Below is the latest information that we have about updated health guidelines for the 2021-22 school year.
Please know that our health measures are in accordance with guidance from the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of these agencies strongly recommend that school districts take a layered approach to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19 as much as possible. This means using multiple mitigation measures layered on top of one another to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Below are details about APS’ layered approach.
Of course, public health guidance may change quickly and frequently depending on circumstances, so please be assured that we will share information with you as quickly as possible. We thank you in advance for your flexibility, understanding and support.
The most significant layer to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is for as many people in the APS community to receive COVID-19 vaccines as possible. As we shared with staff members during the last school year, once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, all APS staff will be required to be vaccinated.
We are also strongly encouraging all students who are eligible (ages 12 and up) to get vaccinated. Vaccines must be proven to be safe and effective before they are administered to the general public. After examining clinical trial data, the FDA found that three vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19 disease: Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for people 12 years and older and authorized Moderna and Janssen for those 18 years and older. For more information about receiving your FREE vaccine at an upcoming APS vaccine clinic, please visit: aurorak12.org/vaccine. Please know that you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to receive a vaccine and you are not required to provide proof of identification.
UPDATED 8/31/21: Mask Requirement Extended to Students and Staff at All School Buildings
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our community and across the country, the Tri-County Health Department has issued a universal mask order for all individuals aged 2 years and older in all school and child care settings, regardless of vaccination status. This order is in effect from Sept. 1, 2021 until Dec. 31, 2021, unless amended, extended or rescinded based on conditions. This means, starting Sept. 1, all students and staff must wear masks while inside ALL of our school buildings serving grades P-12 as well as at Pickens Technical College. APS was already requiring students and staff in Child Development Centers, elementary, P-8 / K-8 and middle schools to wear masks. Now this requirement will expand to all high schools and to Pickens Technical College.
As a reminder, all visitors to our school buildings are also required to wear masks regardless of vaccination stats.
We recognize that some of you will be pleased with a stricter mask mandate while others may be upset. Please know that our focus remains on maintaining strong in-person learning environments as much as possible. We will continue to evaluate our layered approach and add or remove mitigation layers depending on current circumstances. We are asking everyone in our community to work together as we adapt to changing guidelines.
Please note that all students and staff will be required to wear masks on school buses regardless of vaccination status. This is in accordance with the CDC’s order requiring face masks on public transportation and at transportation hubs.
UPDATED 8/13/2021: Quarantines Required for Higher-Risk Exposures (Athletics, Field Trips and After-School Band, Choir and Performing Arts)
In addition, TCHD has provided additional guidance that quarantines will be required for unvaccinated students and staff who are exposed to positive cases during higher-risk extracurricular activities. This includes all athletics, field trips and after-school bands, choirs and performing arts groups.
Screening for COVID-19 Symptoms and Testing
At the start of each school day, APS will continue the practice of screening students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms as an additional mitigation layer. Students with specific COVID-like symptoms will be referred to the school's health professional (school nurse or health paraprofessional) for further assessment. The health professional will determine appropriate next steps.
If a parent/guardian is contacted to pick up an ill student, it is expected that the student will be picked up from school in a timely manner. Please make sure to have your emergency contact information updated via Parent Portal. If students or staff are showing symptoms, they may be required to stay home until the symptoms have resolved.
We will continue to emphasize that every student and staff member should complete a self-assessment daily. If students or staff members feel ill or have symptoms, they need to stay home and not go to school or work.
Please remember that COVID-19 testing is free and available for students and staff through COVIDCheck Colorado. We will continue to encourage those who are symptomatic to get tested for COVID-19.
Isolation of Positive Students and Staff
APS will continue to require any student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status to isolate at home for 10 days before returning to school or work. This allows APS to remove COVID-19 positive individuals from school and work settings to prevent transmission to others.
Quarantines as a Response to Possible Exposure (Change in Communication Protocols)
In accordance with health guidance, APS will no longer require proactive quarantining of those who may have been exposed to a positive and/or symptomatic individual. APS nurses will work with families on best practices and will provide guidance if a family member in the home tests positive for COVID-19. APS will continue to follow TCHD’s infectious disease guidelines and take additional health measures as directed by TCHD.
This updated guidance means that APS will no longer notify school communities (staff, parents and guardians) about positive and/or symptomatic cases. Staff, parents and guardians will no longer receive emails and automated phone calls about positive cases. Instead, APS will keep its COVID-19 tracker updated with reported positive cases. The tracker will remain updated on a daily basis (Monday-Friday) with any reports of positive cases at schools.
Enhanced Cleaning Protocols and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
Another key environmental mitigation layer is our enhanced cleaning protocols and updated HVAC systems at our schools and sites. Custodians have received regular training to conduct enhanced disinfection and cleaning. In addition, we have kept HVAC systems updated and we will continue to implement best practices to optimize ventilation.
Partnership with APS Families to Keep Students and Schools Safe
Families are our partners in education and we recognize that families are a critical layer in our mitigation approach. We are committed to keeping families updated regularly about health guidelines and providing important information quickly throughout the school year. We ask for your continued support in keeping our students and schools safe. This means keeping your students home if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms and communicating with school staff whenever you have questions or concerns.
Once again, APS will remain rooted in making decisions based on research, science and public health guidance. As we monitor evolving guidance from our public health partners, we may need to update or change these plans to increase mitigation measures. For example, there may be the need to add a student mask mandate at some point during the year.
We are excited to welcome more of our students back to in-person learning this school year and we know we can do that safely with our layered approach. Thank you for your continued partnership and we look forward to welcoming APS students back to school next month.
- Superintendent Rico Munn