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UPDATED: August 30, 2021

Why is universal masking currently required in schools?
The Virginia Department of Health issued a public health order on August 12, 2021 requiring masks for all staff and students inside school buildings.

Through masking, our schools will be:
  • Maintaining a layer of mitigation for staff and students when physical distancing is not possible;
  • Significantly reducing potential disruption to the educational environment caused by student quarantines;
  • Providing time for vaccines to become available at all ages and for more students to receive vaccinations; and
  • Reducing potential impacts to staffing due to employee illness or quarantine.

See Mask Guidance

REGULATION 275-2 Update to Emergency Face Covering Requirements

What is a mask?
A mask is a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. The CDC provides the following guidance on effective masks:
  • Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric;
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth;
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face without gaps;
  • Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask; and
  • If using a neck gaiter or a fabric face covering, wear a gaiter with two layers, or fold it to make two layers.
Will PWCS continue to provide masks to schools at no cost?
Yes, disposable masks will be provided to schools for use by staff, students, and visitors as needed.
Can parents/visitors enter the building without a mask?
Are masks required at outdoor recess?
Masks are not required at recess when students are engaging in activities that allow physical distancing.
Will PWCS continue to implement daily health screening questionnaires for students?
Yes, daily health screening questionnaires will remain in place for all students.
How do I request an exemption for my student from the requirement to wear a face mask due to a disability or medical condition?
Students may be exempt from the requirement to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability which prevents them from safely wearing a mask when proper medical documentation from a health care professional is provided to the Office of Student Services, using this form. Parents may also contact the school principal or designee to request the exemption form. Students receiving or eligible for special education services or a 504 Plan may also be exempted from these requirements due to special behavioral or individualized needs, as determined by the school principal or designee, in consultation with the Associate Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services.
How do I request an exemption for my student from the requirement to wear a face mask due to a sincerely-held religious belief?
Employees, students, or visitors who object to wearing a mask/face covering based on a sincerely- held religious belief may seek a reasonable accommodation to the requirements of this regulation by completing this form. Student requests should be directed to the PWCS Office of Student Services which will review the request and determine, in conjunction with the school, what reasonable accommodations are available. Employee requests should be directed to the Department of Human Resources which will determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations are available to allow the employee to perform his/her essential job functions. Schools may accommodate visitors with a religious objection by providing communications with staff, students, or school visits electronically and/or outside the school building or taking such other reasonable measures as are needed to limit the physical presence of unmasked visitors in the school.
What is a COVID-19 Variant?
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Numerous variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are being tracked in the United States and globally during this pandemic. For more visit the CDC website.
What are Symptoms of COVID-19 and Variants?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Visit the CDC website for complete list of symptoms.
Why are students sharing seats on school buses?
As 97% of the Division's 90,000 students have returned in person to our buildings, PWCS buses are running at full capacity with 2-3 students per seat. PWCS is operating within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health guidance for health protocols. Consistent with federal mandates, all students are required to wear masks on buses. Any student not wearing a mask is provided one.
When do individuals have to quarantine?
Close contacts quarantine when exposed to another individual being treated as having COVID-19 and the period of exposure time is greater than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period based on the situations below.
Setting Distance Apart Student Adult
Vaccinated Unvaccinated Vaccinated Unvaccinated
K-12 school setting indoor or outdoor during school hours
All persons masked
Including on school buses as log as a seating chart is maintained.
More than three feet No, not a close contact No, not a close contact No, unless the adult has COVID like illness Yes
Less than three feet No, unless the student has COVID like illness Yes No, unless the adult has COVID like illness Yes
K-12 school setting indoor or outdoor during school hours
One or both persons unmasked
Less than six feet No, unless the student has COVID like illness Yes No, unless the adult has COVID like illness Yes
Non-school setting or after school hours
Includes:  school athletic events, extra-curricular activities, PWCS office sites, preschool
Persons masked or unmasked
Less than
six feet
No, unless the student has COVID like illness Yes No, unless the adult has COVID like illness Yes

 Based on Virginia Department of Health guidance as of September 10, 2021.

 

How does PWCS work with the Prince William Health District to support COVID-19 contact tracing?

COVID-19 Contact Tracing for Students

  • The school is notified that there is an individual that has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • The School Health Response Team works with the staff members and students to identify close contacts of the student.
  • The parent/guardian of any student identified as a close contact will receive a call from a school staff member.
  • The parent/guardian is provided information regarding the exposure, required quarantine, and how the student can access learning while quarantined.
  • If the student is vaccinated no quarantine is required however, parents/guardians are asked to continue to monitor for symptoms.
  • The school community is notified that an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 was present at school during his/her/their contagious period.
  • School staff work in collaboration with the Prince William Health District and Virginia Department of Health to assist in further contact tracing and case investigation.

 

How will students receive instruction when quarantined?
  1. When a student is required to quarantine, the student and parent will be notified that all assignments and lesson materials can be accessed through Canvas asynchronously. A designated staff member will be responsible for coordinating the communication of how the student should access their instructional materials and assignments during their quarantine. Details on quarantine process and contact tracing are above.
  2. Currently, teachers receive an alert or notification via the Hub that they have a student who is quarantined.  This notification serves as a reminder for teachers to ensure that the Canvas page has remained updated and instructional information is clearly labeled for students to access. Students in quarantine accessing learning are marked present.
  3. All teachers will be required to post their availability on Canvas to help students with instruction. Teachers will respond daily to emails from quarantined students.
  4. In cases where the entire class/section is quarantined, the teacher will instruct that class/section virtually.  The teacher will report in-person to instruct the class virtually (unless quarantined). The student will access any other classes/sections using Canvas.
How long will students and staff who are required to quarantine be out of the building?
  • A 14-day quarantine continues to be recommended. If a person is unable to stay home for 14 days and if no symptoms have developed, quarantine can end after day 10 with no test or after Day 7 with a negative PCR or antigen test performed on or after Day 5. Those who have had COVID-19 in the past three months or been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are not required to quarantine as long as they do not have symptoms. Staff members and students should monitor their health for symptoms for 14 days and always follow COVID-19 prevention recommendations.
  • Nurses will be trained by the Virginia Department Health in the “VDH Algorithm for Evaluating a Child with COVID-19 Symptoms or Exposure.”
Will PWCS be providing hand sanitizer for classrooms?  
  • Hand washing is encouraged and is the preferred method of hand hygiene. When hand washing opportunities are not available hand sanitizer can be used.
  • Hand washing soap and hand sanitizer will be provided by the school.
Can students bring their own hand sanitizer?
Yes, students will be allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer for personal use.
What are the required cleaning protocols?
PWCS will continue current protocols of frequent cleaning of “high-touch” surfaces and daily cleaning of classrooms. Custodial staff has been trained on this expectation.
What are the expectations/requirements for physical distancing in classrooms, cafeteria, locker rooms, etc.?
  • Schools will work to provide opportunities to maintain distance when possible. The goal is to achieve 3-6 feet of distance.
  • Schools may utilize directional markers and distance reminders to promote distancing, however, with 97% of our students in buildings, distancing will not be achievable at all times.
  • Locker rooms may be utilized.
  • Schools will follow the following cafeteria guidance:
    • The goal is to minimize time students are unmasked and/or less than 3 feet apart. 
    • Podding students and assigning seats in the cafeteria will be implemented.
    • Visitors are not allowed in cafeterias in order to maximize space and limit potential contacts.
    • Utilize physical distancing (at least 3 feet) while in line.
    • Students will be asked to place masks back on as soon as possible when not eating.
    • Schools may consider additional solutions when possible, such as:
      • Providing additional lunch spaces to maximize distancing (such as libraries, hallways, multipurpose rooms, etc.); 
      • Providing supervised spaces for students to transition to after they finish eating to reduce unmasked time (outdoors, etc.); and
      • Staggering lunch shifts/periods to reduce the number of students.

If my child starts in-person can they change to virtual?
Students who have not chosen the virtual option will not be permitted to change to virtual. Those with documented health conditions can apply for homebound services.
What are the considerations for mitigation strategies for students on a field trip?
At a minimum, PWCS mitigation protocols for masking should be followed regardless of the rules for the location. Teachers and administrators will know the COVID-19 protocols for the location for the field trip and will share this information with parents.
May students and/or staff members use water fountains?
  • Water fountains will not be used at this time.
  • Students should bring a water bottle.
  • Schools may provide bottled water to students when filling stations are not available to staff and students.
May students use lockers?
Yes, however, students' time at lockers will be minimized, and students will be encouraged to avoid congregating at lockers in hallways.
Are there any special considerations for locker rooms?
  • Normal use of locker rooms will be in place.
  • Students will be allowed to dress for PE.
Will students use hands-on manipulatives?
Students may use equipment and manipulatives. Students will be encouraged to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently.