MANASSAS, Va. — In a letter to Prince William County Schools families and employees on Friday, Superintendent LaTanya D. McDade outlined the recent changes to Virginia law regarding students wearing masks in schools, and said PWCS students will not be required to wear masks as of Feb. 22.
McDade reiterated, however, that staff members are required to continue wearing masks during times of high community transmission of COVID-19.
"We all desperately and justifiably want some semblance of normalcy for children, and ourselves, in this time of unprecedented disruption. It is undoubtedly a challenging time for all of us, but ultimately, we all want to do the same thing - what’s best for children," McDade wrote.
Under Virginia law, parents and guardians have the option to decide whether their child will wear a mask to school or not. McDade wrote that "PWCS will respect each individual family choice and will not track parent choices. It is important that we collectively support every child no matter their choice."
Masks will continue to be required by federal rules for adults and students riding on school buses and for students and adults in Head Start Pre-K classrooms.
Visitors to PWCS schools and offices are encouraged, but are not required, to wear masks. PWCS will continue to provide a mask should visitors prefer to wear one.
McDade noted that employees of PWCS are subject to the Virginia Infectious Disease standard under the Virginia Department of Labor, which requires employers, by law, to have all employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks in times of high and substantial community transmission.
As PWCS is currently in high community transmission, all PWCS employees must continue to wear masks. Per the current Virginia Administrative Code, volunteers working in classrooms or with students will follow employee masking requirements. McDade said PWCS will adjust these requirements should the law change.
The superintendent also issued updated isolation and quarantine requirements on Friday, saying the schools will continue daily health monitoring in schools and reporting to the Prince William Health District, required isolation for anyone who is COVID-19 positive, and notification to families and staff when a COVID-19 case is confirmed in a school or PWCS building.
If COVID-19 cases impact 10% or more of a school or building population, McDade said PWCS will implement contact tracing and quarantine if recommended by local health officials. PWCS will no longer quarantine students or staff if schools are below this 10% threshold.
Free COVID-19 take-home tests remain available for students. If a child becomes sick at school, they will continue to be isolated, a parent/guardian will be contacted, and a COVID-19 take-home test will be provided. In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH), students who test positive for COVID-19 must continue to isolate for at least 10 days, McDade said.
McDade encouraged parents of students who may have health concerns to have their student exercise their right to wear a mask. PWCS' medical accommodation process will continue to be available for students and staff with serious health concerns, though PWCS will not reopen virtual options this school year, as adjustments to staffing and other logistical considerations are not possible, she said.
"As we move forward in this changing and difficult period, I call on our community to work together to move toward greater understanding and cooperation for the benefit of all children," McDade wrote. "As this is Kindness Week and Monday is Presidents Day, we can all draw upon the words credited to Abraham Lincoln, 'Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out.'"