Fairfax County school and health officials have created a new system that will reduce the amount of time students have to wait to return to in-person instruction after they have been exposed to COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Fairfax schools updated the division’s health and safety guidance allowing parents or guardians whose children have been exposed to COVID-19 to submit an online vaccination verification form, provided by the health department, proving their child is fully vaccinated.
Lucy Caldwell, the director of communications for Fairfax County Health Department, said that the new system was created to streamline the process of clearing students to go back to in-person learning more quickly post-exposure. Previously, the Health Department would reach out to parents individually to confirm their child’s vaccination status and/or if they had symptoms.
“However, the process to clear students who were fully [vaccinated] took time,” Caldwell told InsideNoVa. “[The Health Department] created the form to help expedite clearing students who were fully vaccinated.”
When the school has identified a student has been exposed to COVID-19, parents and guardians will be sent a link to the online verification form via email. COVID-19 testing, although required for school staff, is not mandatory for students. A spokesperson for Fairfax schools said that the school would be notified of a student’s exposure either through the family or Health Department (typically notified by the student’s pediatrician).
Once parents receive the form, they must provide proof of their child’s vaccination status by electronically uploading the vaccination record or card. Parents must also complete a short survey confirming their child is asymptomatic.
If parents have misplaced their child’s vaccination card or need documentation of their vaccination status they may visit the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Vacciantion Record Request portal.
The portal where parents can upload their child’s verification form will be monitored by Health Department staff seven days a week between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Parents who submit their forms during normal business hours should receive a clearance letter in just a few hours. If it’s after business hours, at the latest, parents would receive their clearance letter the following day.
If a family does not have access to a computer or email, the Health Department will contact families by phone.
Caldwell noted that fully vaccinated students who have been exposed must remain home in quarantine until their vaccination status is verified. But once their vaccination status is confirmed, and the student is symptom free, the student will receive a clearance letter via email which parents can submit to the school. Upon submission of the clearance letter, students may resume in-person learning and activities immediately.
Caldwell said the Health Department will notify both vaccinated and unvaccinated students who attend Fairfax County and Falls Church City Public Schools of their return date post-exposure.
Unvaccinated students who are identified as having had close contact with someone with COVID-19 must remain home in quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure.
A spokesperson for the school system said students who are sent home from school sick will be required to present either a negative COVID test, a return to school form completed by a healthcare provider, or a clearance letter provided by the Fairfax County Health Department stating that a student has completed quarantine or isolation following exposure to COVID-19 or having had COVID-19.
“We provide a daily health screening questionnaire on our website to help guide families in staying on top of their own health,” the spokesperson said. “This questionnaire is just one of many layered prevention strategies in place at FCPS. We also require universal masking, encourage all eligible students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine – and in fact will mandate all staff to be vaccinated or submit to routine COVID-19 tests by late October.”
Beginning Nov. 8, Fairfax schools will also require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.