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Albemarle, Charlottesville schools discuss masking policies as state offers guidance

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - New guidance from Virginia officials about whether your student should be masked up at school leaves a lot of the responsibility in the hands of individual school districts.

That guidance says anyone under the age of 12 should be required to wear a mask because they cannot get vaccinated. But for those in grades 7-12? There’s some leeway.

RELATED: New mask guidance for return to classroom in Virginia

Albemarle County’s policy, which was approved by its school board earlier this month, says every student needs to wear a mask unless they are outside.

In Charlottesville, there has not been formal action taken -- that could happen at the August 5 school board meeting. However, the recommendation from the school division will require masks for PreK through 6th grade but there is no decision yet for the older students.

“We were really hoping that we would have more definitive guidelines rather than it being up to the individual school divisions,” said Beth Baptist, Charlottesville City Schools’ Interim Director of Student Services and Human Relations.

Baptist says that decision, which will be up to the school board, won’t be an easy one. She says what would help the school district is knowing how many students are vaccinated.

“We don’t have access to that information unless the families share it with us directly,” Baptist said.

Over in Albemarle County, Spokesperson Phil Giaramita says the district is grateful for the flexibility from the state recommendations because the county is among Virginia’s leaders in vaccinations.

“Our families have been doing very well,” he said. “They’ve been very aggressive about having their teenagers get you the first dose or to be fully vaccinated against the virus.”

Albemarle County Public Schools approved its mask policy before the state guidance and doesn’t anticipate changing it.

“The guidance today tracks pretty closely with that,” Giaramita said.

Both city and county schools say these decisions can be tough, but it’s much better than this time last year when in-person school was in doubt. Ultimately, it ended up not happening for months.

“For many children, they have needed to be in school for that learning,” Baptist said.

Giaramita added: “It’s got to be over 13,000 kids and I can imagine that the emotions and the anticipation and the eagerness is going to be off the charts.”

The Blue Ridge Health District is offering a vaccine clinic for rising Charlottesville seventh and twelfth graders by appointment only on August 11.

You can also reach out to the Blue Ridge Health District for a homebound vaccination and they will come to you. You can connect via phone (434-972-6261) or email (brhealthdistrict@gmail.com).

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