Albemarle County students looking to sing, dance and play this spring will be able to do so without taking a lot of tests.
Starting Feb. 21, Albemarle County students participating in spring sports and musicals will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 nor will they be subject to proving each week that they have tested negative for the pandemic-causing virus.
School administrators announced the policy change in an email to families Wednesday afternoon. Students participating in performing arts and sports during the fall semester were required to be vaccinated and take weekly test.
Officials said the change is due to dropping COVID-19 case counts in the area and because more than 90% of student athletes have already had their vaccination shots.
Tryouts for spring sports begin next week. In the letter, officials said the division has worked closely with the Blue Ridge Health District and local physicians to track COVID data and implement measures to stem the spread of the virus.
The University of Virginia COVID model predicts that cases in the Charlottesville area peaked last week.
“Local public health professionals are reporting that COVID infections from the virus omicron variant may have reached their peak and are predicting cases will decline through the spring,” officials wrote.
“We will continue to track the virus and the risks it presents to our students and staff, consult with public health experts and adjust our health protection measures to ensure we are doing all we can to keep everyone safe and to keep our school and extra-curricular programs up and running,” they wrote.
Officials said vaccination and testing requirements for fall reduced the number of athletes who had to quarantine in comparison to last year.
The requirements, however, placed a burden on families to both find and pay for the COVID testing. On its athletics website, prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the district acknowledge the difficulties.
“Please understand that due to an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing, it may be difficult to find testing for unvaccinated students,” the website stated.” “Proof of a negative test result each week is still required for unvaccinated students to participate. Families will be responsible for the cost of individual testing.”
The division’s announcement comes as states are rethinking mask mandates and other public health policies as cases start to decline. Some county parents also have criticized the testing requirement for student-athletes.
A bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday made a move to end mask mandates in the state’s schools and instead turn the decision on whether to cover up over to parents. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a similar executive order last month, which faces several court challenges.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit a group of parents brought against Governor Glenn Youngkin over his executive order making mask-wearing optional in schools.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a group of Chesapeake parents had no grounds to sue the state over Youngkin’s order and that the court could not issue an injunction against the governor prohibiting schools from requiring masks.
The dismissal was based on technical and procedural grounds, not on the merits of the order.