A Message from Dr. LaTanya D. McDade, PWCS Superintendent of Schools

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Dear PWCS Families, Employees, and Community,

I hope you had a restful and enjoyable holiday break. As we prepare for the return of our students and staff members on January 3, 2022, the Division is closely monitoring developments around the Omicron variant and the increase in positive COVID-19 cases nationwide.

PWCS will re-open on January 3, 2022, for in-person learning, as originally scheduled. Students who were previously participating in our virtual program will also continue as normally scheduled.

As we continue to endure this rapidly changing global pandemic, PWCS remains committed to providing instruction to our students, in person, within our school buildings. We know in-person instruction is best for students academically, socially, and emotionally. It is clear the negative impact the last 20 months of this pandemic has had on children, as well as the families we serve.As we return in the new year, there is understandable concern about the new COVID variant and its impact. We will continue to implement and bolster mitigation strategies that are critical to curbing the spread of COVID-19. Some of the approaches we are taking include the following:

Mitigation Procedures

It is critical that we all do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible. First, it is highly recommended that all eligible individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19, including receiving a booster. If you or your child need an appointment, please visit the Prince William Health District website or vaccines.gov. We will continue to work with the Health District on securing additional vaccination sites at our school locations. Additional information will be shared as these clinics are scheduled. Earlier this year, our School Board approved a resolution requiring that staff members receive the COVID vaccine or be tested weekly. Currently more than 91% of our staff are vaccinated.

It is also important to monitor yourself and your children for symptoms of COVID-19. To mitigate the risk of spread, individuals who are symptomatic should stay home. PWCS daily home screening guidance can be found on our website.

PWCS will continue to require masks as we return to school following the winter break. Through masking, our schools will be:

  • Maintaining a layer of mitigation for staff and students when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Significantly reducing potential disruption to the educational environment caused by student quarantines.
  • Providing time for more students to receive vaccinations, and for more age groups to become eligible for boosters.
  • Reducing potential impacts to staffing due to employee illness or quarantine.
  • Our masking guidance has additional details.

Further, PWCS also participates in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program, which offers COVID-19 testing to K-12 schools. The ViSSTA program supports screening testing for students and staff. Screening testing is the regular testing of asymptomatic individuals to identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19 with the aim of catching cases early and stopping further transmission. Furthermore, through this ViSSTA program, we have received and distributed over 11,000 eMed BinaxNow home test kits to staff and students prior to the winter break. Although the COVID-19 home test kits are in short supply nationwide, we have procured additional kits that will be available no later than Friday, January 7, 2022, for distribution to students and staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

We continue to collaborate with the Prince William County Health District to secure additional testing options. For current COVID-19 testing availability, please visit the VDH website.

Test To Stay

PWCS has accepted an invitation to participate in a pilot program for the Virginia Department of Health Test to Stay (TTS) strategy. TTS is a practice that consists of contact tracing and serial COVID-19 testing to allow school-associated close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to continue to attend school during their quarantine period. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) now advises that schools may consider the use of TTS to minimize the impact of quarantine on students and limit school absences after a SARS-CoV-2 exposure in the K-12 school setting. We will update you on this pilot as more information becomes available.

Athletics

Athletic practices and events will continue according to the existing mitigation protocols. Please be aware that individual teams or events may need to be paused for the safety of all participants.

Updated CDC Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidance regarding quarantine periods, and we continue to follow the data and the science as it evolves. PWCS is working with the Prince William Health District and Virginia Department of Health to evaluate the updated guidance from the CDC. In order to effectively plan for thoughtful implementation of changes aligned to the new CDC guidance, our current health protocols regarding quarantine will remain the same until further notice. Employees and families will receive updated quarantine guidance as soon as it is available.

As we approach the new year and as COVID-19 conditions evolve in the weeks ahead, we will continue to communicate clearly and often about the steps we are taking. I appreciate your cooperation, support, and patience as we work together during this challenging time to provide an effective, high-quality education, while prioritizing safety for all students and staff.

Sincerely,

Dr. McDade Signature

LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.   Superintendent   Prince William County Public Schools

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