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The Albemarle County School Board unanimously voted this week to end the policy requiring employees and visitors to wear masks inside school buildings.
The change is effective April 4, the first day of spring break for the county schools.
Beginning that date, unvaccinated employees will no longer need to take weekly COVID tests. as of April 4, so next week will be the last test. More than 90% of division employees are vaccinated.
The School Board also directed division staff to update staff health policies to allow school officials to require masks and other public health restrictions or guidelines, should they become necessary.
The board will receive a draft of that updated policy at its April 14 meeting, which will be in-person at the Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire Road — the board’s first in-person meeting in two years.
“I do think it makes sense to operationalize it,” board member Judy Le said at the meeting on Thursday. “Our meeting cadence and our resolution cadence is probably too slow for what’s happening.”
Le said she still worries about loosening restrictions.
“I still have my concerns for our kids who are not able to be vaccinated and for people with immunocompromised people in their families or people at higher risk for other reasons,” she said.
Board member Kate Acuff echoed that concern especially for preschool-aged children who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The last thing I would want to do is to have one of our adults in the school transmit to particularly vulnerable kids,” Acuff said.
The board’s decision comes as cases continue to decline in schools and in the area. So far this week, Albemarle County has reported eight new positive cases among students and staff members, according to its data dashboard.
The division’s health advisory board recommended lifting the employee mask requirement following two consecutive weeks in the low community COVID level, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also recommended ending the vaccination and testing requirements.
Albemarle County is currently at the low level. The CDC levels are updated weekly and the county moved to the low level last Friday.
Division staff said amending the policy would allow the school system to remain agile in response to the current guidance or a change in community levels.
Earlier this month, division staff outlined several changes to COVID-19 mitigation measures in place for the last year. The changes ended contact tracing for positive cases and shortened quarantine periods from 10 to five days for those who are potentially exposed to the virus. Only unvaccinated students and staff have to quarantine if they are exposed.