Governor Ralph Northam announced guidelines for masks in Virginia schools as parents prepare for the next school year.
Northam said that the Public Health Order, set to expire July 25, will not be extended, giving school divisions the ability to implement local mask policies based on community level conditions and public health recommendations.
Virginia guidance strongly recommends divisions adopt the following for the 2021-2022 school year:
- Elementary schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until vaccination is available for children under 12 years old and there has been sufficient time to allow for children younger than 12 years old to be fully vaccinated.
- At a minimum, middle and high schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors. While school divisions regularly confirm school-required immunization records of their students, they should consult with their counsel in determining if and how to confirm student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations.
- All schools may want to consider universal masking for specific reasons as outlined 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.
Masks still must be worn on public transportation, which includes Virginia public school buses.
In addition, all schools in Virginia are required to make in-person instruction available to all students in the 2021-2022 school year. According to the updated guidance, physical distancing of at least 3 feet should be maximized to the greatest extent possible but schools should not reduce in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement.
There are many layers to this subject as the CDC previously announced that vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings. Then the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that anyone over the age of 2 wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, when the new school year begins this year.
News 3 also recently spoke with private Catholic schools in Virginia and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond released information stating that mask-wearing will be an individual decision.