After a lengthy presentation from the ABC Science Collaborative and the Surry County Health and Nutrition Department, both of which recommended masking in schools, the Surry County Schools Board of Education voted 4-1 that facial coverings are required until further notice for the 2021-22 school year during the August board meeting.
As we all know, this has been a very challenging and frustrating time for our district. We have been focused on keeping all of our in-person students safe and are planning on maintaining that same safety for all of our employees.
Guidance for Masking
Who should wear masks in schools?
Everyone. NCDHHS and the Surry County Health and Nutrition Department endorse the recommendation that all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks will be required by all K-12th graders when indoors and on the bus unless a medical exemption is provided, and all staff, when indoors with students. Facial coverings will not be required when outdoors.
What are the exceptions to the masking rule?
Exceptions to face coverings are people who:
- Should not wear a face-covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
- Is under two (2) years of age;
- Is actively eating or drinking;
- Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
- Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
- Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
- Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
- Would be at risk from wearing a face-covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
- Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or
- Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face-covering safely on the child’s face.
When can students remove their masks?
Schools may allow students to remove their face coverings in a few circumstances, including:
- While eating or drinking when spaced at least 3 feet apart,
- While engaging in outdoor activities like recess
- During mask breaks
- designed into all students instructional schedules.
- outdoor options will be made available.
Will masks be required at orientation for parents and students?
Yes, masks will be required.
What will these masking guidelines mean for Band and Chorus students?
Band students will have access to two different means of protection: bell covers for instruments and adapted masks. We are currently working with principals to give band students access to bell covers for instruments that were ordered last year and to order adapted masks with slits for easier playing of wind and brass instruments. For band and chorus students, windows and doors will be opened to maximize air flow, as well as use of fans that the district will provide. Socially distanced practice outside is recommended.
Guidance for Physical Distancing
What are the CDC’s physical distancing recommendations for individuals in classrooms?
Based on studies from the 2020-2021 school year, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with universal indoor mask wearing, to reduce transmission risk. Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures (in addition to masking and other prevention strategies), but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. Teachers, staff, and visitors should maintain a minimum physical distance of 6 feet between adults and students, and between adults (teachers/staff/visitors) who are not fully vaccinated within school settings to the greatest extent possible.
Surry County Schools will continue to use plexiglass for 1:1 on conferences and flex groups.
What additional prevention measures should schools adopt if maintaining physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students is not feasible in their facilities?
When it is not possible to maintain recommended physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students, 6 feet between students and teachers/staff, and 6 feet between teachers/staff who are not fully vaccinated, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, the other layered prevention strategies play an even more critical role, such as universal indoor masking; screening testing; cohorting; improved ventilation; handwashing; covering coughs and sneezes; staying home when sick with symptoms of infectious illness, including COVID-19; and regular cleaning to help reduce transmission risk.
What are the CDC’s physical distancing recommendations for cafeterias and other areas where food is consumed?
Schools should maximize physical distance as much as possible when students are moving through the food service line and while eating (especially indoors). Using additional spaces outside of the cafeteria for mealtime seating such as the gymnasium or outdoor seating can help facilitate distancing. Note: students, teachers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to distance while eating. Schools may wish to consider “staggering” schedules for arrivals/dismissals, hall passing periods, mealtimes, bathroom breaks, etc., to ensure the safety of unvaccinated students and staff. Staff and students should abstain from physical contact, including, but not limited to, handshakes, high fives, and hugs. The requirement is at least 3 feet of physical distancing between students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be a remote option available to students and families?
Virtual options to students grades K-12 have expanded with the second magnet school of choice, Surry Online Magnet School. The model is fully customizable as a virtual or blended model for students who want flexible virtual options but who want to also take advantage of great learning opportunities afforded to students on our school campuses. For more information, please visit bit.ly/SOMSInfo.