Allegany County Public Schools (ACPS) is excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, with the opportunity for all students to attend school in-person five days a week. The ultimate goal of Allegany County Public Schools is to welcome students back to school buildings for face-to-face instruction and keep them there, thus preventing interruptions in their daily lives, while also reducing the spread of the virus within the community. ACPS will utilize a variety of layered prevention strategies to keep students in school including encouraging vaccination for eligible staff and students; indoor masking; physical distancing; and increased ventilation within buildings.
As COVID-19 continues to be a concern around the world, ACPS is prepared to respond to any changes with the pandemic in our community so that students can remain engaged in learning throughout the school year. To do this, ACPS needs everyone in our learning community to be flexible and supportive. In this update, you will find information about:
Face coverings in schools
Safety measures for students and staff
Face Coverings in Schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires students and staff to wear masks over the mouth and nose on all school buses in accordance with a federal transportation order. In accordance with the order, ACPS will require students and staff to wear a mask at all times on school buses. Students may wear their own mask or one will be provided for them.
The school board voted on an amendment to the 2021-2022 Reopening Plan to begin the school year requiring that all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors. This mandate became effective Monday, August 16, 2021. This additional initiative for masking indoors will help schools avoid mass quarantines of students. Per the CDC, students who are sitting three feet or more from a student who tests positive for Covid-19 will not need to be quarantined as long as the infected student and the exposed student(s) were wearing face coverings consistently and correctly. ACPS is committed to keeping students in schools for consistent in person instruction, and this measure will support more students having that opportunity.
ACPS will require students to wear masks as long as Allegany County is in the CDC’s “high” or “substantial” level of community transmission of the virus. ACPS will continue to work collaboratively with the ACHD throughout the pandemic, and beginning October 1, 2021, will begin to monitor the CDC data tracker for Allegany County. If the metrics place Allegany County in the low or moderate classification for two consecutive Fridays for community transmission, masks inside buildings will be recommended but not required. Parents will be notified of this change prior to implementation. If ACPS lifts the mask mandate, masks could also still be required in a single school or classroom if there is an outbreak. Masks continue to be optional outdoors.
While ACPS was successful with limiting the spread of COVID-19 during the 2020-2021 school year, quarantining was extremely disruptive to the learning environment and restricted many extracurricular activities. People who are close contacts to a COVID-positive person may be required to quarantine for up to 14 days.
The CDC has defined an exception for determining student close contacts in the classroom setting. Students who are three (3) feet or more from a student who tests positive for COVID-19 are NOT considered close contacts if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. For outdoor settings, or when students are unmasked, the CDC defines a “close contact” as an individual who is within six (6) feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (masked or unmasked). Those who are 12 or older, and fully vaccinated, will not be required to quarantine if they are a close contact to a positive individual.
Individuals who are identified as close contacts during the school day will have more specific information provided by the school nurse and administration.
Virtual learning will not be available for students during periods of quarantine. Students who are quarantined will receive their class work from the school for the length of their quarantine period.
Safety Measures for Students and Staff
ACPS is continuing health and safety protocols that proved effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 over the last school year. Those measures include, but are not limited to:
Physical distancing. Staff will maximize space between students to the greatest extent possible.
Cleaning protocols. A daily, thorough cleaning will continue including high touch surfaces. Each classroom will have air purifiers that clean and disinfect circulated air prior to the end of the first quarter.
Encouraging healthy habits. All schools are equipped with a supply of hand soap and hand sanitizer, which will be available in multiple locations. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands throughout the day. Students and staff who are sick should stay home.
ACPS is prepared for what is anticipated to be another unprecedented school year through the COVID-19 pandemic. Circumstances with the virus will likely continue to change, and the school system will respond to support students and continue learning. Likewise, ACPS asks everyone in our learning community to be flexible and prepared for changes. Together, we will make 2021-2022 another successful school year!