Local Schools Have Yet to Make a Decision on Mask Wearing for the Coming School Year

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Two brothers from Yorktown are raising money for the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank with hand-sewn masks (WYDaily/Pixabay)
After the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Education issued guidelines for mask wearing in public schools, local divisions have a number of days to decide what they will do for the school year. (WYDaily/Pixabay)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — As the 2021-22 school year is fast approaching, local school divisions are ironing out the details regarding mask wearing in the classroom.

Both York County School Division (YCSD) and Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC) have yet to make a final decision on mask requirements for the school year, which begins on Monday, Aug. 30.

According to an email that went out to YCSD families on Thursday, July 29, a team of division and school administrators, teachers and staff have been reviewing the new state and federal guidance for use of face masks/coverings in K-12 schools over the past two weeks in order to develop a recommendation to the superintendent and to the school board.

The YCSD School Board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 4 at York Hall. Public comment will be accepted during that meeting.

Stakeholders (which include parents and students of the district) can provide feedback online through midnight, Sunday, Aug. 1 by clicking here. Comments provided online will be shared with the Board and will be included as public record.

Both the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued the following guidance to aid in school systems’ decisions regarding the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Elementary schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • At a minimum, middle and high schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors.
    Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Based on this guidance and what the division team is thinking, the division is considering adopting options for masks that include requiring the use of masks indoors for all students and staff, establishing indoor mask requirements for students and staff based on criteria such as age, grade level, and/or vaccination status, and allowing mask use to be optional for all students and staff.

WJCC said in a Facebook post from July 22 that they will alert families when a final decision is made.

In the meantime, WJCC is hosting two COVID vaccination clinics before school starts next month. Williamsburg Drug will provide first or second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to any employee or student 12-years or older.

The clinic will be at Berkeley Middle School, 1118 Ironbound Rd. in Williamsburg, on Tuesday, Aug. 3 from 8 – 11 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 8 – 11 a.m. For more information on the clinics, click here. 

WJCC elementary and middle schools will have new start times. To view the new schedule, click here.

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