COVID Update: RPS Ends Contact Tracing for Summer School, Mask Mandate Remains | Education

Richmond Public Schools is waiving daily contact tracing, but maintaining its mask mandate for summer instruction.

The school board this week received updated COVID-19 guidelines for the period that begins June 27 and ends August 19. Additional updated guidance for the 2022-23 school year is expected to be provided to the board later this summer.

“We will no longer be tracing the contacts of individual cases,” said Michelle Hudacsko, chief of staff of the RPS. “This is the most significant change and aligned with VDH guidelines,” she said, referring to the Virginia Department of Health.

Fourth District School Board member Jonathan Young’s motion to approve the COVID guidelines without the mask requirement failed after it was not seconded Tuesday night. The board has never voted on the RPS COVID plans.

“I will be voting no on the COVID mitigation strategy because frankly it doesn’t make sense…two and a half years into a pandemic, keeping a one-size-fits-all masking policy and continuing to demand that our faculty and staff masking themselves despite or in spite of their own will is, in my view, irresponsible,” Young said.

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A state law went into effect on March 1 allowing parents to choose whether their children wear masks at school and ridding school districts of the authority to implement student mask mandates. The law means parents can stop RPS students from wearing masks. But school districts can still require masks for staff, volunteers and visitors.

Other public schools in the Richmond area are maintaining optional mask use for summer school.

Changes to the RPS COVID plan include: waiving daily contact tracing for individual cases, not requiring outdoor masks, halving the isolation period for positive cases, and eliminating social distancing restrictions and group size.

In February, RPS and six other Virginia school districts — Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Hampton and Falls Church — sued Governor Glenn Youngkin in an effort to block his executive order returning the masks. at school optional.

In January, Youngkin provided relaxed COVID guidance, giving school districts “practical flexibility” in mitigation.

Richmond-area school districts, with the exception of RPS, halted contact tracing last winter.

The remaining PSR guidelines include: promotion of vaccinations and boosters; wear masks inside RPS buildings; provide COVID testing to students and staff; promote hand hygiene; use ventilation systems; disinfect classrooms, high-touch surfaces and buses; and daily symptom checks and contact tracing for outbreaks (three positive cases over a 14-day period), according to the summer instruction note.

Infected employees will continue to receive a maximum of five days off. If additional time is required, the staff member may request family and medical leave (unpaid job-protected leave).

In Chesterfield County, school employees can access up to 80 hours of COVID leave, according to a schools spokesperson. At Hanover County public schools, employees who test positive may be eligible for paid time off during their period of isolation, according to a schools spokesperson.

COVID emergency leave for Henrico County school employees expires June 30, according to a schools spokesperson. Instead, staff can use sick leave with personal leave.

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras, who tested positive earlier this month, recently urged RPS families to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. Kamras also thanked everyone who reached out to check on him and his family, as they all tested positive.

“We are so grateful for your love and support!” Kamras wrote in his Tuesday newsletter. “We are also grateful for the vaccine – I fear I ended up in hospital without it.

“If you haven’t had your shot yet, I urge you to do so (including any boosters you are entitled to). The vaccine may not prevent you from becoming infected, but it will almost certainly keep you alive. If you’re not doing it for yourself, please do it for your loved ones.

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