HCPS 2020-21: Planning and preparing for the second-nine-weeks of school

Even though no decisions have been recommended or made at this time, HCPS must plan for a variety of possibilities. From Plexiglas, to PPE, here’s a look at the steps our schools are taking to be prepared for the possibility of expanded in-person learning, while adhering to the HCPS COVID-19 Health Plan. 

What is HCPS’ plan for bringing students back to school in person? Are there criteria for opening school buildings and a timeline for evaluation?

Transitioning from a predominantly virtual approach to a hybrid approach will depend on several criteria. These include the Virginia Department of Health’s “Community Transmission and Data Trends for the Central Region,” combined with the data available for Henrico County, to determine when to shift to a hybrid approach to learning. The Virginia Department of Health determines a current “burden level” for coronavirus conditions, based on three factors: the case incidence rate per 100,000, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) percent positivity, and the outbreaks per 100,000 (as well as the trends associated with these three metrics.)

The current coronavirus “burden level” will affect HCPS’ evolving approach to instruction:

  • A substantial/high burden level would align with HCPS’ Instructional Approach 2. The availability of the needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff considerations would be used to determine whether to incorporate limited in-person instruction.
  • A moderate burden level would align with Instructional Approach 3. Again, the availability of the needed PPE and staff considerations would be used to determine the appropriateness of transitioning to the alternating-day hybrid option.
  • A low burden level would align with Instructional Approach 4. As with the other levels, the availability of the needed PPE and staff considerations would be used to determine whether to transition to in-person instruction for most, if not all, students. 

Prior to recommending a shift in approach, HCPS will determine:

  • That the necessary personal protective equipment is available to ensure the health and safety of staff and students. 
  • That the supply chain can sustain a four-week supply of PPE in schools. 
  • Whether staff members affirm that the HCPS COVID-19 Health Plan and risk-mitigation strategies are playing out effectively in HCPS classrooms. 
  • How a given recommendation will affect daily attendance rates.
  • Employee and community confidence in the return to in-person learning.

Examples of what HCPS is doing to prepare for the return of students to school buildings:

(Not an exhaustive list.)

  • Instituting enhanced virtual training for HCPS employees regarding COVID-19 awareness and prevention.
  • Installing Plexiglas barriers in main offices and other select areas of the schools.
  • Providing hand sanitizer and additional cleaning/disinfecting products for every classroom.
  • Requiring self-screening procedures for HCPS employees and students.
  • Purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, including face coverings.
  • Purchasing face coverings for the use of students who don’t bring their own.
  • Installing floor stickers and signs indicating proper 6-foot distancing.
  • Reimagining in-school meal service to eliminate touch points and large group gatherings.
  • Determining enhanced cleaning schedules of high-touch areas in schools.
  • Determining classroom layouts that allow for proper physical distancing.
  • Determining seating arrangements, as well as entry and exit plans that maintain physical distancing on school buses.
  • Developing plans to thoroughly clean school buses and other vehicles in between uses.
  • Instituting health screenings for visitors to school property.
  • Collaborating with the Henrico Health Department to respond to positive cases, exposures and potential exposures.
  • Reviewing more than 500 mechanical systems with an engineering consultant and building-automation experts to determine necessary mechanical system changes. Reviews incorporate recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control as well as American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.
  • Upgrading filters in accordance with system capabilities and designs.
  • Maximizing outside air provisions in accordance with system designs.
  • “Flushing” the air in HCPS buildings through continuous air operation.