Layered Prevention Strategies
Returning strong and staying strong all year
Layered Prevention Strategies
Our layered prevention strategies have been effective at keeping in-school transmission rates low and are supported by the U.S. Department of Education and Northern Virginia Health Departments. We continually review our safety measures and local, state, and national guidance to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our schools safe places to learn.
Updated: January 2022
Vaccination helps reduce the severity of illness and remains the best tool for ending the pandemic. The FDA expanded booster eligibility to 12-15 year-olds and shortened the time needed before receiving a booster shot from at least six months after completion of the initial series to at least five months, for everyone 12 and older. If you need a vaccination or booster, the Fairfax County Health Department website is a great source of information about clinics and other vaccination opportunities.
Updated: January 2022
FCPS will continue to follow recommendations from local and national experts and require all students and staff to wear masks, except at times and on occasions already designated in previous communications.
SB1303 says: school divisions need to "provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
Our layered prevention strategies have proven highly effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools and we will continue to use data and science to guide our decision-making. Review current mask guidelines on our website.
In addition, the federal requirement from February 2, 2021, is still in place on all forms of public transportation. Anyone riding a school bus is therefore required to wear a mask when embarking, disembarking and for the duration of the journey to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We will continue to make available cloth and disposable masks for students and staff. The masks provided continue to meet the face mask requirements outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health. Both CDC and VDH emphasize the need for well-fitting masks to be worn consistently and correctly and for the masks to have multiple layers. CDC continues to recommend that surgical N95 respirators “be prioritized for healthcare personnel.”
At this time, we are only providing N95 masks to a small subset of staff who are providing health-related services, such as nebulizer treatments, where there is a high likelihood of exchange of respiratory droplets.
FCPS staff will continue to work collaboratively with students, families, and staff to foster the consistent and correct use of masks to minimize the eliminate or minimize the spread of COVID in schools.
Monitor Symptoms and Stay Home When Sick
Everyone should be checking for symptoms daily and stay home if sick or experiencing symptoms. Additional details can be located in the Health and Safety Guidance Document.
For more information about FCPS’ COVID-19 testing program, visit the testing webpage.
Reporting COVID-19 Cases
The number of students and staff that tested positive via our diagnostic testing centers from Thursday, December 30 through Sunday, January 2 will be analyzed when the aggregate data becomes available. PCR test results typically take 24-48 hours. However, given the high demand for testing and high community transmission, results are taking slightly longer.
Outside of information gained from the diagnostic testing sites, overall information on FCPS students and staff that are currently COVID-19 positive is not known as COVID-19 data reported through our COVID-19 dashboard solely includes information pertaining to individuals that self-report being COVID positive and were on-site during their infectious period (two days prior to symptom onset or two days prior to testing positive for asymptomatic persons). Given that schools have been closed for the last two weeks for winter break, with the exception of VHSL sports, the larger student and staff population have not been on site since December 17, 2021, and thus were not onsite during the infectious period.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Measures have been implemented to ensure that common areas and equipment, and personal workspaces, are regularly cleaned and sanitized. The Office of Facilities Management has worked closely with FCPS custodians to adjust their cleaning processes to better address current considerations. FCPS custodians are using effective disinfectant and sanitizing products to clean our facilities every day. For more detail about cleaning and disinfecting in schools, see the Health and Safety Guidance Document.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Last year FCPS took action to ensure that all facilities have sufficient outside air ventilation. Information was gathered and compiled in a report to aid in determining the appropriate measures for reducing the spread of coronavirus through ventilation systems. Also included within the report are measures FCPS is taking to ensure all schools are ready to return to in-person learning. These measures include:
- Verifying all schools and offices have sufficient outside air ventilation.
- Upgrading all schools from MERV 8 to MERV 13 filters – including every room and classroom.
- Purchasing portable air purifiers with HEPA filters.
- Assessing ultraviolet (UV-C) lighting technologies in schools.
- Obtaining the International Well Building Institute’s (IWBI) WELL Health & Safety Rating.
Schools do not need to leave classroom doors and windows open to help ventilate the space. FCPS uses mechanical ventilation instead of opening windows to provide outside air as the air coming through mechanical systems is filtered. Fresh air is provided at an appropriate rate, and the air is filtered and conditioned before it enters the space. School HVAC systems average between six and ten air exchanges per hour at a rate of 18-20% fresh outside air for each exchange – providing more than 100% fresh outside air to the space every hour. Systems are designed for full building occupancy and, when installed, exceed the ASHRAE minimum guidance of 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) per person. Classrooms average 25 cfm per person at full occupancy – exceeding the industry standard for airflow. FCPS also took targeted samples from every school and compared these samples to the manufacturer’s design.
The CDC does consider opening windows to be a good method to increase outdoor air in spaces so long as it doesn’t pose a safety or health risk. The following information is posted on the CDC’s guidance for ventilation in buildings, “Open windows and doors, when weather conditions allow, to increase outdoor airflow. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., risk of falling, triggering asthma symptoms) to occupants in the building.” This CDC recommendation is true for school buses as well. FCPS’ health department liaisons have not recommended the practice of opening windows during transit. However, transportation encourages opening bus/van windows as needed.
To better support our schools and communities, facilities staff are partnering with principals to review areas of concern such as classrooms that do not have windows and repurposed learning spaces and providing additional measures like air purifiers to these spaces. They also participated in parent-teacher meetings, PTA meetings, town halls, coffee table discussions, and other events to provide information about what FCPS is doing to safeguard ventilation in schools.