Younger children won’t be getting rid of their face masks just yet.
Recommendations have been shared by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for the 2021-22 school year.
In-person learning is encouraged and the use of face masks and safety precautions are supported in their Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools, according to a release from the departments.
“Virginia has followed the science throughout this pandemic, and that’s what we continue to do,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a release. “This guidance takes into consideration recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and will provide necessary flexibility for school divisions while ensuring a safe, healthy, and world-class learning environment for Virginia’s students. Again, I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get vaccinated. Getting your shot will protect you, your family, and your community—and it is the only way we can beat this pandemic once and for all.”
Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggestions, elementary schools are advised to require masks among students and staff inside, even by those who have received the doses. This should be followed until kids under 12 can become fully vaccinated.
The guidance also recommends that middle and high school students and staff wear masks indoors if they haven’t gotten the vaccine.
Universal mask wearing is one possibility school systems could keep in mind.
Those using public transportation, including school buses, must wear masks.
“Schools occupy a special place in the life of our communities, and we need to do everything we can to keep everyone in them safe. This guidance is aimed at protecting students, educators, and staff while also providing localities with flexibility,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a release. “We continue to urge eligible Virginians to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
Virginia schools must offer in-person classes for the upcoming year. Social distancing of 3 feet should be followed but shouldn’t impact the ability to provide in-person instruction.
Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) will create a plan for the year after looking over the new guidance and gathering information and feedback, according to a post on the school division’s Facebook page.