Alexandria schools offer early look at reopening efforts amid delta variant wave

COVID-19’s delta variant is infecting more kids than previous waves of the virus. Unfortunately, it’s happening right as area schools begin reopening for the new school year.

Alexandria City Public Schools has already returned from its summer break, and is giving other school systems in the D.C. region a real-world example of how to navigate the challenges to come.

Rene Paschal, the principal at Samuel Tucker Elementary, said his summer was at least twice as busy as it usually is.

School staff were given more responsibility as kids return to the classes and hallways.

That means observing proper masking, which will have to be worn in every school building around the region this year.

But it goes beyond that — schools will also be checking temperatures on a regular basis, and “have a lot more monitoring happening so that we’re not having a large number of kids in spaces throughout the day,” said Dr. Gregory Hutchings Jr., the superintendent of Alexandria City schools.

Air filtration systems are a big focus in every classroom, too. And there’s keeping up public health agencies that school leaders have become familiar with over the past year and a half.

“We’re in constant contact with our Alexandria Health Department,” said Hutchings.  “They are our key partners right now because they are the experts in regards to our medical insight and input.  We also meet with the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Health.

Hutchings added that he’s been talking regularly with all the superintendents around the northern Virginia area.

“We come together as well to have discussion around health and safety mitigation and any kinds of pivots we need to do within our school environment,” he said

It’s a lot of new obligations for school staff and leaders, but it also means lots of changes for students as well.

Will it be overwhelming for them?  Hutchings doesn’t think so.

“Our kids are resilient, and once you get into routine, it just becomes the norm,” he said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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