Face Masks for the 2021-22 School Year

Face Masks for the 2021-22 School Year
Posted on 02/27/2022
HCPS LogoFebruary 27, 2022 Update:

Dear Families,

We hope you are having an enjoyable weekend. We are writing today to share an important update with you regarding the use of face masks in our schools and buildings, as well as on our buses.

Recently updated federal guidance and evolving state guidance continues to ease mask requirements. As a result, please note the following changes that are effective immediately:

- Employees and visitors are no longer required to wear a face mask inside our schools and buildings.
- Face masks are no longer required on our buses or in HCPS vehicles.

As a reminder, under current state law (Senate Bill 739), parents may opt for their child to not wear a mask while on school property.

We recognize that these ongoing changes may be disruptive, and we are working to ensure they are implemented as smoothly as possible. While masks are no longer required, we continue to encourage mask wearing in our buildings and on our buses as a health mitigation strategy, particularly when community COVID-19 levels are high. Please note that our other COVID-19 mitigation strategies remain in place, including the requirement that you stay home if you are sick and abide by our quarantine and isolation guidelines if you test positive for COVID-19. This includes the requirement that faculty and staff practice enhanced mask wearing following a five-day isolation period (students who test positive must still isolate for 10 days).

We continue to recognize that there are many different opinions and feelings surrounding this topic. We appreciate your ongoing partnership and continue to expect everyone - students and adults - to treat one another with respect, care, and kindness, no matter what their choice or opinion may be on masks or otherwise.

We truly appreciate your patience, grace, and kindness as we work to make the best possible decisions for our school community. Thank you.

***
Queridas Familias,

Esperamos que estén teniendo un buen fin de semana. Escribimos hoy para compartir con ustedes una actualizacion importante sobre el uso del cubrebocas en nuestras escuelas y edificios, y también en nuestros autobuses.

Las guías federales actualizadas recientemente y la guías estatales que están evolucionando continúan aliviando los requisitos del uso de cubrebocas. Como resultado, por favor tenga en cuenta que los siguientes cambios entran en vigor de inmediato:

- Los/las empleados y visitantes ya no están obligados/as a usar cubrebocas dentro de nuestras escuelas y edificios.
- Los cubrebocas ya no son requeridos en nuestros autobuses o en los vehículos de HCPS.

Como recordatorio, bajo la ley estatal actual (Proyecto de Ley Senatorial 739), los/las padres/madres pueden optar a favor de que su hijo/a no participe en los requisitos de usar el cubrebocas mientras estén dentro de la propiedad de la escuela.

Reconocemos que estos cambios seguidos pueden ser disruptivos, y estamos trabajando para asegurar que se implementen de la manera más fluida posible. Mientras que los cubrebocas ya no son requeridos, seguiremos animando que se use el cubrebocas en nuestros edificios y en nuestros autobuses como una estrategia de la mitigación de salud, particularmente cuando los niveles de COVID-19 estén altos en la comunidad. Por favor tenga en cuenta que nuestras otras estrategias de la mitigación de salud de COVID-19 siguen vigentes, incluyendo el requisito de que se quede en casa si se siente enfermo/a y que cumple con nuestras guías de cuarentena y aislamiento si de positivo a la prueba de COVID-19. Esto incluye el requisito de que los/las maestros/maestras y personal practiquen el uso aumentado de cubrebocas después de un período de aislamiento de cinco días (los/las estudiantes que den positivo deben aislarse durante 10 días).

Continuaremos a reconocer que hay muchas opiniones y sentimientos diferentes sobre este tema. Agradecemos su colaboración continua y seguimos con la esperanza que todos/as- los/las estudiantes y adultos- se traten los/as unos/as a los/as otros/as con respeto, cuidado, y amabilidad, sin importar cual sea su elección o opinión sobre el uso del cubrebocas u otras cosas.

Realmente apreciamos su paciencia, gracia, y amabilidad mientras trabajamos para tomar las mejores decisiones posibles para nuestra comunidad escolar. Gracias.



January 27, 2022 Update:

Dear Families,

We hope you are well. We are writing today to share with you important information following the School Board’s special meeting earlier this week regarding the use of face masks in our school buildings.

As we shared with you after the meeting, the School Board approved several changes to our masking guidelines following the Governor’s issuance of an Executive Order that allows parents to opt out of masking requirements in public and private elementary and secondary schools. As a reminder, the School Board acknowledged the following Monday night:

- Current state law (Senate Bill 1303) remains in effect and requires school divisions to abide by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — guidance that currently says masks should be worn in schools by students, teachers, staff, and visitors. Accordingly, the School Board strongly recommends that students continue to wear masks while in our school buildings.
- The Governor has the authority to issue executive orders. Therefore, under Executive Order No. 2, parents have the ability to opt their child out of masking requirements.

The School Board indicated its decision is effective beginning on Monday, January 31 in order to allow our division leaders and staff time to prepare for this change and the additional logistics that will be necessary to implement it.

Please note the following as it relates to masks for faculty, staff, and visitors:

- The Governor’s Executive Order No. 2 applies only to students, not staff or visitors.
- The Department of Labor and Industry enacted in September regulations that require employers to require employees to wear masks.
- Senate Bill 1303 requires all staff and visitors to wear masks while inside our buildings.
Accordingly, all faculty, staff, and visitors are still required to wear masks inside school buildings.
- Please note that a separate order from the Governor (Executive Order No. 6) does not remove this masking requirement, but does indicate that future action about the regulations will likely be forthcoming. We will share more information on any decisions at the state level on this matter as information becomes available.

Please also note that a federal order requiring all drivers and riders on our school buses to wear a mask remains in effect and is not optional. This is separate and distinct from the Governor’s orders and the School Board’s action this week, and will remain in effect until it is lifted by federal authorities.

While our mask guidelines are changing, we will continue with other health mitigation strategies, such as encouraging social distancing to the greatest extent possible, quarantining close contacts, frequently cleaning our buildings, bathrooms, buses, and high-touch surfaces, and routinely checking our ventilation systems to ensure they are functioning properly (each of our HVAC units have, at a minimum, MERV 10 filters and several air handlers have double filters, where possible). As always, we continue to expect our students and staff to stay home if they are sick and abide by our quarantine and isolation guidelines. Please note that we are continuing to closely monitor the rapidly evolving guidance with regard to quarantines, isolation, and contact tracing in conjunction with our local and state health officials and will provide you additional updates as they become available.

We have received inquiries regarding the possibility of switching students to the Hanover County Online School. Although we are currently allowing parents to add their child’s name to the Online School waitlist, we do not want to provide false hope that your child can be accommodated. We do not anticipate spaces becoming available for students who are added to the list at this point. Our staffing and resources for the Online School were allocated based upon parental requests before the start of the school year, and we are well beyond the point of being able to completely overhaul our staffing for the second semester. We recognize that the changing landscape of the pandemic does create challenges for our families, and we are truly sorry if you are experiencing these struggles. Please reach out to your child’s principal if you would like to discuss additional supports that you may feel are needed for your child.

We recognize that this is an emotional and divisive issue in our community and beyond, even among members of the same household. However, we believe our community remains strong and resilient, characteristics that have been vital to our ongoing success through the pandemic. As always, we expect everyone - students and adults - to treat one another with respect, care, and kindness, no matter what their choice or opinion may be on masks or otherwise. As a reminder, we do not tolerate bullying of any sort in our schools or online. If bullying does occur, we encourage our students to report it immediately to a trusted adult. As an alternative, each of our schools has an anonymous digital reporting tool on their website (“Stand Up, Speak Out - Stop Bullying Now” button at the bottom of the homepage). School administrators and counselors directly receive the information reported using the tool and work to resolve concerns as quickly as possible during normal business hours.

We continue to ask for your patience, grace, and kindness as we navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. As always, we are grateful for your continued support of our efforts to keep our schools open and safe, and will keep you updated as more information becomes available. Thank you.

***

Queridas Familias,

Esperamos que estén bien. Les escribimos hoy para compartir con ustedes información importante sobre la reunión especial de la Junta Escolar a principios de esta semana con respecto al uso de cubrebocas en nuestros edificios escolares.

Como compartimos con ustedes después de la reunión, la Junta Escolar aprobó varios cambios a nuestras recomendaciones de cubrebocas después de la emisión de una Orden Ejecutiva del Gobernador que permite que los/las padres/madres opten por no seguir los requisitos de usar cubrebocas en las escuelas primarias y secundarias ambas públicas y privadas. Como recordatorio, la Junta Escolar reconoció lo siguiente la noche del lunes:

- La ley estatal actual (Proyecto de Ley Senatorial 1303) sigue vigente y requiere que las divisiones escolares cumplen con las recomendaciones de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - directrices actuales que indican que el cubrebocas se debe usar dentro de las escuelas por los/las estudiantes, maestros/as, personal, y visitantes. De acuerdo con la Junta Escolar, se recomienda que los/las estudiantes continúen a usar cubrebocas mientras estén dentro de nuestros edificios escolares.
- El Gobernador tiene la autoridad de emitir órdenes ejecutivas. Por lo tanto, bajo La Orden Ejecutiva Número 2, los/las padres/madres tienen la capacidad de optar que su hijo/a no participe en los requisitos del uso del cubrebocas.

La Junta Escolar indicó que su decisión entra en vigor a partir del lunes 31 de enero para permitir que nuestros líderes de la división y personal tengan tiempo para prepararse para este cambio y la logística adicional que será necesaria para implementarlo.

Tengan en cuenta lo siguiente en relación con el uso de cubrebocas para los/las maestro/as, personal, y visitantes:

- La Orden Ejecutiva Número 2 del Gobernador se aplica solo a los/las estudiantes no al personal ni a los/las visitantes.
- El Departamento de Trabajo e Industrias aprobó en septiembre regulaciones que requieren que los/las empleadores exijan a los/las empleados/as que usen cubrebocas.
- El Proyecto de Ley Senatorial 1303 requiere que todo el personal y visitantes usen cubrebocas mientras estén dentro de nuestros edificios.
- En consecuencia, todos los/las maestros/as, personal, y los/las visitantes aún deben usar cubrebocas dentro de los edificios escolares.
- Tenga en cuenta que una orden separada del Gobernador (La Orden Ejecutiva Número 6) no elimina este requisito de usar el cubrebocas, pero sí indica que es probable que se adopten medidas futuras en relación con las regulaciones. Compartiremos más información sobre cualquier decisión a nivel estatal sobre este asunto a medida que la información esté disponible.

Tenga en cuenta también que una orden federal que requiere que todos los/las conductores y pasajeros/as de nuestros autobuses escolares usen un cubrebocas todavía está vigente y no es opcional. Este asunto es separado y distinto de las ordenes del Gobernador y de la acción de la Junta Escolar de esta semana, y permanecerá vigente hasta que sea levantado por las autoridades federales.

Mientras que nuestras directrices de cubrebocas están cambiando, continuaremos con otras estrategias de la mitigación de salud, como animar el distanciamiento social a la mayor medida posible, poner en cuarentena a aquellos/as que han tenido contacto cercano, limpiar con frecuencia nuestros edificios, baños, autobuses, y superficies de alto contacto, y revisar rutinariamente nuestros sistemas de ventilación para garantizar que funcionen correctamente (cada una de nuestras unidades de climatización tiene como mínimo, filtros MERV 10 y varios manipuladores de aire tienen filtros dobles, dónde sea posible). Como siempre, seguimos esperando que nuestros/as estudiantes y personal se queden en casa si están enfermos y que cumplen con nuestros requisitos de cuarentena y aislamiento. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que continuaremos monitoreando de cerca las recomendaciones sobre la rápida evolución con respecto a las cuarentenas, el aislamiento y el rastreo de contactos en conjunto con nuestras autoridades de salud local y estatal y le proporcionaremos actualizaciones adicionales a medida que estén disponibles.

Hemos recibido consultas sobre la posibilidad de cambiar a los/las estudiantes a la Escuela en Línea del Condado de Hanover. Aunque actualmente estamos permitiendo que los/las padres/madres agreguen el nombre de su hijo/a a la lista de espera de la Escuela en Línea, no queremos proporcionar falsas esperanzas de que su hijo/a pueda ser acomodado/a. No anticipamos que haya espacios disponibles para los/las estudiantes que se agreguen a la lista en este momento. Nuestro personal y recursos para la Escuela en Línea se asignaron en función de las solicitudes de los/las padres/madres antes del comienzo del año escolar, y estamos fuera del punto de poder revisar completamente nuestro personal para el segundo semestre. Reconocemos que el cambio de panorama de la pandemia crea desafíos para nuestras familias, y realmente lamentamos si están experimentando estas dificultades. Comuníquense con el/la director/a de su hijo/a si desea hablar sobre ayudas adicionales que usted considera necesarias para su hijo/a.

Reconocemos que este es un problema emocional y divisivo en nuestra comunidad y más allá, incluso entre los/las miembros del mismo hogar. Sin embargo, creemos que nuestra comunidad sigue siendo fuerte y resistente. Estas características han sido vitales para nuestro éxito continuo a través de la pandemia. Como siempre, esperamos que todos, incluyendo los/las estudiantes y adultos, se traten los unos a los otros con respeto, cuidado, y amabilidad, sin importar cual sea su elección o opinión sobre el uso del cubrebocas u otras cosas. Como recordatorio, no toleramos el acoso o bullying de ningún tipo en nuestras escuelas o en línea. Si ocurre acosos o bullying, animamos a nuestros estudiantes a que lo denuncien de inmediato a un adulto de confianza. Como alternativa, cada una de nuestras escuelas tiene una herramienta digital de informes anónimos en su sitio web (Hay un botón en la parte de abajo de la pagina de inicio "Levantate, Habla-Termina el Acoso/Bulling ahora") ("Stand Up, Speak Out-Stop Bullying Now"). Los/las administradores y consejeros escolares reciben directamente la información reportada usando la herramienta y trabajan para resolver los asuntos lo más rápido posible durante el horario normal de oficina.

Seguimos pidiendo su paciencia, gracia, y amabilidad mientras naveguemos por los cambios de panorama de COVID-19. Como siempre, estamos agradecidos por su apoyo continuo a nuestros esfuerzos para mantener nuestras escuelas abiertas y seguras, y los/las mantendremos actualizados a medida que haya más información disponible. Gracias.


January 24, 2022 Update:

Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff,

We hope you are well. We are writing tonight to share with you important information following the School Board’s special meeting to discuss the use of face masks in our school buildings.

As we shared with you previously, the Governor issued an Executive Order that allows parents to opt out of masking requirements in public and private elementary and secondary schools. As promised, we have continued to evaluate the order in conjunction with our School Board and public health officials. In response to this, the School Board held a special meeting tonight.

In a unanimous vote tonight, the School Board acknowledged the following:

- Current state law (Senate Bill 1303) remains in effect and requires school divisions to abide by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — guidance that currently says masks should be worn in schools by students, teachers, staff, and visitors. Accordingly, the School Board strongly recommends that students continue to wear masks while in our school buildings.
- The Governor has the authority to issue executive orders. Therefore, under Executive Order No. 2, parents have the ability to opt their child out of masking requirements.

Please note that the Board’s decision is effective beginning on Monday, January 31. As a result, we will continue to require everyone to wear masks in our buildings for the remainder of this week until the new directive from the Board goes into effect next Monday.
 This will allow our division leaders and staff time to prepare for this change and the additional logistics that will be necessary to implement it.

Additionally, please note that a federal order requiring all drivers and riders on our school buses to wear a mask remains in effect and is not optional. This is separate and distinct from the Governor’s order and the School Board’s action this evening, and will remain in effect until it is lifted by federal authorities.

We understand that you may have questions about this change and we will be working this week to answer them. We will communicate more information later this week, so please stay tuned. As always, we are grateful for your continued patience, grace, and kindness as we work to implement this change.


August 12, 2021 Update:

Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff,

We are writing to share an important update with you regarding new indoor face mask requirements for all public and private K-12 schools in Virginia.

A short while ago, we were informed that the Virginia Health Commissioner, Dr. Norman Oliver, issued a statewide Public Health Order requiring anyone aged 2 and older to wear a face mask at all times while inside any K-12 school to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This includes all staff, students, and visitors.

This order is effective immediately and “shall remain in full force and effect until the CDC guidelines for K-12 schools change, unless this Order is sooner amended or rescinded,” as stated in the order. You may find more specific details in the order, including specific exceptions to the requirement, using this link.

The Hanover County School Board and the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Gill, acknowledge that the State Health Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia has the legal authority to issue emergency orders on behalf of the Virginia Board of Health. This is similar to an emergency mask order issued by the State Health Commissioner on June 30, 2021, which required “all individuals aged five and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools” until July 25, 2021. Hanover County Public Schools complied with this order.

We understand that you may have more questions, and we ask for your continued patience as we work through the additional details included in and connected to this order as quickly as possible. Our goal is to address your questions in an accurate and timely manner. Please be assured that we will share more specifics with you soon.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ola Hawkins, School Board Chair
Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools

Original August 11, 2021 Message:

Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff,

We hope you are having a great summer and well-deserved break. We are writing today to share with you important information regarding COVID-19 mitigation measures for the upcoming school year that the Hanover County School Board approved at its meeting last night.

At its meeting last night, the School Board approved the following COVID-19 health mitigation strategies:


- Frequent cleaning of buildings, bathrooms, and buses.
- Hand sanitizing stations and supplies for classrooms and common areas.
- Routine checks of ventilation systems to ensure proper function.
- Assigned seating to facilitate contact tracing.
- Regular reinforcement of measures that help to support and promote health and hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, staying home when sick, and social distancing to the greatest extent possible.
- Disposable lunch trays and utensils, as well as touchless payment in our cafeterias.
- Face Masks: Face masks are optional for all students, faculty, and staff on school property. Please note that the School Board, as part of its vote, committed to working with Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools, and the administration on developing COVID-19 health data points and thresholds for consideration that would indicate when masks would be required in the future. A federal order requires all drivers and riders on our school buses to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

Please note that due to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, we may need to quickly modify our strategies to further protect the health and safety of our students and staff. We will continue to evaluate this fluid situation and collaborate with our School Board and health officials to make any necessary changes to these measures based upon the circumstances in individual schools and across the district.

Questions? We recognize that you may have additional questions related to COVID-19 mitigation and have prepared a few of the most common FAQs:

Does HCPS plan to contact trace and quarantine?

Yes. We will work with the Chickahominy Health District to determine close contacts of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Please note that in indoor school settings, a student who is within 3 to 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is not considered a close contact as long as both people are wearing face masks and the school is following the prevention strategies noted above.

Does my child need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated?

No. If your child is fully vaccinated, they will not need to quarantine. However, if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms, they must stay home and the Virginia Department of Health recommends that they be tested for the virus immediately.

What happens if my child is required to quarantine?

You will be contacted by a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) representative to determine the number of days your child will need to quarantine. While your child is in quarantine, they will transition to remote learning. VDH will provide a written release for your child to return to school when they are out of their quarantine period and that documentation must be provided to the school before your child can resume in-person learning.

Will we receive updates on COVID-19 cases in schools?

Yes. Similar to last year, each school will notify their school community about all positive cases affecting their building within 24 hours of a report of a confirmed positive test result. Additionally, a COVID-19 dashboard on the HCPS website will be updated every Friday, starting September 10.

I’m interested in switching my student to virtual learning. What should I do?

While we are truly sensitive to the changing landscape of the pandemic, the deadline to request enrollment in the Online School was June 18. This was necessary in order to complete staffing for each of our 26 schools, which we finalized in mid-July. This is a significant and complex undertaking each year, and we are unfortunately well beyond the point of being able to completely overhaul our staffing for the coming school year.

All requests are now being placed on a waitlist. Please note that while we will continue to pull students off the waitlist on a first come, first served basis, please understand that limited seats are available. We do not want to provide false hope that your child can be accommodated in the Online School this fall.

All of our schools are eager to help our students and families navigate the upcoming year. Please feel free to reach out to them to discuss supports for your child.

***

As always, we are grateful for your continued support of our efforts to keep our schools open and safe. We will keep you fully informed of any changes that may be necessary. In the interim, please join us in staying vigilant against the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Hanover County Public Schools
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