VA schools will determine mask policies based on guidelines

VA schools will determine mask policies based on local data and guidelines

Masks indoors are encouraged for everyone in elementary schools and those who have not been vaccinated in middle/high school.

Virginia Department of Health issued new guidelines Wednesday for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade schools as students prepare to return to class.

Interim COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines at Virginia PreK-12 schools in Virginia reinforce the importance of personalized learning and support school departments in making decisions about concealment and other preventive measures using local data from CDC.

"Virginia has followed the flag throughout this pandemic, and that's what we continue to do," said Governor Ralph Northam. “This guidance takes into account recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics and will provide the necessary flexibility for school departments while ensuring a safe, healthy, and world-class learning environment for Virginia students. Once again, I strongly urge every eligible Virginia resident to get vaccinated. On the shot, it will protect you, your family, and your community - and that's the only way we can beat this pandemic once and for all."

Once the state commissioner's public health ordinance goes into effect on July 25, school departments will be able to implement mask policies based on community conditions and general health recommendations. Virginia's guidelines strongly recommend that school departments implement the following recent guidance from the CDC for the 2021-2022 school year:

Primary schools must implement the requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until vaccination is available for children under 12 years of age. There is sufficient time to allow children under 12 years of age to be fully vaccinated.

At a minimum, middle and high schools must implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff who are not getting the vaccine wear masks indoors. While school departments regularly confirm school-required immunization records for their students, they should consult with their attorney in determining whether and how to approve immunizations that immunize students and staff with COVID-19.

All schools may want to consider blanket masking for specific reasons described in certain circumstances by the CDC.

All schools should be prepared to adjust local mask policies as local public health conditions evolve throughout the year.

A federal CDC order requiring masks to be worn on public transportation is still in effect and applies to Virginia public school buses.

Schools hold a special place in the lives of our communities, and we need to do everything we can to keep everyone in them safe. This directive is intended to protect students, teachers, and staff while providing resilience in local communities,” said state health commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, Massachusetts.

In line with Senate Bill 1303, all Virginia schools must provide in-person instruction for the upcoming school year. The updated guidelines recommend a minimum physical distance of 3 feet as much as possible but say schools should not reduce in-person learning to fit distancing guidelines.

“As schools prepare to welcome students again for the 2021-2022 school year, our priority is to provide personalized education safely so that every child can learn and thrive in the classroom,” said Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Education. . "With this latest guidance and the abundant federal funds for pandemic relief available to school departments, our local school leaders are equipped to implement appropriate mitigation strategies and ensure the safety of students and staff within schools in their communities."

Guidelines recommend school departments continue to work with local health departments in implementing mitigation strategies based on levels of community transmission, local vaccine data, cases and outbreaks in schools, and the use of screening test data to detect issues in schools.

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