The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education released new health mitigation and masking guidance for PreK-12 schools in the commonwealth on Wednesday, leaving the decision of which specific masking policies to implement up to individual school systems.
According to a press release, VDH “strongly recommends” that elementary schools require students, teachers and staff to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, and that middle and high schools implement indoor mask requirements for students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated.
“This guidance takes into consideration recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] 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,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a prepared statement.
Pursuant to Virginia Senate Bill 1303, which was passed during the 2021 Virginia General Assembly, public schools in the commonwealth must provide in-person instruction to all students in the 2021-2022 school year.
The updated guidance urges school systems to implement 3-feet of physical distancing “to the greatest extent possible,” though schools should not reduce in-person learning in order to maintain a minimum distance requirement, according to the VDH release.
State-level guidance further recommends that school systems work with local health departments to enforce mitigation strategies based on community transmission, vaccination rates and other health statistics.
In a Monday email to the Times-Mirror, Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard said the school system would “follow future related executive and/or public health orders.”
LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler said in a Tuesday email to parents that his office will provide additional information on masking guidance for Loudoun staff and students “once it becomes available.”
Byard said in a Wednesday afternoon email that LCPS “will have a statement for our community on our masking recommendations for the 2021-2022 school year in the near future.”
“As we have throughout the pandemic, LCPS will rely on its partnership with local health and government agencies to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” he said.