A message from Superintendent Dr. LaTanya McDade


A message from Dr LaTanya McDade

December 30, 2021

Dear PWCS Families, Employees and Community,

Hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. As we prepare for the return of our students and staff 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 reopen on January 3, 2022, for in-person learning, as originally planned. Students who previously participated in our virtual program will also continue as planned.

As we continue to endure this rapidly evolving global pandemic, PWCS remains committed to providing education to our students, in person, in our school buildings. We know that in-person teaching is the best for students academically, socially and emotionally. It is clear that the negative impact the past 20 months of this pandemic has had on children, as well as the families we serve.

As we head back into the New Year, there is understandable concern about the new COVID variant and its impact. We will continue to implement and strengthen the mitigation strategies that are essential to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some of the approaches we take are as follows:

Mitigation procedures

It is essential that we all do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19. First, it is strongly recommended that all eligible people be vaccinated against COVID-19, including by receiving a booster. If you or your child needs an appointment, please visit the Prince William Health District website or www.vaccines.gov. We will continue to work with the health district to secure additional vaccination sites in our schools. Additional information will be shared as these clinics are scheduled. Earlier this year, our school board approved a resolution requiring staff members to receive the COVID vaccine or be tested weekly. Currently, over 91% of our staff are vaccinated.

It is also important to monitor yourself and your children for symptoms of COVID-19. To reduce the risk of spread, people with symptoms should stay home. PWCS daily home screening tips are available on our website.

PWCS will continue to require masks when we return to school after winter break. Thanks to masking, our schools will be:

  • Maintain a layer of mitigation for staff and students when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Dramatically reduce the potential disruption of the educational environment caused by student quarantines.
  • Give more students time to get vaccinated and more age groups to become eligible for boosters.
  • Reduce potential impacts on staff due to employee illness or quarantine.
  • Our masking guide has additional details.

In addition, PWCS also participates in the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), which offers COVID-19 testing to K-12 schools. The ViSSTA program supports screening tests for students and staff. Testing involves regularly testing asymptomatic individuals to identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19 with the aim of detecting cases early and stopping transmission. Additionally, through this ViSSTA program, we received and distributed over 11,000 eMed BinaxNow home test kits to staff and students ahead of the winter break. Although COVID-19 home test kits are scarce across the country, we have purchased additional kits that will be available by Friday, January 7, 2022, for distribution to students and staff with symptoms of COVID-19. .

We continue to work with the Prince William County Health District for additional testing options. For current availability of COVID-19 testing, 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’s Test to Stay (TTS) strategy. TTS is a practice of serial contact tracing and COVID-19 testing to allow close contacts associated with school who are not fully vaccinated to continue attending school during their quarantine period. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) is now advising schools to consider using TTS to minimize the impact of quarantine on students and limit school absences after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the course of school K-12. We will keep you posted on this pilot as more information becomes available.

Athletics

Sporting practices and events will continue in accordance with existing mitigation protocols. Please note that individual teams or events may need to be put on hold for the safety of all participants.

Updated CDC guidelines

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

As the New Year approaches and as COVID-19 conditions evolve in the weeks to come, we will continue to communicate clearly and often about the actions we are taking. I appreciate your cooperation, support and patience as we work together during this difficult time to provide an effective and high quality education, while putting the safety of all students and staff first.

Truly,

Dr LaTanya McDade

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

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