Arlington schools update isolation guidelines, end pause on sports, extracurriculars

Arlington Public Schools in Virginia announced updates to its quarantine and isolation guidelines Wednesday, adopting the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for staff, but keeping in place a longer isolation period for students.

In a message to the school community, Superintendent Francisco Duran also said the school system will resume in-person athletics and extracurricular activities effective immediately, while following testing, vaccination and mask requirements.

The changes mirror what public schools in nearby Fairfax County adopted before returning to school after winter break.

Effective Jan. 17, Duran said Arlington schools will reduce the quarantine period for exposed students and staff to five days, and reduce the isolation period for staff to five days. However, the school system said because it cannot ensure distancing during meals, isolation times for students will remain 10 days.

CDC guidance suggests isolation can end after five days if a mask is worn around others and physical distancing is maintained.

Athletic events and extracurricular activities can also now resume, Duran said, after a pause that went into effect Dec. 30 and was slated to end Friday.

Duran said the temporary stoppage was “due to the significant surge in positive cases among athletes and helped us to interrupt the chain of transmission and to ensure the continuity of education with the spread of COVID-19 as students returned from the break.”

Miranda Turner, an Arlington County parent and member the group Arlington Parents for Education, said the changes are a step in the right direction.

“It’s a positive development that we are closer to following CDC guidance as a school district,” Turner said. “…This is great from a staffing perspective because getting the adults back into the buildings, as soon as the CDC says it is safe, is huge for staffing purposes to make sure our kids have teachers and have the excellent professionals who help them every day.

But for the kids, they’re still going to be stuck out for a full 10 days.”

With the second half of the school year underway, Duran said transitions to virtual learning will only be made to address high transmission in classrooms or schools. The pivot will be a “last resort,” Duran said, and factors considered to make decisions include the number of students and staff who have tested positive, the number of students in quarantine, the number of staff absent for COVID-related reasons and transmission levels in classrooms or schools.

More information about the county’s plans is available online.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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