- Fort Lewis Elementary
Masks required indoors for all students, staff, visitors beginning Aug. 12
RCPS announced on July 27 that, at that time, our school board did not plan to add a local requirement for masks to be worn in school for the start of the school year. Since that time, on both July 27 and August 5 the CDC revised its guidance for the safe opening of PK-12 schools and the governor has made it clear that the law passed by the Virginia General Assembly (SB1303) has the legal effect of making CDC recommendations actual requirements, to the maximum extent practicable. Since the CDC requirements include universal masking in grades PK-12 for students, staff, and visitors, RCPS students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks indoors in schools, beginning August 12.
The CDC requires masks to be worn indoors and on buses. Students and staff will not be required to wear masks during outdoor activities and schools will be instructed to allow students to have brief mask breaks throughout the day, as long as they can observe physical distancing. Masks are also not required while eating or drinking.
Overall, our students did a wonderful job with wearing masks in schools last school year and while in summer programs. It is safe to say that most of us do not enjoy wearing masks and we certainly wish this step were not needed. We do know, however, that requiring everyone to wear masks indoors will not only keep RCPS in compliance with state law, doing so will also lead to fewer students having to quarantine due to contact tracing rules. This means more students will benefit from in-person learning each day.
In addition to masks, the CDC also requires that school districts consider additional layers of mitigation to the extent practicable. Additional RCPS mitigation strategies are outlined in the health plan provided on the RCPS website and include increased ventilation, screening, cleaning, and physical distancing to the extent practicable. Extra precautions for extracurricular activities are also in place.
Options for students wanting full-time, online instruction will also be expanded in grades K-8 to include an option for students who request online learning but do not have COVID-related medical documentation as previously required. To provide these expanded options, RCPS will use a variety of instructional delivery methods in addition to Virtual Virginia, and staff is working to make these arrangements. Parents of children already on a waiting list for online learning will be contacted as soon as arrangements are finalized as soon after August 12 as is possible. Parents not on a waiting list and would like to use these expanded online options, should contact their child’s school to be put on the list, by end of day on Tuesday, August 10.
Thank you for your patience as we have continued to receive information and make decisions in the interest of students’ learning and safety. Our teachers and staff are hard at work preparing for the first day of school and are excited to have our students return on August 12.