ACPS and the Alexandria Health Department are monitoring the situation with coronavirus (COVID-19). We will be sharing regular updates with you as we get information over the next few weeks. We are already taking precautions to ensure that ACPS schools and offices remain clean and hygienic at this time of year when we often see outbreaks of flu and other viruses.
Our schools are cleaned daily. All of our classrooms are disinfected every day, and frequently touched areas such as door knobs, faucet handles, and handrails are wiped down. Hard surfaces such as desk tops, are wiped down twice per week, while all restrooms in all schools are cleaned using a hospital grade disinfectant. Soap dispensers are also being checked three times a day during school hours.
Hand sanitizer is already provided in every elementary school classroom and will be available in common areas at all schools as it becomes accessible to purchase due to high demand across the country. All students and staff will be encouraged to either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer prior to eating. In addition, hand sanitizer will be available on all school buses and school buses will be cleaned multiple times each week. Please remember that helping to keep our schools virus-free must be a collaborative effort. Everyone must participate, including students, families, community and staff.
Washing hands frequently is the most effective way that you can do this. Please ensure you and everyone around you washes their hands frequently for about 20 seconds each time. Regular soap is also sufficient, according to health department officials. Please avoid touching your face or shaking hands. Cough into your sleeve or a tissue, and throw away your tissue immediately after use.
Finally, please stay home when you are not well and do not send your children to school if they are ill. We are continuing to work closely with the Alexandria Health Department and will provide regular updates as this situation evolves. In the meantime you can find updates at: www.acps.k12.va.us/coronavirus.
See how we are keeping our schools clean and hygienic in this short informational video:
ACPS is part of a multi-agency citywide committee that is planning in the event of any health-related pandemic. We have a pandemic action plan that is currently being reviewed and adapted to meet the specifics of any future coronavirus outbreak in this area. The plan addresses the specific activities necessary to keep schools open and operating while providing a clean and safe environment during an outbreak and the essential functions that must be performed by ACPS if schools are closed.
At present, we have no intention of closing schools and our overall goal is to do all we can to maintain continuity of operations while minimizing student and staff exposure. Should we need to, however, we will have a plan in place to continue learning, using Chomebooks and technology that students already use on a daily basis, to facilitate online study sessions and lessons.
ACPS is taking part in an online information session on COVID-19 on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m. You can watch the question and answer session live on the ACPS Facebook page or on the City Facebook page. City Manager Mark Jinks, Dr. Stephen Haering from the Alexandria Health Department, and Dr. Bansal, president of Inova Alexandria Hospital will also be on the panel.
How we are using the subject of Coronavirus as a teaching tool in our classrooms:
Across our schools, teachers are taking the subject of COVID-19 and working it into their lesson planning. This helps combat misinformation and helps spread the message about the best way to stay healthy.
On Thursday, the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy at T.C. Williams hosted a panel of experts to speak with students in the program at T.C.
Marcia Firmani from the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Craig Evans, paramedic and executive director Northern Virginia EMS Council, Asra Amin from the City of Alexandria Fire Department, and Marilyn Foster, nurse practitioner and supervisor of the Alexandria’s Health Department Teen Wellness Center, led a lively discussion on the global outbreak.
The four spent an hour fielding questions, busting myths and providing reliable information and advice to students from both the Academy and T.C’s health and medical-focused classes.
It provided a valuable opportunity for our future medics to understand how viruses spread and what we can all do to limit that happening.
Questions ranged from “Why is it spreading so quickly?” and “Why does it take so long to create a vaccine?” to “What are we doing to identify sick people traveling across state lines?”
The key takeaways: keep things in perspective, don’t believe everything you read on social media, stay healthy, and wash your hands.
Health Sciences Academy coordinator, Michele Coffman, told the students, “Coronavirus is in the news a lot right now. There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there and we decided to have a panel to educate and inform.”
“You are going to be on the front line in a couple of years. These people here on our panel are currently on that front line.”