Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Maples has proposed a universal masking scheme.

Matthew Sasser | Daily diary

HAMLET – General face coverings will be introduced for the upcoming school year at Richmond County Schools following a unanimous vote by the Board of Education on Tuesday.

Regardless of immunization status, students must wear a mask while indoors. The social distancing requirement is removed, although adults are advised to encourage a distance of 6 feet to the greatest extent possible. Virtual learning was an option based on medical need, but policy passed

Dr. Kate Smith, executive director of curriculum and instruction, presented data from the ABC Science Collaborative to the Richmond County Board of Education on Tuesday supporting the idea of ​​universal face coverings.

In Richmond County, 12% of children aged 12-17 are fully immunized. Between 50-60% of RCS staff are fully immunized. After a meeting last week, the Richmond County Health Department recommended and supported universal mask wearing in schools, Smith said.

One of the main reasons for their recommendation is the number of students who are not eligible for the vaccine (those under the age of 12). In addition, there is no system for determining the number of vaccinated students in each classroom.

If students are not required to wear masks, Smith said, student isolation could occur, and a transition back to the face-to-face hybrid model from last year could be a possibility. Smith says that universal masking will prevent that from happening.

President Wiley Mabe called the widespread face covering policy “cautious.”

Changes in policies related to COVID-19 this year

The allowable universal mask requirement changes from the previous COVID-19 affected school year.

Field trips and gatherings will be allowed for the upcoming school year. Students will no longer be kept in separate groups. Traffic diversion in corridors, which were previously directed by staff and marked with signs, will not be monitored. Daily temperature and symptom checks done every morning will not take place this year.

“If you’ve ever been outside of school at 7:30 a.m., you know that there are a lot of long lines to have temperatures checked,” says Smith. “We can take that out and go back to a more normal routine.”

No more restrictions for non-essential visitors.

Masks can be removed when students are out.

Smith says all of these changes, with the universal face covering policy, will reduce COVID-19 transmission.

According to The ABC Science Collaborative, less than 1 in 3,000 students in school buildings is infected with COVID-19. The Collaborative also states that when students and teachers have their faces covered, distance is maintained between people no matter what.

This year, if a student has an underlying condition that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or if the student lives with someone at the same risk, a medical evaluation by a physician may be submitted. fill.

Virtual students will be assigned a Distance Learning Facilitator who will be a certified teacher who will be available to assist after regular school hours.

Another change from the school system’s universal face covering enforcement from last year is that administrators will no longer notify entire schools of a positive COVID-19 case. Only family members of those in direct contact with a positive case will be notified.

“If we rolled out universal masking, very few students would get that phone call,” Smith said.

Schools will continue to sweep and clean high-touch areas, such as handrails and doorknobs. The sprinklers will still be out of service next school year.

Students are no longer limited to having lunch in class. Smith says schools are now planning to allow students to eat as safely as possible.

Smith concluded by saying that universal masks enable and support in-person learning for the upcoming school year.

Richmond Early College High School will have its first day of school on August 11. Other RCS schools will begin August 23.

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Contact Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]

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