Covid-19 Positivity Rates Still High as F.C. Classes Resume

With the Falls Church public school year a week in, classes continue to be 100 percent in person at all grade levels and there are no missing students from the year of virtual learning.

However, this is in the context of rates of transmission of the Covid-19 virus that are “high” in the judgment of the Virginia Department of Health, and officials are continuing to watch very closely to determine that the current in-person environments are not triggering major new outbreaks.

The “positivity rate” for the City of Falls Church, not unlike its neighbors in Arlington and Fairfax County, continues in the “high” range, with 116.3 cases reported per 100,000, a rate of 3.5 percent. Fairfax is at 98.4 cases for a 4.3 percent positivity and in Arlington the rate is 109.8 cases for a 2.8 percent positivity.

Falls Church Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan provided a status report earlier this week as classes are beginning to kick into high gear.

He said the following in his first report of the new year, “Despite the storms, it has been a week of sunshine in FCCPS. Thank you to all of our employees, students, and their families for a wonderful back to school. The week was full of so many smiling faces, reconnections, and great activities to kick off the 2021-2022 school year! Take a moment to send a “thank you” to someone who made a difference in your week.”

As FCCPS returns to school, we are working hard to ensure our mitigation efforts are strong. Mitigation efforts remain critical.

Everyone is required to wear masks indoors at all times. (ADA, Medical, Developmental Exemptions Only) Masks are not required when outside unless it is a crowded event. (Those who are unvaccinated are advised to mask whenever possible.) It is essential that everyone follow the consistent and correct use of masks.

All students (with parental supervision) should monitor their health before coming to school using the FCCPS Student Self-Monitoring Health Screening.

The School Health Aide will screen any student who is ill at school. We will send students with COVID-like symptoms home. Any unvaccinated siblings in an FCCPS school must go home as well.

Students may not return to school without clearance from a health care provider or a negative test result and must be symptom-free for the last 24 hours. Families will receive a sick student notification form to share with their student’s healthcare provider. We appreciate the community’s support with this process as we work to keep our schools healthy, particularly during times of high transmission rates in our community.

Anyone ages 12+ and older can schedule a vaccination appointment with the Fairfax Health Department as an FCCPS employee, student, and/or resident by visiting FCHD Vaccine Registration. (The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccination available for children 12-17.) Or visit Vaccine Finder to find a vaccine provider. (Those with immunodeficiency issues can receive the booster now, and others will be able to receive their 3rd booster 6-8 months after their 2nd dose. A process for that is coming soon!)

Students should be socially distanced at least 3 feet whenever possible. Staff must be 6 feet apart as much as possible, especially when eating.

Thackrey Preschool is checking temperatures upon arrival. At MDES and OSES, staff will conduct screening temperature checks each morning based on a modified schedule. We will evaluate this monthly. MEHMS or MHS are not checking temperatures given the high vaccine rates for 12-18-year-olds in Falls Church City.

FCCPS has increased airflow in each of our school buildings. You can find details regarding the updates and status of the ventilation system for each school on the FCCPS website.

If exposure from a COVID occurs, the school will implement strategies to reduce the risk to students and staff who may be impacted. The response is based on several factors for students.

Those factors include: vaccination status (vaccinated or unvaccinated); being within 3 feet for 15 cumulative minutes or more (only for students, not staff); whether the positive case and the exposed student were fully masked; and symptoms (when they began if they are current).

The school division uses seating charts and other information to determine who will “pause,” and the Fairfax County Health Department determines who will quarantine.

No one will be allowed to return to in-person learning until the contact tracing is complete. FCCPS will implement all public health actions as outlined by the Health Department based on the case. Each school also has a COVID Response Team to help support families as they navigate through pandemic-related issues.