WINTERSVILLE – Officials from two local school districts said they delivered what they hope is a temporary mask order in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in schools.
In an emergency session on Tuesday, the Indian Creek School Board agreed to require all students, staff and visitors to schools to wear masks from September 13 to 30 and school officials from the Brooke County placed a similar order today through October 8.
In a press release, Indian Creek Superintendent TC Chappelear said: “We have had a great start to the school year and to date our COVID-19 cases are very low. The mask mandate is in place to keep our cases low and limit the number of possible quarantines as the school year progresses. “
The Jefferson County Department of Health reported on Tuesday that 368 active cases of COVID-19 had been counted since August 30, up from 188 the week before.
Department officials were aware of 16 people currently hospitalized after testing positive for the virus.
Chappelear said the move was seen as proactive, an effort to anticipate quarantines.
“We are really trying to take all possible measures to keep the children in school”, he said.
Chappelear said the order would apply to fans attending indoor sporting events.
He said medical exemptions will be granted with a doctor’s note and religious exemptions will be granted by writing a letter to the attending school. Until recently, masks were recommended, but not required, for everyone inside school buildings at all times. Since the start of school, students have been required to wear masks on buses, as recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control.
Chappelear said staff will also continue to maintain at least 3 feet of space between students when possible while regularly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces.
Brooke County school officials on Wednesday called on all students, staff and visitors to wear masks for the next 30 days starting today.
In an announcement posted to social media, they said the number of positive cases would be assessed during that time to determine whether the order would remain in place after October 8.
School officials said the decision was prompted by “A dramatic increase in the number of students identified as positive for COVID-19 and students placed in quarantine due to exposure to the virus.”
They said it also reflects updated COVID-19 guidance provided by the West Virginia Department of Education and contributions from the Brooke County Department of Health, school nurses and other professionals. health.
The Brooke County Health Department reported a 25% increase in cases on Tuesday, with a total of 122. Of those, 20% were of school age, county health officials said, who added that two local deaths have been attributed to the virus. The ages of the two have not been released.
Brooke County Superintendent Jeffrey Crook said the order was aimed at preventing the spread of the virus while maintaining classroom instruction.
“This is how we can keep children in class to meet their emotional and social needs” he said, adding that there are more opportunities for students to ask questions when they are in classrooms with teachers.
He and other Brooke School officials noted that under current guidelines, students and staff exposed to someone with coronavirus while wearing a mask are not required to self-quarantine.
Crook said accommodations have been made in the past for people with health conditions, such as asthma, and these should be brought to the attention of a school nurse.
He said fans at outdoor or indoor sporting events would not be required to wear masks.
Over the next 30 days, Brooke staff are encouraged to space students out during lunch. Since the start of the school year, pupils have been required to wear masks on buses.
The mask’s mandate does not apply to students participating in outdoor extracurricular activities, such as sports, but they are required to wear them in locker rooms and other indoor spaces.
While continuing to call for the daily disinfection of classrooms, Brooke County school officials ditched the Plexiglass desk guards that were in place earlier in the year.
School officials encourage parents and guardians to monitor their children for any signs of illness and, in such cases, to keep them at home and alert their school nurse.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])