive at lunch. She herself tested negative. 

Compton said that “no real work was given” and her daughter “spent the entire time bored.” She documented her daughter’s quarantine period, which she spent mostly playing Minecraft, on Twitter in September. 

“When I mention my kid is on pause bc of @fcpsnews policy, I get ‘I hope your daughter feels better.’ They think my kid has COVID.  When I say ‘she is fantastic beside not getting an education’ The shocked look I get is telling,” Compton wrote on Sept. 27.  

Now, those who come into contact with COVID-19 outside of school will no longer be required to complete Return to School documentation, and are encouraged to follow Fairfax County Health Department quarantine guidance.  

Those who are exposed to COVID-19 on school grounds and are symptomatic have two options, either five or 10 days of quarantine. For either option, students submit the “FCPS Pause Letter with the return date to their attending school.” 

Students with mask exemptions must complete 10 days of quarantine, and students who choose five days of quarantine must wear masks at school on days six through 10. 

Compton, along with the FCPA, tweeted about the test to stay — which allows those who are exposed to get tested and then return to school — back in October. FCPS recently announced the implementation of a Test to Stay pilot program, which will be led by the Virginia Department of Health.

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