RCPS COVID Mitigation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
January 23, 2022
Executive Order 2 (EO 2), signed by Governor Youngkin, takes effect Monday, January 24, 2022. At a special meeting held on January 21, 2022 the Richmond County School Board voted to implement EO 2 as written. The benefit of mitigation efforts must be weighed against the cost to children’s overall wellbeing. Mitigation efforts will be made in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health and local health authorities from the Three Rivers Health District (TRHD).
RCPS will use the updated Interim Guidance for K-12 Schools on Reopening provided by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to school officials on January 21, 2022, to inform it’s mitigation efforts.
- Will students, staff and visitors be required to wear masks in RCPS school buildings beginning on January 24, 2022?
No, healthy individuals not needing to quarantine may determine if they will wear a mask in school facilities beginning on Monday, January 24, 2022. However students and staff are strongly encouraged to wear masks, as we continue to have high positivity rates in our community due to the Omicron variant.
- What if I am not sure about what the right choice is for my family?
Please contact your child’s primary care physician, school principal, assistant principal or nurse. They will be happy to give you information to help you decide what is best for your child and family.
- How will EO 2 impact isolation/quarantining in schools?
Positive individuals will continue to follow current CDC guidelines for isolation, staying home and away from others for at least 5 full days and wearing a mask when around others at home and in public for an additional 5 days.
Close contacts will still need to quarantine following current CDC guidelines, which require individuals to stay home for 5 days, and wear a well-fitting mask for an additional 5 days in public, unless they are fully vaccinated or have had COVID in the last 90 days. If individuals cannot quarantine, they must wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days while in public.
Individuals who opt not to wear masks when healthy still must follow mask wearing guidelines from the CDC when following isolation and quarantine procedures.
Families should know that students not wearing masks may be more likely to be quarantined because they will be considered close contacts if they are within 6 feet of a positive individual for more than 15 minutes.
- What mitigation measures will RCPS use to limit the spread of COVID?
RCPS will continue to use layered mitigation measures found in the VDH’s Interim Guidance (p. 4-11) such as: maintaining physical distancing practices (3 feet when both students are properly masked or 6 feet when adults or students are not all masked); continuing increased cleaning of frequently touched surfaces; continuing to use strategies to increase ventilation in buildings and updating HVAC equipment when feasible; notification of students and staff of known cases and/or exposures in combination with isolation and quarantine; having students and staff stay home when sick; frequent hand washing and provision of hand sanitizer when appropriate; implement testing programs (ViSTTA and Test-to-Stay) as able; and notify appropriate health officials of positive cases.
- Will masked and unmasked students be treated differently?
Per the Interim Guidance to K-12 Schools Reopening, “There is no medical reason for a vaccinated and/or masked teacher to treat an otherwise healthy unmasked student any differently than a healthy masked student” (Virginia Department of Health, 2022, p. 6).
Further, we expect all students and staff to respect choices made by their fellow students, their families, and their colleagues. We will not tolerate any bullying or negative behavior toward any student or staff member because they choose to wear or not wear a mask.
- Will students have the option of attending school through the Virtual Virginia program?
The registration window for Virtual Virginia’s online K-12 program has passed; however it may be possible to enroll a limited number of students with specific health considerations. Please be aware that it is very unlikely for students to be admitted past the deadline (K-5), and almost impossible for older students (6-12). Contact Deborah Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org with further questions.
- Will students have to wear masks on buses?
Yes, school buses are considered public transportation and are subject to the federal requirement for mask wearing.
- What will happen if a student or a staff member has symptoms of COVID in school?
Students and staff showing symptoms of COVID may visit a school nurse to assess their condition and determine what steps should be taken based on current guidelines from the CDC and the VDH. With parent consent for students, and if a rapid test is available, the school nurse will give the test to determine if the individual is positive for COVID. If a test is not available or there is no parent consent, then the student or staff member will be asked to take a test at another location.
As with any illness students and staff should stay home until fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications like Tylenol, and symptoms are improving.
- Will there be another chance for me to share my thoughts or concerns with school board members?
Yes. There will be chances for public comments (limited to two minutes, per RCPS school board policy) at the beginning of the next regular school board meeting. Meeting dates, times and location can be found here. You can also email the school board at email@example.com.
Parents or students should consider contacting their school administrators as soon as possible for any immediate needs.
- How will this impact athletics?
There will be no changes to athletics at this time, with the exception of the requirement for spectators to wear masks at indoor sporting events. Spectators will no longer be required to wear masks to events, but are strongly encouraged to do so. As RCPS parents and athletes travel to away games they will need to abide by the visitors mask policies.
- Masks as prevention.
The Interim Guidance to K-12 Schools Reopening states (VDH, 2022, p.10)
There are benefits and costs to mask wearing in the school environment. The benefits may include reduced transmission of the virus, but with limitations. Masks made of plain cloth, masks that are soiled or poorly fitting, and masks that are not worn properly provide reduced or no benefit; mask-wearing may cause discomfort, skin irritation, anxiety, and otherwise impact a child’s emotional state; children may have difficulty communicating, perceiving emotion, or making social connections when wearing masks. The CDC presently recommends the use of N95 or KN95 masks to reduce COVID transmission, but such masks are very tight and uncomfortable, and may be poorly tolerated by children.
During the Omicron outbreak, regions with restrictive masking policies and practices have shown similar rates of transmission as regions with less restrictive mask policies. There is presently a lack of consensus among health experts regarding the costs and benefits of mask-wearing for children in school. Parents should consult with their medical providers if they have questions about whether or not their child should mask and for how long; this is especially true if a child is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or lives with individuals at higher risk for severe illness.