HISTORIC TRIANGLE — Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC) announced on Wednesday, Aug. 4 that all students and staff must wear a mask while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. This announcement was made just prior to the 2021-2022 school year as members of the district plan to return to five days a week of in-person learning this year.
The decision was based on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH)’s statement that children within three-six feet of someone at school who tests positive for COVID-19 are not a close contact if both people are wearing masks, allowing students to keep the face-to-face learning experience.
Masks will be allowed to be removed outdoors, but federal mandate requires face masks to be worn on school buses.
WJCC added that school operations, including the mask mandate, could change during the year depending on the community health conditions.
York County School Division (YCSD) convened a special meeting of the county school board on Wednesday, Aug. 4, to hear from constituents on whether or not masks should be mandatory for all students, faculty and staff.
After more than two dozen people addressed the board with their concerns regarding mandatory masking, YCSD Superintendent, Dr. Victor D. Shandor gave a presentation with COVID-19 facts and figures. He then recommended that masks be mandatory inside school buildings and on county school buses.
Shandor had to pause his presentation for several minutes when some of the local residents in attendance loudly interrupted while he was speaking.
The board then made an amendment to Shandor’s recommendation, that masks be optional for students of all ages everywhere except on the school bus. Masks will also be optional for faculty, regardless of whether or not they have been fully vaccinated against the corona virus.
The board voted to make by masks optional, 3-2, with Brett Higginbotham of district 2 and Sean P. Myatt of district 5 voting against the option.
The decisions made by the two school districts regarding masks for the upcoming school year comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing that it is recommending that all persons, regardless of vaccination status, begin wearing masks in indoor settings, particularly for the areas designated at substantial or high risk for the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.
As of this publication, James City County is at substantial risk, while both City of Williamsburg and York County are at high risk. To find the risk level, please visit the website for the CDC’s Data Tracker.