Prince William’s schools are adapting to changes in disguise

Teachers and students in Prince William County are adjusting to another new norm this week, and students have the opportunity to attend classes without a mask for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

This article was written by WTOP news partner InsideNoVa.com and reissued with permission. Subscribe to Free subscription via InsideNoVa.com email today.

Teachers and students in Prince William County are adjusting to another new norm this week, and students have the opportunity to attend classes without a mask for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

“Most of my students still wear masks, but some have chosen not to do so,” one Liberty High School teacher told InsideNoVa.

The teacher, who asked not to be named, said that on February 17, when the principals were first ordered to let masked and unmasked students into school buildings without any additional mitigation or consequences, he briefly mentioned the new rules of each of his classes.

“I told them we should respect everyone’s choice. Personally, I am concerned about the greater number of children who miss school with positive results than would be [otherwise]but so far it has not been a problem. “

The teacher said the vast majority of students in his class and halls were still in masks.

According to data released by the county school department, cases among students and staff continue to decline sharply as transmission in the region has declined sharply. School Board Chairman Babur Latif said geography is likely to dictate the number of students still wearing masks.

“I guess what you see in the eastern part of the county, in places like Woodbridge, you’ll have about 85%, 90% of the kids are still disguised, and then when you go further west, that number will fall , ”Lateef told InsideNoVa.

Meanwhile, a group of parents who fought for Prince William’s schools to relinquish the mask mandate, noted online photos of their students without masks in classrooms and hallways.

“My son was scared to take off his mask today, but with encouragement he really helped others do it. I am so proud of them, ”one of the parents wrote on Facebook.

The school system announced its optional mask policy in a Friday afternoon post by superintendent Latani McDade. The announcement that Tuesday (after President’s Day) will no longer be mandatory for students in school buildings has brought the school system into line with state law signed by Gov. Glen Yangkin last week.

Schools have actually been operating under a new policy since Feb. 17, when central office administrators ordered principals to welcome all students to classes without additional layers of mitigation, regardless of whether those students were in masks or not.

Employees still have to wear masks

County officials, including teachers, are still required to wear masks “during times of high and significant transmission in society” in which Prince William remains, in accordance with Virginia Infectious Disease Standards approved by the Virginia Department of Labor. However, a step is underway to change these standards.

Under federal law, masks are still mandatory on school buses.

In January, Prince William joined six other school units in a lawsuit against an order signed by Yangkin on the first day of his tenure, making camouflage optional. An Arlington judge ruled in favor of school departments earlier this month, banning the order, but the legislature’s approval of a bill signed by Yangkin has made the case controversial.

“As parents, guardians and caregivers, we want nothing more than to protect the health and safety of our children and ourselves at this time of unprecedented violations,” McDade wrote in a message to families and staff on Friday. “Regardless of our individual personal beliefs, for or against disguise, as state and federal laws and guidelines evolve, we must evolve with them, and we have a duty to follow them.”

A new quarantine policy has been introduced

McDade has also closed the door to the hopes of some families who may want to disengage their students from personal learning and place them in the department’s virtual learning program. She said that personnel and logistical considerations would not allow for such steps.

The department’s quarantine policy also changed slightly this week. A student or staff member who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 must follow the isolation procedure of the department and stay at home. But as long as cases remain below 10% of the school’s population, the unit will not conduct any contact tracking or quarantine. If the building exceeds this 10 percent threshold, contact tracking and quarantine will be implemented.

Cases and risks reached new highs after a long winter break when the Omicron variant spread across the country but declined rapidly since mid-January.

“As we move forward in this changing and challenging period, I urge our community to work together to move forward toward greater understanding and cooperation for the benefit of all children,” McDade wrote on Friday.

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