Safety Teams Deployed to Monitor COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies at FCPS
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has implemented new Safety Teams to help the school district monitor each schools’ adherence to five mitigation strategies for COVID-19. These teams, consisting of FCPS staff members and retirees, will conduct random onsite spot checks, deliver education and resources, and report data back to administrators.
The five mitigation strategies are set forth in the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-making guide, and include proper use of masks or face coverings; social distancing; hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and disinfection; and contact tracing in collaboration with the health department.
“The role of these teams is to help protect staff and students, and to make sure we all know what we can do to ensure safe, clean, healthy spaces,” said Jeff Platenberg, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Transportation Services. “We’ve been training teams and conducting checks in recent weeks across FCPS.”
The Safety Teams are part of FCPS’ ongoing effort to prioritize the safety of students, teachers, and other staff members while working to reopen schools gradually for in-person instruction. With the data collected by the Safety Teams, FCPS can fully utilize the CDC’s third key indicator to guide its decision-making process.
The first two CDC key indicators are the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons in the region within the last 14 days, and the regional percentage of positive COVID-19 tests within the last 14 days. The third CDC indicator is the ability of each FCPS school or center to adhere to the five mitigation strategies. The CDC indicates that strict following of the mitigation strategies can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools, even if community rates remain high.
“These visits will help us document how consistently we are implementing all the health and safety strategies encouraged by the CDC and health officials,” continued Platenberg. “The data will help us immediately spot where additional education or resources might be needed. We want to make sure we are consistently implementing the CDC’s strategies. This is new for all of us, and so far, we are encouraged by what we see.”
FCPS has consistently maintained that the safety of students, teachers, and other staff must come before other considerations. However, if risks can be minimized, FCPS has also stressed the importance of returning students to in-person instruction, since many students struggle in the virtual learning environment. Adherence to the mitigation strategies represented by the third key CDC indicator may make it possible to return more groups of students to the classroom safely.
Additional health metrics are listed on the FCPS website.