NPS News Now
COVID-19 Update Special Edition
Message from the Superintendent
It seems each time we think the world may return to “normal,” a new variant of the coronavirus brings a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections. The current surge of the Omicron variant has certainly caused higher numbers of infections than we have previously seen.
From the start of this unprecedented health emergency, the Norfolk Public Schools’ administration has prioritized the health and safety of all within our school division. We have used federal funding to purchase more than 1.5 million disposable face masks, along with other items to help mitigate the coronavirus such as cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. We continue to install water filling stations in our schools so that students may have touch-free hydration, and we have purchased air purifiers as well as humidifying sanitizers.
Additionally, with unanimous approval from the School Board, NPS has instituted a vaccine mandate or weekly testing requirement for all staff as one of our many efforts to provide a healthy and safe teaching and learning environment in our buildings. Our school nurses conduct rigorous contact tracing protocols for all with known exposures or positive results. The number and location of confirmed cases is posted each day on our COVID-19 Core Indicators Dashboard.
In NPS, we appreciate the diligence of our families and our staff to ensure that we are doing all we can to mitigate the spread of this disease. Masking, hand washing and sanitizing, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting our facilities, and quarantining and isolating students and staff (as needed) remain part of our everyday activities.
We know that school attendance is critical for our students’ success; they perform at higher levels academically and strongly benefit from social interactions within a school setting. The Virginia General Assembly has required school divisions to offer full-time in person instruction throughout this school year, with some exceptions permitted. We appreciate your partnership in ensuring your child’s(ren’s) regular school attendance.
We hope this special edition newsletter that covers several COVID-19 related topics will provide important reminders and resources. You can always access information about our mitigation strategies in the Coronavirus Update portion of our website.
We’re all in this together!
We all have a role to play in mitigating the spread of COVID 19! COVID-19 infections include a wide array of symptoms, from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Continue to review the COVID-19 checklist before heading to school each day:
Those with any of these symptoms should stay home!
Please do not send your child who has not been fully vaccinated to school if other members of the household are positive for COVID-19 infection. You may send your fully vaccinated, asymptomatic child to school, but you should monitor to ensure your child remains asymptomatic. Contact your child’s school nurse should you have any questions regarding whether to send your child to school.
If a student displays COVID-19 symptoms while at school, the school’s nurse will conduct an assessment in a room isolated from other students. Parents/Guardians, it is critical that you update your personal contact information to ensure school nurses and administrators can reach someone should the need arise. To update your information, please call your child’s school.
Virginia Public Schools required to hold in-person instruction
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law in March 2021 that requires schools to offer in-person instruction to students during the current school year. Norfolk Public Schools must provide 990 hours of in-person instruction to students.
This new law permits temporary school closures under specified conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its recommendations for quarantine for individuals who are infected with coronavirus.
The Virginia Department of Health has provided interim guidance for K-12 schools following updates from the CDC. The new guidance allows individuals to return five days after a positive COVID-19 test if the following criteria have been met:
- They have no symptoms, or their symptoms have resolved (no fever).
- They wear a well-fitting mask for five additional days when interacting with others.
- They maintain proper social distance.
When children have to remove their masks to eat or for other reasons, they must be in a setting that allows for six feet of distance between them and others. If they cannot be six feet apart when they return, they cannot benefit from the reduced five-day quarantine and will need to follow the 10-day quarantine. If they can stay six feet apart when unmasked, they can use the five-day option.
These guidelines will evolve as state and federal public health experts review COVID-19 caseloads and scientific analysis. NPS will provide updates as they are available.
Continuity of Learning for Quarantined Students
As Norfolk Public Schools continues to navigate through the pandemic, continuity of learning is vital to students’ success.
If a full or partial class is quarantined and requires concurrent lessons, the classes will be live on Zoom during the regularly scheduled class times. This will be clearly communicated from each student’s school. If a full class is quarantined, students will learn from home and may use their school-issued Chromebook and Wi-Fi hot spot or a home computer connected to the internet to log into Zoom and Canvas for learning each day. Additionally, NPS has provided free access to live online tutoring via FEV Tutor, available to all NPS students in grades 3-12, 24 hours per day, seven days per week should students need additional assistance.
Where to find online learning resources
Students can stay up to speed on class assignments online through Canvas, a learning management system. This online support simplifies and enhances teaching and learning by connecting all the digital tools that teachers, students, and parents use in one place. Canvas courses can be accessed anywhere, any time. NPS has created an online guide to Canvas for parents to help support their children and access school assignments while in quarantine.
Do you have questions or need tech support? Click here: https://k12nps.sharepoint.com/sites/NPSVirtualLearningSupport
Stay in touch with your child’s teacher by email, through Class Dojo, or through Canvas.
Community Testing Center Open at Norfolk Military Circle
The Norfolk Department of Public Health announced that a Community Testing Center (CTC) has opened at Military Circle to provide free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19 to increase availability in response to public demand. The CTC offers testing six days a week by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The center will be closed on Fridays. Testing will be held outside to minimize exposures.
To find an appointment, visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment. Enter zip code 23502.
CTC test results will be sent automatically via text or email message to individuals being tested, based on the information provided in the appointment system.
In an effort to help reserve emergency rooms, urgent care facilities, and rescue squads for medical emergencies, The Virginia Department of Health is the best resource to determine when and where to be tested. Visit VDH’s COVID-19 Testing webpage.
Pandemic terms and definitions
Two years into the pandemic, these terms have become part of our everyday language.
Contact Tracing - a public health practice that health departments use to identify and notify people who have been exposed to someone with an infectious disease.
Exposure - Contact with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a way that increases the likelihood of getting infected with the virus.
Adults - Someone who was less than six feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes).
Students - In the K–12 indoor classroom setting or a structured outdoor setting where mask use can be observed (i.e., holding class outdoors with educator supervision), the close contact definition excludes students who were between 3 to 6 feet of an infected student if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time.
Quarantine - a strategy used to prevent transmission of COVID-19 by keeping people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 apart from others.
Social Distancing - maintaining enough distance from others to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Core Indicators Dashboard
Norfolk Public Schools remain committed to providing safe learning and working environments for all students and staff. Following health mitigation practices such as wearing face coverings, washing hands, and maintaining physical distance are key components of staying healthy along with tracking exposures to COVID-19 in our communities.
Since March 2021, NPS has been reporting the number and location of confirmed COVID-19 cases within our schools and administration buildings. Find the COVID-19 Core Indicators Dashboard here or by clicking the image above.
The dashboard is updated daily and reflects the most current data available based on contact tracing from the previous 24 hours. Please note: new cases may take two to three days to appear due to required confirmation procedures.
Vaccinate Virginia can help schedule a first, second, or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
Those in Virginia age five and up can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the Commonwealth’s Vaccinate Virginia site for the latest vaccination information and help with scheduling the shot. Pre-registration is no longer required.
Personal Protective Equipment - Masks
Mask recommendations have not changed at this time. A number of strategies can improve mask fit.
Fitting a mask
The mask should fit snugly over nose, mouth, and chin without gaps
Choose a mask with a nose wire
Use a mask fitter or brace
Add a layer of material
Use a cloth mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
Wear a disposable mask under a cloth mask
Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask
Choose the Right Mask
Do not use a mask made of non-breathable materials (plastic, leather, etc.) or mesh
Do not combine two disposable masks
Do not combine a KN95 with any other mask
Good to Know
Masks are not a substitute for physical distancing
Masks protect the person wearing the mask as well as others
Face shields, a scarf or cold weather headwear are not a substitute for a mask
Masks with one-way valves or vents cannot be used in schools
After use, throw away disposable masks and launder cloth masks
Health Mitigation Strategies
- Due to the circulating and highly contagious Omicron variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Masking within schools has been required by the Virginia Health Commissioner, regardless of vaccination status.
- In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.
- When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, it is especially important to layer multiple prevention strategies.
- Ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing, in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
- Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
- Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).
- NPS is currently collaborating with the VDH to implement a testing program that is being piloted with Office of Athletics.
Employee Vaccine Mandate now in effect
The City of Norfolk School Board voted unanimously in October to mandate that its employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. At the recommendation of Superintendent Byrdsong, on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, the board agreed to delay implementation of the weekly testing portion of this mandate.
Dr. Byrdsong asked board members for flexibility in this portion of the implementation due to the current nationwide shortage of COVID-19 tests, results processing, and laboratory delays. The staff of the Department of Human Resources will contact employees who are required to submit weekly testing results to provide more specific information regarding this change.
Chief Human Resources Officer Dandridge Billups informed board members that 85 percent of NPS employees are fully vaccinated, with another 2 percent partially vaccinated.