The Charlottesville school division will require that all students and staff wear a mask when inside to start the school year.
The division’s announcement Monday comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools. The Virginia Department of Health has left the final decision about mask requirements to local school boards, and not all boards in Virginia are following the CDC’s guidance.
The Albemarle County school division said last week that it would continue to require masks indoors.
Charlottesville students go back to school Aug. 25.
The Blue Ridge Health District has seen an increase in cases as the delta variant fuels another surge across the country. In July, 348 new COVID-19 cases were reported, a jump from the 96 recorded in June. About 61.5% of people in the district eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have received at least one shot.
The Charlottesville division said in a news release that universal indoor masking is one step toward ensuring a safe return to in-person classes five days a week. Vaccination, frequent hand-washing and contact tracing are other steps, a division news release said.
The division previously required masks to be worn when outside on school grounds, in addition to indoors.
The division will work with staff members and families on alternatives to masking if documentation of a medical or developmental reason not to wear a mask is provided, according to the release.
During in-person classes last school year, 20 students and one staff member were diagnosed as having COVID-19, and few, if any, of those cases were transmitted at school, according to the release. The division attributes this to the safety measures in place.
“Working together as a community, we can provide students with the rich learning environment of in-person schooling while also promoting safety,” Acting Superintendent Jim Henderson said in the release.
Some students will be able to learn virtually in the coming school year as part of a limited, application-only option. The deadline to apply was July 12, but the division said that the application process remains open at charlottesvilleschools.org/virtual.
The city School Board will hear more about the division’s safety plan and an update from the Blue Ridge Health District at its meeting Thursday, which will be held in person at Charlottesville High School.