At the annual Foucault County School Board’s all-day summit on January 12, school board members and staff discussed the latest news. Centers for Disease Control Protocols for COVID-19 – Announced on January 7 – and how it will affect students and staff. They also considered what would happen if Virginia’s new Governor Glenn Youngkin lifted the mask mandate within the school.
Conclusion: Most protocols will remain the same, including mandatory masks at school for children and staff.
School Board Chair Donna Grove (Cedar Run District) said at the Jan. 12 summit that even if newly opened Glen Yongkin lifted Virginia’s mask mandate in schools, “that’s only half the problem.” She explained that the law known as Senate Bill 1303 requires schools to “follow CDC guidelines ‘to the greatest extent possible'”. The General Assembly should address this. As long as masks are part of quarantine guidelines, we should follow them.”
Yongkin (right), did what he said he would do when he took office on January 15, signing an executive order that read: “Parents of any child enrolled in a primary or secondary school or school-based early childhood education and care program may choose not to submit their children to any A mask mandate is in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”
But the subject of contention is a law passed by the General Assembly in early 2021 with overwhelming bipartisan support, which requires school departments to implement “any currently applicable mitigation strategies” recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to the extent practicable.” This law cannot be repealed by executive order – only the state legislature can do so.
the The CDC recommends “Comprehensive concealment of indoor spaces by all students (ages 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” among other mitigation measures. Former Governor Ralph Northham (D) initially waived whether to enforce the law and the Fauquier County School Board initially chose to ignore federal guidance, making masks optional as the school year began in August.
But Northham’s health commissioner issued an order a few days later, and the Fauquier School Board – with great reluctance and in the face of many angry parents – reversed course and established a “mandate”, although they also created the option not to ask questions outside politics. With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise after several weeks, school board members appealed to parents not to exclude their children from mask requirements. (Parents can still choose not to participate with their children for “religious” or “health” reasons.)
Yongkin canceled that public health order over the weekend, but school board members said the 2021 law is still in effect. “No matter how we feel about masks, it’s still part of the quarantine protocol,” said Stephanie Letter-Reaper, who represents Lee County. She said the school department would have faced fines of $25,000 per incident if they had made masks optional in schools when schools opened in August of 2021, and that hasn’t changed, she said.
School Principal David Jake also reminded summit attendees that everyone who rides on a school bus – a form of public transportation – is required by federal law to wear a mask.
Nicholas Napolitano, the newly appointed Executive Director of Student Services and Special Education by Fauquier, led the discussion Jan. 12 about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new COVID-19 guidelines regarding isolation for those who test positive for the virus. He explained that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new advice states that people with COVID-19 should isolate for five days. Then, if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms resolve (no fever for 24 hours), they should follow this with five days of wearing a mask when they are near others to reduce the risk of infection for people they encounter.
The protocol represents a departure from previous advice, which recommended isolation for 10 days.
The CDC also revised its recommendations for those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
The school department’s CDC guidelines state that in addition to isolating for five days after exposure, everyone should wear an appropriate mask around others for 10 days from the date of their last close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 (the date of the last close contact is Day 0) . They should also be tested at least five days after close contact with a person who has COVID-19, unless they have confirmed a case of COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have subsequently recovered.
For 10 days after their last exposure to someone with COVID-19, they should watch for fever (100.4°F or more), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms. Those who test positive for COVID-19 symptoms should follow isolation recommendations.
The CDC states that individuals who have received a booster dose do not need to be quarantined after exposure. However, they should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.
School board members said the key point is that students or staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 should have a negative PCR test — a home test that doesn’t count — before returning to school. This part of the protocol remains unchanged.
The problem, as school board member Stephanie Leiter-Reaper (Lee County) pointed out, “is impossible to get tests now.”
School board members relate to stories of long queues and hard-to-find assignments for PCR tests.
Napolitano said the Virginia Department of Health will receive tests that it will distribute to schools, but the timing is uncertain.
Vincent Gallo (Scott District), the newest member of the school board to be sworn in on Tuesday, January 10, asked if school nurses might be able to run COVID-19 tests in school parking lots when those tests are available, to try and make Tests are easier.
But due to the large amount of tests that would need to be taken, Jack shook his head and said, “If we have to ask the school nurses to do something else…”
Other board members agreed that school nurses were already exhausted.