Botetourt, Roanoke County schools drop mask mandate for upcoming school year

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 3:30 PM EDT
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FINCASTLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The mask requirement for students and staff within Botetourt County Public Schools is being dropped for the 2021-2022 school year.

The district made that announcement based on the expiration of the Virginia State of Emergency and Executive Orders issued by the Governor, as well as the expiration of the current Public Health Order issued by the State Health Commissioner.

The district says, “Unless new executive orders or state mandates require otherwise, the masking requirement set forth for all students, staff, and visitors while indoors in instructional settings will be lifted for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.” But the district continues to monitor the COVID situation and says it will make necessary of required adjustments as needed.

The announcement comes the same day the CDC announced a recommendation for all students and staffers to wear masks inside school facilities because of a growing number of cases in many areas of the country.

Though not required, Botetourt County Schools administration recommends all students PK-12 who have not been fully vaccinated wear masks while indoors.

Keeping with the current federal mandate regarding public transportation, masks are still required while using any Botetourt County Schools transportation service, regardless of vaccination status.

The students and staff of Roanoke County Public Schools will also not be required to wear masks indoors when the 2021-2022 school year begins August 12.

Roanoke County Public Schools says it “will comply with all federal and state mandates regarding mask wearing and did so this past school year and throughout the summer under orders from the governor and the state health commissioner. The governor and the state health commissioner have decided to not mandate mask wearing in schools for the coming school year, but currently have left it as a recommendation.”

So far, the school board does not plan to make any additional requirements above state and federal requirements regarding mask wearing for the coming school year.

Federal transportation requirements still mandate mask wearing on public transportation, including school buses. Masks will, therefore, be required on RCPS school buses as long as the federal mandate is in effect.

In a release, the district says, “Cooperation with the regional health department for contact tracing and quarantining will continue and face masks, though optional, are encouraged, for unvaccinated individuals. Absent a mandate, students’ choice about mask wearing (or not) will be fully supported within the school environment. In the event that conditions change and in-person learning becomes significantly impacted for large numbers of students, additional mitigation strategies and requirements will be considered by the school board.”

Continued mitigation strategies in place include increased air flow for indoor spaces in accordance with CDC guidelines, encouraging students and staff to stay home if symptomatic, contact tracing, continued enhanced cleaning, and observance of three-feet distancing when possible within the classroom with all students present. For additional details, please refer to the RCPS district health plan, which can be found at (click on health and safety).

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